On behalf of our Dinner Chairs, Joshua O’Connell and Nicholas Bussett, and our Executive Director, Patrick J Dunn, we are proud to announce our 18th Annual Dorothy Award honorees :

  • Ahmad Abojaradeh, International Queer Muslim Advocate and Organizer 
  • Dr. Gary Blick, M.D., Pioneering HIV/AIDS Clinician and Humanitarian
  • Rep. Raven Matherne, Connecticut’s First Elected Trans Lawmaker & Advocate for Trans Athletes
  • Sy Fraiser, Sun Queen, Dawnise Traore, and ala ochumare, Founders of Black Lives Matter New Haven – The Lion Award
  • Jahnice Cajigas, LGBTQ+ Youth Organizer and Queer & Trans Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) Advocate – Rising Star Award

Scroll down to read more about this years’ honorees. See the full list of past honorees below the bios.

Meet Our Honorees

Ahmad Abojaradeh

Ahmad (They/Them) is a disabled, trans, queer, Muslim, indigenous Palestinian focusing on creating transformative work around displacement, decolonization, equity, and centering lived experiences of individuals most impacted by injustice. Currently, they are working as an Equity and Transformation consultant, supporting various organizations in four continents. They are working on their MA in Conflict Transformation and Social Justice from Queen’s University Belfast. They have worked in over two dozen countries, and specialize in global and community vision building. Ahmad is an engineer, with a specialty in sustainability and social engineering, a peer support specialist, has a traumatic stress graduate certificate, and is currently working towards a MA in Conflict Transformation and Social Justice. They are the Founder of Life in My Days, an international non-profit that supports individuals and their communities on their journeys for self-actualization through mutual aid, transformative justice, and disability justice. For the last few years, Ahmad has also been a Master Recovery Educator, facilitating the RI Peer Support Certification training nationally to certify individuals as Peer Support Specialists.

Additionally, they are an Equity Coach with Sustainable CT, supporting municipalities in the State in engraining equity practices into any sustainability work. Ahmad brings together engineering, peer support, and trauma to support their vision of more equitable and accountable communities that lead to individuals’ self-actualization. Ahmad currently serves as a board member for TransLifeline and is the previous co-chair of the International Association of Peer Supporters board. In their free time, Ahmad is a world traveler and novelist, having visited over 70 countries and written over a dozen books.

Dr. Gary Blick, M.D.

Dr. Blick (he/him) is an internationally renowned HIV/AIDS clinician, clinical researcher, lecturer, and humanitarian. While in medical school at the University of Miami in the early 1980s, he was inspired to become an infectious disease specialist due to the burgeoning national HIV crisis. Dr. Blick completed his residency training at Yale University and Greenwich Hospital Association and went on to receive additional credentialing from the American Academy of HIV Medicine. He has had a successful medical career for more than 30 years.

Dr. Blick is the chief medical officer of Health Care Advocates International (HCAI), co-founder of HIV Advocates, and founder of the Zimbabwe AIDS Project (ZAP). He established ZAP following the successful treatment of an HIV-positive Zimbabwean couple who gave birth to an HIV-negative child in 2002 – years before prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) became the standard of care throughout the world

Rep. Raven Matherne

Shortly after turning 29, Raven (she/her or they/them) found they couldn’t cope with the physical consequences of remaining closeted any longer. After choosing to pursue medical help, they found they were no longer welcome in their career as a professional martial artist and were forced to leave. Starting again, they began talking to all their neighbors, discussing the ways their community could be improved, and fighting to ensure that everyone had equal access to all the resources of the city.

On December 4th, 2017 (their 30th birthday), Raven was sworn in as an elected member of the Stamford Board of Representatives, becoming the first transgender elected lawmaker in the State of Connecticut. They also became the Representative for many of the students they once taught traits like honesty, persistence, and respect. As an elected official, most recently Raven interviewed candidates for Chief of Police, and was appointed Vice Chair of the Parks & Recreation Committee. They were the first Representative to submit items to review the coming impacts of Covid 19. They also proposed a resolution in support of transgender student athletes, which passed with bipartisan support. In 2019, Raven was honored to serve as a Grand Marshal for the first Middletown Pride. They formerly served on Triangle Community Center’s Board of Directors, and they frequently volunteer at local events to bring attention to trans issues. When not on Zoom, Raven can usually be found on the closest “new to me” trails, discussing medical access and voting rights with the local fauna.

Sy Fraiser, Osun Gleti, Sun Queen, and ala ochumare
The Founders of Black Lives Matter New Haven
– The Lion Award

Black Lives Matter New Haven established in August 2015 by co-founders Sun Queen, ala ochumare, Dawnise Boulware and Sy Frasier is a grassroots organization committed to building community power. BLMNHV leads grassroots efforts to eradicate systemic white supremacy, oppression and racial violence on Black, Brown and Queer communities and to combat the compounding effects of such violence by promoting holistic healing and Black, Brown and Queer creativity and joy. BLMNHV’s work is centered in New Haven but the organization is a recognized leader in racial justice across the state of Connecticut. BLMNHV is ardently committed to systemic change to actualize racial, economic and health equity!


We envision transforming our community, emphasizing on accountability, discovering new knowledge and sharing our resources with the community.


Black Lives Matter New Haven, an organizing collective that actively fights for Black Liberation. To inspire and revitalize our community through advocacy, education, transformational justice and community partnerships, to create long-lasting solutions to systemic racism.


Jahnice Cajigas – Rising Star Award

Jahnice (she/her), is the Director of Organizing for the Citywide Youth Coalition Inc. Jahnice is a Strategy Council Member for the Perrin Family Foundation. She has also previously interned for PPSNE, with them they successfully launched the state’s first queer camp specifically for youth of color. For Jahnice the camp is more than just a program, it’s providing a space she always wished to have offered to her . Jahnice has been a community organizer for the past seven years she has worked on issues like LGBTQ+ rights, juvenile justice reform and the miseducation of our education system, among many other issues. In total, Jahnice is a true organizer and leader in the state of Connecticut who exudes the spirit of a new generation of youth that are politically conscious and personally committed to improving the community for the better.


Past Honorees


Suzanne Kachmar
Ricky Mestre
Nadine Ruff, MSW
Gretchen Raffa
Joe Grabarz, Lifetime Dorothy Award


IV Staklo
Juancarlos Soto
Bernard Lanche & David Kleman
Yale Cabaret


Dr. A.C. Demidont
State Senator Beth Bye
State Representative Jeff Currey
Sonia Salazar
GLSEN Connecitcut


Dandy Lions
Paul Kuehn & George Appleby
Triangle Community Center


Fleurette King
Selma Miriam
Dolores Dégagé Hopkins & Sassie Saltimboca*
CT Trans Advocacy Coalition


Anne Beon
Frank DeMayo
Trevor Reynolds & Michael Morgan
True Colors


Betty Gallo
Joe Mannetti
Christine O’Leary
APNH: A Place to Nourish Your Health (formerly AIDS Project New Haven)


Irwin Krieger
Carolyn & Leslie Gabel-Brett
Sweetheart Invitational


Mayor Pedro Segarra
Diana Richter
Robin Banks
Out Film CT


Rev. Marilyn Bowens
Tony Ferraiolo
Robb Bartolomeo
Northeast Ursamen


Micheal Morand
Dena Castricone
Leif Mitchell
Imperial Sovereign Court of All Connecticut



Rev. John MacIver Gage
Fran Rzeznik & Zinka Benton
Connecticut Gay Men’s Chorus


Vincent Farricelli & Robert Modena
Patricia Nicolari
Another Octave


Linda Estabrook
Curtis Miller & Peter Goodman
Jerimarie Liesegang*


David Knapp
Anne Stanback
Maureen Murphy
Michael Lawlor


Bobbi Blake & Cyd Slotorhoff
John Anderson
Robin Passariello McHaelan


Ellen Gabrielle*
Joseph Goodwin & George Coyle
Stephanie Philips

* 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.

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.