Miss GAPA Lychee Minnelli, personal trainer Peter Lee, honoree Bevan Dufty, Mr GAPA Mike Nguyen, and co-chair Ben Leong at the March 3 GAPA Banquet.. Photo by Rink.
GAPA (Gay Asian Pacific Alliance) held a festive awards banquet and celebration, â€śMasquerade,â€ť at the Swedish American Hall. Tita Aida and Estee Longah were co-emcees. The event opened with the jazz sounds of Fromagique, a brass and drum band. GAPA Co-chairs Ben Leong and Michael Nguyen welcomed everyone. Mr. GAPA Michael Nguyen and Miss GAPA Lychee Minelli, their royal court, and the Rice Rockettes danced to â€śMasqueradeâ€ť from Phantom of the Opera and â€śSweet Dreamsâ€ť by the Eurythmics. The GAPA Menâ€™s Chorus also performed.
Senators Mark Leno and Leland Yee presented certificates of recognition. The George Choy Award of Recognition was given to Ken Hamai, who said he was dazzled when he discovered GAPA and attended his first banquet and first runway Pageant over 25 years ago. He is happy to have been the Runway reception chair for over ten years. Hamai and his husband, Jack Henyon, have been together for over forty years and were legally married four years ago in SF City Hall, officiated by good friend Lawrence Wong (an early GAPA co-chair). Together they â€ślove and support the arts, design, API community/ culture, marriage equality and all great parties.â€ť
The Douglas Yaranon Community Ally Award was given to Bevan Dufty, who served as supervisor for the Castro for eight years in the seat that Harvey Milk once held. He ran for mayor last year and was endorsed by GAPA and Sing Tao. During his time at City Hall he was a strong champion of the LGBTQ and API Community. More importantly, he has been a fixture at GAPA Runway for at least 10 years. The mayor just recently appointed him as the director of HOPE (Housing, Opportunity, Partnership and Empowerment). Every day he championed funding for vital HIV/AIDS services and provided support for initiatives such as the Castro Youth Housing Initiative, Needle Exchange, the AIDS Housing Plan and Magnet by emphasizing that HIV/AIDS must be addressed in a comprehensive manner, combining both a vigorous prevention strategy, access to substance abuse treatment, housing, mental health services and treatment.
Dufty advocated and lobbied on behalf of numerous bi-national gay and lesbian couples in their fight for immigration rights. He petitioned the White House and Department of State on behalf of a gay Malawi couple that was originally sentenced to 14 years hard labor after publicly professing their love for each other. He has mentored and supported scores of young LGBTs that have gone on to become civic leaders, commissioners and elected officials. He has been a strong supporter of LGBTQ families and seniors by creating a partnership between Family Builders and the City to find loving LGBTQ families for kids in the foster system and helped secure funding for Openhouse to build independent living for LGBT seniors.
The George Choy Memorial GAPA Scholarship was presented to Jovel Queirolo, majoring in biology at Stanford.
The â€śGodzyâ€ť (Godzilla) Award, picked by GAPA members, went to Ben Leong for his continual service to GAPA and its board.