19th Annual Dorothy Award Honorees
- Kamora Le’Ella Herrington, Founder of Kamora’s Cultural Corner
- Dr. AJ Eckert, Medical Director at Anchor Health
- John and Luis Pepe, Owners of the Chez Est
- Jaime Myers-McPhail, Lead Organizer at New Haven Rising
- Dave Cruz-Bustamante, LGBTQ+ Youth Organizer
Honorees are selected from a pool of community nominations, with the goal of celebrating folks from throughout Connecticut and our list of past honorees includes folks from every corner of our state. Thank you to everyone who participated in our nomination process this year.
Scroll down to read more about this years’ honorees. See the full list of past honorees below the bios.
Meet Our Honorees
Kamora Le’Ella Herrington
Kamora Le’Ella Herrington (she/her) is a mother first, in all of the ways that a mother is. She is the founder and visionary of Kamora’s Cultural Corner; a Black Queer Afrocentric organization dedicated to creating the Brave Spaces necessary for and is active in the field of cultural humility. Through the years she has worked with numerous organizations and groups committed to marginalized communities and has a proven track record of “creating spaces where families are free to love their children”.
Kamora is a member of the National Black Justice Coalition’s (NBJC) Leadership Advisory Council, a founding member of CT Black Women as well as a current board member of Pride in the Hills.
“I’ve lived a life that has placed me in positions where I could either uphold the status quo, or share truths that may not be pleasant, but are necessary,” ‘we are the ones we’ve been waiting for’; humans willing to step in when necessary and step out when it’s time.”
Dr. AJ Eckert
AJ Eckert, DO, (they/them/he/him) is Connecticut’s first out nonbinary trans doctor and serves as the Medical Director of Anchor Health’s Gender & Life-Affirming Medicine (GLAM) Program. Dr. Eckert has over 15 years’ experience in LGBTQ health care, with 8 years as a provider of primary care and gender-affirming services.
After Dr. Eckert completed their education at Touro University College of Osteopathic Medicine and residency at NEOMEN/Maine Dartmouth Family Medicine Program, they decided to specialize in LGBTQ health. Dr. Eckert is board certified in Family Medicine. He is an assistant clinical professor of family medicine at Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine at Quinnipiac University.
Outside of their clinical work with patients, Dr. Eckert is active in education and advocacy. In 2021, Science-Based Medicine published four of Dr. Eckert’s articles, and the Journal of Medical Ethics asked him to be a reviewer. The upcoming 2nd edition of The Transgender Child: A Handbook for Families and Professionals features a quote from Dr. Eckert. They were on the 2021 Abstract Review Committee for the United States Professional Association for Transgender Health, or USPATH. Dr. Eckert’s expertise in his field has led him to be quoted in The Washington Post and The New York Times, among others. Additionally, they have piloted a 4th-year medical student rotation at Anchor Health. Through TikTok and YouTube, Dr. Eckert makes information about gender-affirming care accessible to trans people everywhere.
Dr. Eckert is bilingual in English and Czech. He is a classically trained pianist but mostly plays Elton John and Queen now. They are a horror movie buff. His favorites are Halloween (1978), Phantasm, and queer horror musicals like Phantom of the Paradise. You can usually find Dr. Eckert hiking with his dog/Anchor Health’s mascot Lupik in their spare time!
John & Luis Pepe
John and Luis Pepe (he/him and he/him) are the proud owners of The Chez Est in Hartford; central Connecticut’s premier LGBTQ+ Bar, Restaurant & Cabaret space. They purchased The Chez in October of 2017 and have transformed the space into a cherished second home for the local community. Prior to owning the Chez, John had worked in big box retail for 10 years and started working at The Chez in 2003, first as a DJ, then as a bartender. Luis currently works as a Surgical Assistant at Clear Choice Dental and is in school to become a Respiratory Therapist. In recent years Luis has also continued to improve and perfect the art of Drag and regularly creates beautiful gowns, hair, and makeup. John & Luis have been married since July of 2016 and they live in Wethersfield, Connecticut with their 2 children; Orin & Luciano. They enjoy spending time and making memories with their children and beloved chosen family.
At the height of the COVID-19 Pandemic, John & Luis worked hard to launch a series of beautiful renovations at The Chez, including the addition of a professional grade kitchen, a brand new food and drink menu, and were able to bring the community together again. The Chez hosts many of Connecticut’s greatest drag shows, entertainment and events. John & Luis are avid supporters of the Connecticut Drag community and have raised many up-and-coming Drag Artists through the annual Chez Legends drag competition. The Chez also hosts the largest annual drag show benefit in all of Connecticut to raise funds for the Trans Lifeline. John & Luis believe in the power of community and feel blessed each and every day for The Chez’s ability to bring friends and family together in celebration.
Jaime Myers-McPhail (they/them) is a staff organizer with New Haven Rising, a grassroots organization fighting for racial-economic justice. While struggling to survive and longing for some way to fight back, they stumbled on a scrappy group that was figuring out how to shift power and resources and empower people to have a voice in the decisions that impact their lives. In 2010, Jaime started knocking on doors with the Community Voter Project, learning to build consensus with neighbors and wage campaigns. After several years of volunteering, recruiting and training others, Jaime joined the NHR staff. Jaime has also worked on labor campaigns, including a bottom-up unionization drive in Colorado, supporting immigrant airline catering workers at United Airlines.
Jaime believes that anti-capitalist collective liberation work requires prioritizing redlined communities, centering black leadership, and breaking down barriers to individual and collective action. The basis of worker and community solidarity is relationships forged in struggle and mutual self-interest across lines of difference. When we step outside privatized bourgeois social norms and push one another to overcome the things that hold us back, we can re-humanize ourselves and one another, and win back our power and our wealth.
Dave Cruz-Bustamante (he/him/they/them) is a queer, socialist, working-class organizer and high schooler in New Haven, Connecticut. They are the descendant of Ecuadorian workers, farmers, professionals, and a proud child of immigrants. They work at CityWide Youth Coalition as a community outreach coordinator and political education fellow. They plan community events, critical discussions, and provide a space for folks to express and discover themselves and the world around them in an anti-racist, liberatory way. They commit themselves to truth, abolition, reflection, and love for their community and in their efforts to transform our world, because a better world is necessary. They, themself, make no difference in the world. They merely help in facilitating the utter power, imagination, beauty, and passion of the collective.
Dr. Gary Blick, M.D.
Rep. Raven Matherne
Sy Fraiser, Sun Queen, Dawnise Traore, and ala ochumare
Nadine Ruff, MSW
Joe Grabarz, Lifetime Dorothy Award
Bernard Lanche & David Kleman
Dr. A.C. Demidont
State Senator Beth Bye
State Representative Jeff Currey
Paul Kuehn & George Appleby
Triangle Community Center
Dolores Dégagé Hopkins & Sassie Saltimboca*
CT Trans Advocacy Coalition
Trevor Reynolds & Michael Morgan
APNH: A Place to Nourish Your Health (formerly AIDS Project New Haven)
Carolyn & Leslie Gabel-Brett
Mayor Pedro Segarra
Out Film CT
Rev. Marilyn Bowens
Imperial Sovereign Court of All Connecticut
Rev. John MacIver Gage
Fran Rzeznik & Zinka Benton
Connecticut Gay Men’s Chorus
Vincent Farricelli & Robert Modena
Curtis Miller & Peter Goodman
Bobbi Blake & Cyd Slotorhoff
Robin Passariello McHaelan
Joseph Goodwin & George Coyle
* Indicates past honorees who are no longer with us.
Past Rising Star Honorees
The Rising Star Award was created to recognize folks within the community who are the new generation of activists and leaders who will lead the community for the next pink wave of policy changes, community building, and advocacy.
2021 : Jahnice Cajigas
2020 : Mel Cordner
2019 : Roslyn Cecilia Sotero
2018 : Dominic Warshaw
2017 : Rose Wong*
2016 : Seth Wallace
* Indicates past honorees who are no longer with us.