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2023 VIZAZI AWARD

AWARDEES
 

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CLICK THE BUTTONS BELOW TO VIEW THE AWARDEES FOR THAT CATEGORY.

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SPARK

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EMBER

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FLAME

KIBURI

RAFICKI

Martha Scars
Mentor/Teacher

SPARK

Martha Scars identifies as pansexual and is a DOHN Community High School student, visual artist, and poet that portrays her trauma and mental illness on the page for herself and others to express, understand, and visualize their own pain understand each other. In between her high school studies, Martha participates in the Soul Palette art program which features the work of young African Americans in the Cincinnati area. Currently, her work is on display at Cincy Wordplay and featured on the DOHN Podcast YouTube Channel. Martha openly shares her ongoing struggle with mental health, including several challenges such as dissociative identity disorder, depression, and other seemingly insurmountable obstacles in her life. Martha remains steadfast in her efforts of resolution and understanding as she navigates the maze of personalities and thoughts while asking for nothing more than an empathetic ear, compassion for understanding without prejudice, and a chance that you may take a brief moment to sojourn in her world as you enjoy her artistic expressions of poetry and visual art.

SPARK
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Jayvon Howard
Manager of Engaging Men Initiatives at the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence
SPARK

As a passionate writer, advocate, and social justice educator, Jayvon Howard has dedicated his life to fighting against oppression and promoting equality. His expertise in transformative justice, human rights, and analyzing systems of oppression has allowed him to provide valuable training and education to others. Jayvon's work in addressing issues such as intimate partner violence, and sexual violence, and serving male survivors of sexual victimization demonstrates his commitment to supporting marginalized communities and promoting healing and healthy relationships. Through his leadership roles and collaborations with organizations like the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence and A Call to Men, Jayvon has made a significant impact in creating a more inclusive and equitable society. His Bachelor's degree in Family Science from Miami University and his strong background in program development further demonstrates his expertise and dedication.

Isaac Smitherman
Student Body President
SPARK

Isaac Smitherman is a Cincinnati native who recently graduated from the University of Cincinnati with a Bachelors of Science in Environmental Engineering. Isaac was an extremely active member of in the UC community, serving in several positions in UC’s Undergraduate Student Government including Treasurer, Senator-At-Large, and was elected as the first openly gay black male President. Isaac also served as a Resident Advisor for four years, chaired the Student Advisor Council on the University Budget, was a member of UC’s Black Men's Honorary Collegiate, and is a Darwin T. Turner Scholar. In his free time, Isaac enjoys singing, volunteering, reading a good book, and hanging out with friends and his little sister, Camille.

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Isaiah Reaves
Playwright
SPARK

Isaiah Reaves is an emerging young playwright whose work explores a spectrum of Black and Queer experiences. A native of Cincinnati, he graduated cum laude from Northern Kentucky University in 2020. His plays have been commissioned and staged by Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati, Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, and many others. Isaiah has received five Michael Kanin Playwriting Awards at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. He is also a semi-finalist for the Ucross and The Blank Theatre Future of Playwriting Prize, a 2020 finalist of the Jackie Demaline Regional Collegiate Playwriting Competition, an Iowa Arts Fellow, and a recipient of a Cincinnati CityBeat Critic’s Pick.

Azaria Pittman-Carter
Poet/Spoken Word Artist, Teacher
SPARK

Azaria Pittman-Carter is a Cincinnati native who is also an educator, poet, creative, and mentor in the Cincinnati community. Azaria found her passion through the art of spoken word and has used her gift of rhyme and poetry to touch the youth and many around her. Azaria graduated from Cincinnati's Aiken High school in 2017 and went to UC in the same year to study sociology in the Gen-1 program as the first in her family to go to college. Later on in college Azaria changed her major to Communication studies with a certificate in Creative writing. Graduating in 2021 from the University of Cincinnati, Azaria continued to impact the youth through working for Cincinnati Youth Collaborative teaching Jobs for Cincinnati graduates to 7th-9th grade students at Aiken High school. Finishing up her second year teaching at Aiken, Azaria has now been promoted to the Communication Manager for Cincinnati Youth Collaborative, working with the development and IT team to continue to reform in Cincinnati Public Schools. She is also a teaching artist at Wordplay Cincy, sharing her gifts across the city as a product of the program.

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James Blackmon/ Jay Blackmon

Student, Poet, Activist
SPARK

James Blackmon is a Cincinnati native and a graduate of Dater High School, where he participated in the True Colors club, a gay-straight alliance at a predominantly POC school. After graduating, he worked with a non-profit, helping vulnerable children and families in the community. Being a spoken word artist, James has used his art and poetry to uplift and reach the community around him. He wrote a poem that made its debut at the Freedom Center and won second place in the Truth and Reconciliation Poetry Contest while still in high school. Today, he is pursuing his degree in social work at the University of Cincinnati while also working as a behavioral health specialist for Cincinnati Children's Hospital. He hopes to create a city of inclusion and diversity where artists can thrive, and mental health issues can be talked about openly.

Karrington Rainey
Ms Kuamka 2022, African American Cultural Resource Center
SPARK

Karrington was a fierce advocate at the University of Cincinnati for black and queer students. After winning Ms Kuamka 2022, she held true to her platform to promote financial wellness and literacy in the black community. She held various townhalls and conferences to provide resources and connect black students with important community leaders. Not only that, she also hosted "Shades of Rainbow" a weekly gathering for queer POC on campus to have a safe space and connect with each other in a casual environment. Now Karrington is promoting her memoirs where she details growing up black and queer in the Cincinnati community and the people who have impacted her life.

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Daniel Elijah Blair

Activist
EMBER

Daniel Elijah Blair, known to his friends as Elijah is an unsung activist. Elijah has been a continued supporter of his community and is dedicated to making sure that the LGBTQ+ community feels safe. He has gone as far as being the unofficial bouncer and protector during many drag shows throughout the city. When you're around Elijah, you feel safe and that's why he is important to this community. Elijah is a wonderful vocalist, having recently sung the Pledge of Allegiance to open the FC Cincinnati game against the Chicago Fair at TQL Stadium.

EMBER

Rahanna Mitchell-St. James

Activist, Show Director and Drag Queen
EMBER

Rahanna Mitchell-St. James is a proud and talented Drag Queen. Rahanna is the reigning Miss Platinum Gem City Newcomer 2022 and a former Miss Kentucky Black Pride 2021 and Miss Main Event 2021 where she is currently the Show Director. Rahanna is a figure in the community and continues to promote drag as the art form that it truly is. As one of the last members of the "St. James" family she proudly has been building her own family known as "The Mitchells" Rahanna is no longer just a performer but now she is a mentor.

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Kersha Deibel

Activist
EMBER

Kersha Deibel, MPH, MSW is the former President & CEO of Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio Region. Prior to joining the southwest Ohio team, Kersha spent more than 8 years leading and organizing with Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Planned Parenthood Action Fund in Washington, DC. She’s served, in the past, as the President of the DC Abortion Fund and she has experience working in a Planned Parenthood St. Louis health center as a Senior Patient Educator, where she interviewed patients and provided counseling of health care options. Deibel attended the University of Cincinnati and became a Planned Parenthood patient for the first time in the Planned Parenthood health center on Auburn Avenue. Her experience is enhanced by her Bachelor of Social Work from UC and a Master of Public Health and Master of Social Work from Washington University in St. Louis.

R. Deandre Smith

Actor, Singer, Entertainer, Playwright
EMBER

Born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, DeAndré fell in love with the arts at an early age, joining his first choir at the age of 8, and beginning band at the age of 10 on trumpet. At the university level, DeAndré cultivated his love of the arts by studying voice at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. He was given the opportunity to perform in several mainstage productions, most notably as Tonton Julian in, Once On This Island. DeAndre moved crowds emotionally when he took a simple twitter post about HIV stigma and converted it into a 1 minute play for a local arts festival. Professionally, DeAndré has performed on stages nationally and internationally, working for companies based in Ohio, Montana, and Virginia. His favorite credits include I Have a Dream: The Life & Times of Dr. Martin Luther King and Jerry Springer: The Opera. DeAndré’s view of theatre is that the art is an instrument of social responsibility, a tool, helping people to find their own voices and courage within themselves to form their own opinions about the world in which we all live.

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Antonio Brooks-Taylor aka Octavius Rashad

Entertainer and Pageant Producer
EMBER

Antonio Brooks-Taylor is a groundbreaking Cincinnati entertainer in the pageant world he also known as Octavius Rashad. He is a multi-title holder and current pageant producer and an inspiration to many in the Black LGBTQ+ and uses his creativity to support and uplift his community. Titles and awards include Mr. Addicted to Glamour 2013 (Bounce Night Club – Cleveland, Ohio), Mr. Black National 2013, Mr. Gay Black Ohio 2011, Mr. Ohio All-Star 2010, and Mr. Stonewall 2006 (The Stonewall Club – Huntington, West Virginia).

Andrea Lewis aka Alana Reign

Cincinnati Empress, Entertainer, and Proud Trans Woman
EMBER

When you think of Andrea Lewis, better known in the community as Alana Reign, think of passion, strength and perseverance. Alana recently competed in a pageant for a regional preliminary title. During the competition, she was asked how she continues to fight for her place as a transgender woman of color. Her answer remains a most impactful one: "My biggest challenge is being seen as a novelty within my own community and an aberration outside of it. I over come it every day by simply being me. By taking up space outside of bars and dance floors. By being present on charitable boards, in business conference rooms, and simply walking proudly through the mall." Alana exudes a warmth, strength and fire for life that is only getting bolder and brighter as she continues to pave the path for other young trans people to follow and light the way forward for the rest of our community.

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Christy Pell-Vargas

Bookeeping & Tax Professional
EMBER

Christy is the owner of CPV Bookkeeping and dedicated to serve our community through educating and helping her clients thrive within thier businesses. Her business objective concentrates on providing bookeeping and financial business consultation services to other small business owners and entrepreneurs. CPV Bookkeeping targets minority and lqbtq small business owners, providing services  to help business owners understand their business, as well as provideing tax preparation services.  Christy takes pride teaching people how to stay financially organized and maintain "good business habits"

JeMarr Jackson

Health Educator, Caracole
EMBER

JeMarr Jackson is a Health Educator at Caracole specializing in prevention and community outreach. In his role, he helps to change the lives of those who are living with HIV as well as work to ensure the prevention of HIV for those at high risk. A Cincinnati native, Jackson received his bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of Cincinnati. At Caracole, he demonstrates his passion for those living with and at risk for HIV and exhibits the agency’s values through his work in the community. Prior to his work at Caracole, No matter the task at hand, JeMarr offers warmth, charm, humor and balance while staying focused on the “why” of what Caracole does.  JeMarr also worked with various other populations, including homeless and at-risk youth.

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Quasi Powell

Drag Queen and Activist

FLAME

Quasi is a local entertainer who has charmed audiences for years. She's taken the stage on countless occasions from The Dock to Below Zero and recently joined the cast of The Birdcage. Quasi is a legend, inspiring many queens to have fun and enjoy the art of Drag.

FLAME

Moana Lott

Performance and Fundraising

FLAME

When the drag show runs were still on Court Street, they ran the race between Plum and Race on Court Street between the Plum Street Pipeline and WG Magiks (which is now the Bird Cage), and Mona was the official race starter. She has done countless benefit shows at WG Magic (now Shooters) and Pipeline. She was also a Princess for ISQCCBE (The Cincinnati Imperial Court) and is one of 2 Black people who have served on the Cincinnati Court. Mona is a long time activist that hasn't always been recognized for her efforts.

Jareje Rashad Spencer

Performer Extraordinair

FLAME

Jareje is what most becomes a legend! Jareje has been performing since the days of 1470 West (for those of you who know). She has won multiple titles and had been a light in our community.

RAFIKI
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Molly Mormen

Drag Queen & Activist

RAFIKI

Molly Mormen is a local drag performer and activist. Molly is a performer who enjoys the creative side of drag and uses her imagination to come up with amazing costumes. This Utah transplant enjoys using drag to raise money to support her community and even tells her own personal stories to encourage others.

Rev. Nelson Pierce, Jr.

Senior Pastor, Beloved Community Church

RAFIKI

Rev. Nelson Jerome Pierce, Jr. is the senior pastor of Beloved Community Church, and is the Chief Power Building Strategist at The Wright Institute for Transformative Change where he helps movement leaders build power to bring about a more just and equitable world. Rev. Pierce received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature from Washington University in St. Louis and has worked to strengthen the justice ministries of churches all around the country. As the lead trainer for the Black Church Institute, Rev. Pierce led workshops and national conventions to equip pastors and churches with the tools they need to address, in a holistic way, the issues of sex and sexuality. While in Ohio, Rev. Pierce has organized clergy from around the state to fight attacks on voting rights and on workers rights, and fought to keep Ohioans safe from Stand Your Ground legislation and police brutality. In the fall 2018, Rev. Pierce led an effort to organize the voting power of the Black Church, an effort that engaged over 50 churches and over 3,000 people.

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Jessica Dimon

Activist, Host and Show Director

RAFIKI

Jessica Dimon is the host and show director at Bloom OTR. She is a proud trans woman who uses her position and platform to uplift the LGBTQ+ community. Jessica has highlighted the works and art of fellow drag performers and even helped bring attention to organizations like Cincinnati Pride, HRC and our own Cincinnati Black Pride

Dan Davidson “Sparkle Leigh” he/she/they

E.D. TreeHouse Cincinnati

RAFIKI

Dan Davidson is the Executive Director of TreeHouse Cincinnati where he works hard to support the LGBTQIA+ in the greater Cincinnati area. Through his leadership at TreeHouse, the organization supports GLSEN, PFLAG, BPI, LMW, and the Cinci Sisters. He makes sure that the doors are open to all those who need a space and safe haven in the LGBTQ community. He works diligently to ensure that representation of black and brown people are a part of the necessary conversations for change, growth, diversity, equity and inclusion. As Sparkle Leigh Dan hosts story time with “Sparkle” where he reads books and stories to young people, their families and friends. He is also a Social Worker in Case management for Caracole. Dan has shown himself to be a true ally to queer people and marginalized communities.

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Kevin "ManyGifts" Chapman

Cosmetologist, Hip hop dancer, world champion Double Dutch Jumper

KIBURI

A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, Kevin Chapman is also known as "ManyGifts" or the 360 guy. He is a graduate of Withrow High School and attended Empire Beauty School in Cincinnati. Professionally, he has been a cosmetologist for nearly a decade, taking his talents to Atlanta, GA in 2020, while remaining devoted to his clients in Cincinnati. A young man of many talents, he is a choreographer, dancer, and a world double-Dutch champion. A dynamic social media personality, Kevin has more than 20,000 followers on his Instagram @manygifts.chap and more than 33,000 on Facebook. Kevin is quite simply a force of nature.

KIBURI

Kristopher K. White

Director of Development

KIBURI

Kris has built an illustrious career around helping nonprofits grow. He has served as Development Manager of Broad Street Ministry an inclusive, alternative worship community that provides services to people experiencing homelessness, and Director of Individual Giving at the William Way LGBT Community Center. He is currently the Director of Development at Compass Working Capital where he helps to lead their fundraising efforts and is also a managing partner at White Holmes Consulting. Although he currently works in Philadelphia, Kris still calls Cincinnati home and visits approximately 4 times a year.

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