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Sarasota Magazine's 2019 Unity Awards

Feb 19, 2019 from 11:30 AM to 1:30 PM

Michael's On East, Sarasota, FL

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Event Summary

Sarasota Magazine's 2019 Unity Awards Celebration & Luncheon


A celebration of the people, companies, and projects advancing equality, diversity and inclusion in our community and around the world. This is our company's ninth year honoring these inspiring champions. Our nominees and winners are advocates for those in crisis, for the physically and mentally disabled, and for those from different cultures, genders, races and religious backgrounds. 






“Diversity is the one true thing we all have in common. Celebrate it every day.” - Unknown

Michael's On East

1223 South Tamiami Trail
Sarasota, FL 34239

Event Details



DEMETRIUS JIFUNZA - paralegal, speaker, social activist, VP and Florida Rights Restoration Coalition Chapter President; leading advocate and instrumental in passage of Amendment 4; Pastor, Mt. Olive CME Church; and Member of the Board at Sarasota Ministerial Association.


SHANNON FORTNER - Founder & Organizer of the Harvey Milk Festival. The mission of the Harvey Milk Festival is to honor the life of Harvey Milk, one of the first openly gay Americans elected to public office, by fostering emerging talent in musicians and artists who support diversity and reject discrimination, and to promote equality for LGBTQ people through supporting equal rights legislation.


HECTOR TEJEDA - born in Guatemala, Hector emigrated to the U.S. when he was a baby with a 16-year-old mother who had to clean homes to support them. He ended up in foster care during different periods of his life. He overcame adversity and received a Harvard MBA, worked in corporate America and currently volunteers at UnidosNow, helping hundreds of Hispanic students go to college.


CLAUDIA BAEZA - owner of Pineapple Yoga, Claudia donates free yoga classes to people in need, from Parkinson's patients to addicts to the disabled to juveniles in detention. She started a nonprofit, the Dharma Footprint Project to support her studio's free programs.


PAMELA FAZIO - volunteer and county director for Manatee County Special Olympics. Two-time winner of the Bill Crutchfield Award given annually to an individual volunteer who demonstrates outstanding service at the county level in Florida. She has been a volunteer for over 26 years and now oversees 300+ athletes. Pamela is inspired by her disabled daughter.


DR. APRIL GLASCO - founder of Newtown's Second Chance Last Opportunity to help families in crisis. She has been running the grass roots organization for 28 years. She overcame her own disadvantages to earn a doctorate in mental health counseling.


MARY BRAXTON-JOSEPH - Chair of the Asolo Rep's IllumiNation Committee that advocates for greater diversity among patrons and the board.


BOB AND PATRICIA GUSSIN - retired top administrators from Johnson & Johnson, they started scholarships at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota County. They provide full-ride scholarships to several young people every year to attend their alma mater, Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. They are also very involved with Friendship Centers of Sarasota and the Library Foundation.