Luka Amona has 15 years’ experience working in the private, not-for-profit and public sectors in Europe, Africa and North America. He was first elected to the PT board last year in a by-election and won a full term Oct 27.
He joked with the PT membership about his decision to seek the board seat. “My friends all asked me, ‘Why do you want to join the Pride board? People really like you,’” he said to guffaws.
Amona served as co-chair of the Community Advisory Panel last year. “My goal is to engage, energize and elevate the community,” he says.
Susan Gapka wasn’t able to speak to the PT membership directly at the AGM, as she was in New Brunswick at a mental health conference. But as one of the leading voices of the trans community, she is no stranger to Pride.
With a long history of activism on trans issues, mental health and housing, Gapka is one of the most visible trans people in Toronto. She’s run for city council in Ward 27, in 2006 and 2010, and sits on the 51 Division Community Police Liaison Committee.
Gapka is the first trans person elected to the board of PT.
Despite his young age — he turned 23 on the night of the AGM — Sean Hillier has been involved with PT for three years, most recently as a public safety coordinator.
He is a PhD candidate in policy studies with a focus on trans and First Nations health issues. He says he hopes his election sets a positive example for young people. “Having youth on the board of Pride Toronto shows that it gets better for young people,” he told the membership.
Hillier says PT needs to improve its outreach. “It is one of the areas that Pride Toronto has really lacked,” he says. “Especially for bisexual, transsexual, pansexual, intersex people.”
Returning board member Chad Simon has put an emphasis on implementing the recommendations of last year’s Community Advisory Panel report. He told the PT membership his greatest strength is his “ability to see outside the box.”
“We’re an entire community, not just a sector of a community,” he says.
When an audience member asked whether he believes controversial groups should be allowed to march in the Pride parade, alluding to Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, Simon was unequivocal. “I don’t believe they have the right to speak; they have the fundamental right to speak.”
Mark Smith is a former PT board member who also sits on the WorldPride 2014 steering committee. He has a background in event planning and strategic communications, and experience working on the Olympics, which he says will help PT as it ramps up preparations for WorldPride.
In his speech to the membership, he offered to take up to six months off his job to help incoming ED Kevin Beaulieu “get Pride into the shape he wants it to be.”
Smith calls himself a political operative and says the Proud of Toronto campaign started at his dining room table: “Part of the joy was figuring out where we’re going to go as a community.”
Paola Solorzano was born and raised in Mexico and moved to Canada eight years ago. For two years, she has served as president of Latino Group Hola, a Toronto group for queer Latinos.
She says PT needs to reach out to the Latino community. “So often, people don’t speak the language. Immigrants come to the community, and they are isolated,” she says. “Latino Group Hola is the bridge to the gay community in Toronto for newcomers. It’s important to have that visibility on the Pride board to bring the community together.”
Solorzano boasted to the PT membership of her record as the first female president of HOLA: “I get things done.”