I was unable to attend the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association award ceremony yesterday; I won the Excellence in Online Journalism award for my series of posts on Betsie Gallardo. My dental issues and Hurricane Irene conspired against me.
Metroweekly's Chris Geidner also won an award and he gracefully offered to read my short acceptance speech and pick up the trophy on my behalf. Unfortunately, only the big award winners gave short speeches, so no one got to hear my public thank you's.
Below the fold is the short speech I asked Chris to read on my behalf. The group of journalists assembled in Philadelphia may not have had the chance to hear my gratitude firsthand, but Projectors can see how thankful I am to the folks who drove the story.
While I'm incredibly honored to be the first gay independent blogger to win the NLGJA's Excellence in Online Journalism award, due to some medical issues and a hurricane, I'm unfortunately unable to attend. Thankfully, my friend Chris Geidner (who started his career as a blogger before turning to the dark side in exchange for something called "a paycheck") has agreed to accept this honor on my behalf.
Betsie Gallardo's tragic story captured the nation over the holiday season. A young HIV+ Haitian woman, Betsie was jailed for spitting on a police officer and denied medical attention while she died of cancer. I begged for a Christmas miracle in my original article and Betsie was freed on Orthodox Christmas. After a special parole board meeting, Betsie was released from prison just in time to return home to Indiana and die surrounded by loving family members.
The courage and dedication of a few people accomplished the impossible. Jessica Bussart, Betsie's mother, never faltered in her fight to free her unjustly imprisoned daughter; she drove this story through sheer willpower and motherly love. Other journalists that took up the cause and demanded justice for Betsie included Todd Heywood of the American Independent and Steve Rothaus of the Miami Herald. Bilerico Project contributor Michael Rajner picked up the cause in Florida and did the hard on-the-ground work while battling his own illness. In full throttle activist mode, he got state politicians and officials involved originally and didn't stop until he drove Jessica and Betsie to the airport for the flight home. He worked until justice had been served.
My thanks and gratitude to the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association for this prestigious award. I'm grateful to accept in honor of Betsie Gallardo and the dedicated individuals who drove this story.