MEET THE 2023 HEROES
John Cunningham Lifetime Legacy Hero
Sister Bernadette Kinniry
For the last 27 years Sister Bernadette Kinniry, RSM has been a constant presence and unfailing advocate for all people, Siloam and the wider local HIV/AIDS community. Co-founding Siloam in 1995 and at 81 years old still greets everyone with a big hug. She currently runs programs; has walked in Black Lives Matters and the AIDS walk. She continues to champion for those who do not have a voice. During the height of the AIDS epidemic, Sister Bern, working with Project Home for the homeless. It was there she encountered a teenage boy whose family had disowned him. His HIV status had made him a pariah. He was profoundly homeless, not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually. Sister Bern’s first thought that he might have been her brother quickly became the conviction that he was, in fact, her brother. With the assistance of Don Reilly, OSA, she founded Siloam. Since that day she has been a constant presence and inspiration to thousands in the LGBTQ community and beyond. Siloam Wellness is a not-for-profit organization with the mission of enriching the well-being of people living with or affected by HIV/AIDS by providing a broad range of integrative mind/body/spirit services that empower them to develop skills and personal strengths leading to more meaningful lives. All services are offered regardless of ability to pay. We are a strong and vibrant community; in everything we do, the perspectives of people living with HIV drive our decision-making and program design, which has enabled us to reach countless individuals who would otherwise not have access to a comprehensive and culturally adapted support network. Each month, Siloam’s calendar is filled with a variety of classes, workshops, retreats, counseling sessions, and activities such as massage, Reiki, and yoga. People Living with HIV have access to the full range of Siloam’s services, including a food pantry and exercise facility. Siloam remains the only holistic center in the United States fostering the healing of mind, body and spirit of those living with HIV. As one long-term member of our community expressed: “Other places taught me how to die. Siloam teachers me how to live.” Sister Bern continues to champion causes to eliminate the stigma of AIDS and to empower those living with the virus to lead fulfilling lives. Many tribute that Bern saved their lives or gave them meaning in their lives. Always there to lend a big hug and an “I love you” to those who may never have heard those powerful words. Bern has dedicated her life to others, first, as a schoolteacher, principal, and advocate
Jason Laughlin is a reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer. In the past year, Jason Laughlin has gone above and beyond with his in-depth reporting on health issues directly affecting the LGBTQ+ community. Most recently, Jason’s brisk coverage of Planned Parenthood’s newest mission of providing Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) will be a game-changer in our community. Access to PEP can help reduce the transmission of HIV/AIDS after a sexual encounter. Planned Parenthood plans on overnighting the medications to those in need, where the timing is crucial. Effective treatment must begin within 72 hours of exposure to HIV.
Last summer the US faced an outbreak of the Monkeypox virus (MPOX). This virus was determined to affect the LGBTQ+ community in greater numbers than any other population. In addition, Black and Brown communities saw higher exposure rates than white patients. To that end, Jason has written over 15 articles about MPOX) including articles written to raise awareness about disparities in the city’s health department MPOX vaccine distribution affecting Philly’s Black and Brown communities. Jason’s fearless reporting requires not only courage to go up against implicit bias in the distribution of the vaccine, but also integrity to research the issues and report on them
without fear of retribution.
As we have learned throughout the HIV/AIDS epidemic as well as the Covid-19 pandemic, knowledge is power, and the faster we get it, the better off we all can be by taking precautions to mitigate risk. Jason has provided the information our community needs consistently throughout this year. I believe Jason has also advocated for our LGBTQ+ community by using the largest newspaper in Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Inquirer to amplify our challenges and needs to help make us safe.
It is with great admiration that I nominate C.C. Tellez for the DVLF 20th Annual Heroes Award. I have the pleasure of working with C.C. at Students Run Philly Style, an organization that transforms lives through running and mentorship, where she is the Associate Director of LGBTQ+ programming. C.C. is an accomplished distance runner from La Paz, Bolivia, who openly identifies as a lesbian. As a passionate advocate for LGBTQ+ inclusion, she uses her unmatched dedication to create positive change through sport.
C.C. is bold and leads with intention. When I first met C.C. in early 2020, we spoke at length about her history of LGBTQ+ activism and advocacy. I came away from our discussion excited to work alongside her. As you might imagine of someone who is the Philadelphia Founder of Lez Run Running Club and Co-Race Director of the Philly Pride Run, her mission is clear: to support and celebrate the LGBTQ+ community.
C.C. has been instrumental in promoting LGBTQ+ acceptance in running. Her efforts towards non-binary inclusion resulted in races adopting more inclusive policies, including the Philadelphia Distance Run, the first public race to offer non-binary race registrations with equal prizes. Since helping to generate this change, in 2022, the Blue Cross Broad Street Run and the Philadelphia Marathon, plus five of the six World Major Marathons including Boston and Berlin, have adopted the policy.
At Students Run, C.C. leads OUTPace, a partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Health designed to increase positive behavioral health outcomes for LGBTQ+ youth. OUTPace pairs LGBTQ+ youth and allies with adult volunteer Mentors to train for a distance race. As many institutions are intent on excluding LGBTQ+ youth from sport, C.C. ensures opportunities remain visible.
In the past year, C.C. has created over 20 opportunities for youth including:
● C.C. led OUTPace to partner with LGBTQ+ led and/or owned organizations that offer opportunities for exercise including Lez Run, Front Runners, Subversus Fitness and Stonewall Philadelphia.
● C.C. supported OUTPace youth as they led an intergenerational discussion on LGBTQ+ experiences with residents of the John C. Anderson Apartments, one of the few LGBTQ+-friendly senior housing facilities in the nation. C.C. went on to help establish a weekly walking group with residents, to promote health and wellness while building community.
● C.C. worked closely with the Attic Youth Center and GALAEI to create teams of students to train for the Broad Street Run or Philadelphia Marathon races.
● C.C. is also a proud Ambassador for Athleteally, a diverse group of world-wide, professional athletes that work to promote equality in sports for all LGBTQ+ athletes. I will close by sharing the words of an OUTPace student, a mentee of C.C., whose experience led them to share, “Trans people have faced so much discrimination...being included in a hobby that I cherish makes a huge difference...having something -- especially something so close to home, truly gives light and hope back into the world.”
I have known Jone Magagna well for about five years after meeting her at the IBA local LGBTQ+ chamber of commerce. Everyone that knows Jone would say the same thing about her: She is an inspiration to us all and a strong supporter of both the IBA and the TransWork Initiative. In addition to running a sucessful printing business Jone is both on the Board of Directors and the membership committee of the IBA. Jone is also a supporter and co-chair of TransWork which helps the transgender community by connecting job seekers and entrepreneurs to a network of supportive employers and business partners. In addition to taking care of her 92 year old mother and leading an active and fulfilled life, Jone has found the time to be one of the IBA's biggest membership promoters. I am not exaggerating, if I tell you that Jone Magagna has brought in over two dozen new members into the IBA in the last 2-3 years. Probably 3 or 4 times as many new members in to the local LGBT chamber than the next clossest person. All who meet Jone would tell you of her graciousness, kindness and infectious enthusiasm that she displays at all times with all people of diverse backgrounds. For these reasons Jone Magagne is my hero and I hope soon to be your community hero as well.
I am pleased to nominate Krystal Kane to be recognized as an Ally Hero by the Delaware Valley Legacy Fund. Krystal is the Pro Bono Attorney at Blank Rome LLP, where she serves an instrumental role in managing the pro bono program for all of the firm’s US-based offices. Krystal is very dedicated to allyship, and to pro bono work that serves the LGBTQ+ community. Her personal pro bono practice focuses on legal name changes, and she handled 20 of these in 2022. Krystal’s advocacy does not stop at her individual name change practice. Through her connections with the Philadelphia LGBTQ+ Bar Association and the Philadelphia Bar Association, in April 2022, Krystal organized a legal name change clinic in Philadelphia. She handled volunteer training, advertising, and client preparation. Ultimately, over 40 people were able to secure legal name changes through this initiative. It was so successful that a group of attorneys in the Montgomery County Prothonotary’s Office used this model to operate their own clinic, in conjunction with Legal Aid. These projects are ongoing and will continue into 2023. Krystal’s dedication to serving the LGBTQ+ community has not gone unnoticed. She received the prestigious 2022 Honorable Nathaniel R. Jones Diversity and Inclusion Award from Blank Rome, and she was also recognized as the 2022 Ally of the Year by the Philadelphia LGBTQ+ Bar Association. Krystal was also included in the 40 Under 40 listing from Drexel University in March 2022. Krystal holds leadership roles with community organizations, including Chair of the Social Justice and Volunteerism Committee of the Philadelphia LGBTQ+ Bar Association, Co-Chair of the LGBT Rights Committee of the Philadelphia Bar Association, and as a Philadelphia Bar Foundation Trustee.
Through his pioneering and visionary leadership, Scott has created the most diverse and comprehensive destination for LGBTQ+ storytelling across Comcast’s X1, Flex and Stream video platforms. By building an LGBTQ+ editorial destination — inclusive of focusing on key community moments this past year in Pride, LGBTQ+ History Month, and Transgender Awareness Month — Scott has not only architected a unique space for Philadelphians to access LGBTQ+ content, but for all Comcast customers nationwide.
DR. HUSSEIN SAFA
Dr. Hussein Safa, of Einstein Medical Center - Jefferson Health, embodied the DVLF "hero" criteria in 2022. Dr. Safa is a compassionate, affirming, and inclusive primary care physician caring for the LGBTQAI+ and HIV community in Philadelphia. Queer, Trans and gender expansive patients report feeling affirmed, listened to, and cared for by Dr. Safa in ways that they never experienced by a doctor previously. Word has spread to the point that current wait time for a new patient appointment for LGBTQAI+ care with him is over 3 months. In his role as Medical Director of Einstein's Pride Program, Dr. Safa has grown the LGBTQAI+ services provided by Einstein-Jefferson and strengthened its inclusive and affirming policies and practices. Dr. Safa is always willing to boldly advocate for policy changes at the clinical and institutional levels to advance LGBTQAI+ rights and inclusivity. Dr. Safa's "heroism" is even more apparent by response to two key developments in 2022. First, under his leadership Einstein secured, developed, and launched the Philadelphia TelePrEP Program, a service designed to provide radically accessible HIV prevention care to all Philadelphians regardless of income or insurance status. As part of the program, Dr. Safa trained 100 internal and family medicine residents in providing sex-positive, gender inclusive, nonjudgmental primary care and sexual history taking to grow the workforce trained in providing this kind of care. The program is now up and running, and under his supervision, has provided PrEP to over 30 people so far. The second example is Dr. Safa's response to the MPox outbreak in the summer of 2022. Dr. Safa saw some of the earliest MPox cases in Philadelphia. He was at the front lines as the first provider at Einstein to test, diagnose, and treat a patient for MPox, swabbing MPox lesions before we knew very much about them or the appropriate protocols needed. Inspired by his actions and comforted by his competence, other providers in the practice soon felt comfortable testing and treating patients for MPox, although to this day Dr. Safa saw the most MPox cases at Einstein and is informally viewed as the MPox "czar" here. His leadership enabled Einstein to stand up Mpox testing and treatment protocols including extensive reporting to the CDC and PDPH, and eventually the establishment of the institution's MPox vaccine clinic. At the International AIDS Society annual conference in July 2022, Dr. Safa gave candid feedback to the CDC leadership on their lackluster and delayed roll out of MPox vaccine in front of a plenary of over 1,000 people. His response to the Mpox outbreak elucidates his bold, courageous, and selfless disposition. In addition to his roles of Attending Physician in Einstein's HIV practice, Medical Director of Einstein's Pride Program, and Medical Director of Einstein's TelePrEP Program, Dr. Safa serves as faculty chair of the American Academy of HIV Medicine's Primary Care and HIV curriculum, is a member of the Academy's National PrEP Task Force, and is a faculty member for Montefiore's Fellowship in Homeless Healthcare.