Long Beach LGBTQ Center gala to recognize icons

Rep. John Lewis, right, poses on the steps of the U.S. Capitol with Vanessa Romain, who will receive an Icon Award from the LGBTQ Center of Long Beach. Photo: Vanessa Romain.

LONG BEACH — One of Long Beach’s earliest LGBTQ nonprofits, a state assemblyman and a long-time lesbian activist have been selected to receive Icon Awards from the LGBTQ Center of Long Beach at its annual gala.

The 4th Annual Black and White Ball will take place April 22 at the Hyatt Regency in downtown.

Proficient LGBTQ advocate Ellen Ward received the Community Icon Award from the LGBTQ Center of Long Beach in 2015.


In honor of the late Ellen Ward, The Center will present the inaugural Ellen Ward Leadership Icon to Long Beach resident Vanessa Romain. Ward — who served two terms as Mayor of Signal Hill and 12 years on the City Council — was the original owner of the iconic Seventh Street bar Que Sera, a founding member of the Long Beach Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and a proficient LGBTQ and HIV/AIDS advocate in Long Beach and Signal Hill. Ward received a Community Icon Award from the Center at its 2015 gala. Ward passed away in August 2015. She was 78.


Romain served more than 25 years on the board of directors at Long Beach Lesbian and Gay Pride and served multiple terms as the organization’s president.  Romain is a field deputy with Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Long).

“We are presenting this award with great reverence in memory and in the spirit of Ellen Ward who is one of the biggest champions the Long Beach LGBTQ community has ever known,” Center Executive Director Porter Gilberg said in a statement. “Vanessa Romain has spent decades serving many communities through both her professional and volunteer endeavors and there couldn’t be a more deserving recipient.”


Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell (D-70th District), a former Long Beach City Councilman and public school teacher in Paramount, will receive the Political Icon Award. O’Donnell has supported legislative efforts to create safer and more inclusive school for all students, including LGBTQ youth. Last year, O’Donnell introduced a bill requiring schools have student suicide prevention plans. Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill in September 2016, and it went into effect in January.


The International Imperial Court of Long Beach will receive the Community Icon Award for decades of supporting LGBTQ and other non-profit organizations in Long Beach.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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