City of Dallas celebrates 2023 Pride in Excellence Awards

City of Dallas celebrates 2023 Pride in Excellence Awards

The Mayor and City Council hosted the 2023 Pride in Excellence Awards Reception today in celebration of pride month.

The awards reception, which included special words from Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Omar Narvaez, Mayor Pro Tem Carolyn King Arnold, the City’s DPD LGBTQ Liaison, the City’s LGBTQ+ Employee Resource Group, recognized LGBTQ+ leaders in Dallas in the fields of business, civic engagement, public service, arts & culture and philanthropy.

Awards were given to the following community leaders:

Adam Medrano Excellence in Leadership Award – Ben Leal

Ben Leal is the President at The Addy Foundation, where assists in the funding of agencies in the North Texas Region to meet critical needs in civics, culture, education, health, and social services. As President of The Addy Foundation, Leal ensures that the organization provides timely, meaningful support to organizations fostering innovative and proven solutions that best serve those in need.  Leal joined The Addy Foundation in 2020 with the shared vision of inspired communities rich in opportunity. He has years of experience in the not-for-profit field. He began his career working for The State of Texas in the Governor’s Office and later served as a Legislative Director for The Texas House of Representatives. It was after working in the government sector that Leal found his true passion for nonprofit work. Over the past years, Leal has expanded his experience in fund development, program management, and operational supervision. Leal is a graduate of Texas Lutheran University with a B.A. in political science, focusing on public policy and urban development, with a minor in economics.  Leal has also been able to participate and complete the Strategic Perspective in Nonprofit Management at Harvard Business School and has his Nonprofit Certification in Management from the Center for Nonprofit Management through Southern Methodist University.  Leal has enjoyed serving on appointed committees such as the City of Dallas Citizen Bond Committee, the Attendance and Boundaries Committee for the Dallas ISD, the Citizen Budget Review Committee, and other nonprofit boards. Leal was appointed to the DFW International Airport Board of Directors by the Dallas City Council. Leal is also an active member at Saint Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church, where he enjoys volunteering.

Venton JonesKirk Myers-Hill Pioneer in PRIDE Award – Venton Jones

Texas State Representative Venton Jones is a native of House District 100 representing parts of Dallas County, which includes areas of South Dallas, West Dallas, East Dallas, Buckner Terrace, Victory Park and Oak Cliff. With his election, Jones made history by becoming one of the first Black gay lawmakers elected to the Texas House of Representatives, and the first Black State Legislator openly living with HIV in the United States.  Jones serves as a member of the House Committee on Public Health and the House Committee on Corrections. In addition to his committee appointments, Jones serves as the Legislative Chair of the Aggie Caucus and is a member of the Texas House Democratic Caucus Rules Committee, the Texas Legislative Black Caucus, and the Texas LGBTQ Caucus. Professionally, Representative Jones is a non-profit CEO, Texas Realtor, and a demonstrated servant leader. He is the Founder and CEO of the Southern Black Policy and Advocacy Network (SBPAN), where the mission of the organization is to improve health, social, and economic conditions impacting Black communities in the U.S. South. Jones currently serves as a federal appointee to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Health Resources and Services Administration Advisory Committee on HIV, Viral Hepatitis, and STD Prevention and Treatment. Jones is part of a new generation of leaders committed to advancing equity and justice through two decades of experience leading organizations, impacting public policy, and organizing diverse communities nationally, throughout the State of Texas, and in his hometown of Dallas. Since the beginning of his career, Jones has been a tireless advocate working to improve healthcare access, fighting for marginalized communities and middle-class families, and protecting voting rights. In 2011, Jones was recognized at the White House by President Barack Obama for his Public Health and HIV advocacy work. Representative Jones received his Bachelor of Science degree in Community Health from Texas A&M University, his Master of Science degree in Health Care Administration from The University of Texas at Arlington, and holds a global certification as a Project Management Professional (PMP). In his free time, Representative Jones enjoys karaoke, do-it-yourself home improvement projects, gardening, and spending time with family and friends. In addition, he is an active member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated and a lifetime member of the NAACP.

Outstanding Leadership in Business Award – Brandon Call

Brandon J. Call is the executive editor for D CEO magazine, which is a Publishing company with an estimated 149 employees; and founded in 1974, their management level is C-Level. An award-winning business and data journalist, Call previously served as data editor for the Dallas Business Journal and research director for Albuquerque Business First. Prior to that, he held various editorial posts at Albuquerque The Magazine and New Mexico Magazine. Data editor at the Dallas Business Journal. Former research director at Albuquerque Business First, editorial assistant at New Mexico Magazine and Albuquerque The Magazine and website manager of

Candace ThompsonOutstanding Leadership in Civic Engagement Award – Candace Thompson

As a community philanthropy officer for Communities Foundation of Texas, Candace networks with, supports and amplifies the work of nonprofit organizations making a difference in the quality of life in all areas that make communities thrive. Prior to joining CFT, she was the community outreach manager for Baylor Scott & White with a focus on community engagement efforts, special community events, promoting health and well-being for community organizations and houses of worship in South Dallas and Southern Dallas. She also was community outreach director for Jubilee Park and Community Center, a case manager with Housing Crisis Center for families experiencing homelessness, and director of program and operations for Catholic Volunteers in Florida, a statewide AmeriCorps program. Candace holds a bachelor’s in psychology from the University of Texas at Dallas, and a master’s in social work and an M.P.A. from the University of Texas at Arlington. Candace sits on several boards including Friends of Juanita Craft Civil Rights House & Museum, Cultiv8 Community, Environmental Commission for City of Dallas, Miles of Freedom, and Seeds of Faith Collective. She’s also formerly served on the board of the Community Council of Greater Dallas.

Outstanding Leadership in Public Service Award – George Castro
George Castro graduated from L.G. Pinkston High School, class of 1973 in his native Dallas, Texas. Helater studied at Bishop College and retired from AT&T. Castro a strong activist and supporter of keeping West Dallas community intact. He attends numerous DISD school board and City Council meetings and is devoted to bringing positive changes to L.G. Pinkston High School and West Dallas. Castro helped with the food distributing for students at L.G. Pinkston and at New Morning Star Baptist Church and has promoted numerous efforts in support of L.G. Pinkston students on all platforms, especially creating inclusivity and diversity to assure no student is left behind. Castro played a key role in acquiring uniforms for the Almighty L.G Pinkston Band after being selected from thousands of bands across America to participate in the 2017 National Memorial Day Parade in Washington D.C.

Outstanding Leadership in Arts and Culture Award – DFW Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence

The DFW Sisters exist as a modern, communal order of 21st century nuns dedicated to community service, fund raising, outreach, advocacy, education for safer sex awareness, and to promoting human rights, respect for diversity and spiritual enlightenment. The organizations believes all people have a right to express their unique joy and beauty and uses humor and irreverent wit to expose the forces of bigotry, complacency and guilt that chain the human spirit. The DFW Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence consist with over 20 active nuns devoted to raising money for community service, ministry to those in need, and promoting human rights, diversity, and spiritual enlightenment.

Lucilo PeñaOutstanding Leadership in Philanthropy Award – Lucilo Peña

Lucilo Peña is one of those individuals whose body of work as an architect and developer easily fits into the category of “Dallas and Beyond.” While at Billingsley Company today, his early career included working as a project designer at WZMH Inc. and landing roles of increasing responsibility at Trammell Crow Design and Construction and the Dallas Market Center Company. From 1989 to 1996, he worked with the Travelstead Group in Spain, assuming its presidency in 1993. The keynote project for him during that time was the Parc de Mar Project (Hotel Arts) in the Olympic Village in Barcelona. That project consisted of designing, building, and leasing a mixed-use complex of approximately 1,180,000 square feet, which included a Ritz-Carlton Hotel, 30 luxury duplex apartments, an office building, and a retail center. The project is considered a cornerstone among the Olympic projects in Barcelona and is the result of a collaborative effort between Bruce Graham (SOM Chicago), Frank Gehry, and GCA. Lucilo is the president of development at Billingsley, a role he has had since 1996. Educated as an architect with a Bachelor of Design degree from the University of Florida, he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in architecture from Cornell University, with additional studies at Harvard, l’Université Paris-Sorbonne, and Berlin’s Künstlerhaus Bethanien. Peña won the prestigious Kuchling Humanitarian Award at the Black-Tie Dinner in 2012. Peña, who currently serves as president at Billingsley Co. in Dallas, is a longtime supporter of local LGBT and arts organizations. He served on the national board of the Human Rights Campaign from 2000 to 2008. Locally, Peña served as co-chair of HRC’s Major Donor and Capital Campaign committees, and as a founding committee member for “Straight Talk on Gay Issues,” a series of events to reach out to allies. Peña has been a trustee of the Dallas Museum of Art and a member of DMA’s Executive Committee since 2002.

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