Central Florida will celebrate its first Faith and Diversity Festival on Saturday, August 17, with an event that will bring together LBTQ+ communities, faith leaders and diversity allies for an afternoon of meaningful connections, music and fraternization. The festival’s organizer is Del Ambiente, an Orlando-based grassroot group focusing on the development of Puerto Rican LGBTQ+ individuals. The event is sponsored by Greenspoon Marder LLP, a strong advocate for diversity and inclusion. It will be held at Stonewall, at 741 W Church St. in Orlando, and open to everyone 21 an up.

“We strive for the holistic development of our community,” said Ricardo Negrón, Co-Director of Del Ambiente. “Many in the LGBTQ+ communities are interested in religion and spirituality but don’t know where to turn after a long history of rejection by mainstream churches. This festival will give them an opportunity to connect with communities of faith ready to embrace them.”

The festival will also feature the local arts community with performances by the Orlando Gay Chorus, the Orlando Choral Society and Opera Orlando, leading to a mass chorus performance that will be conducted by Grammy award winner Jeffrey Redding. Festival attendees will also enjoy an evening concert by Puerto Rican singers Yaire and Lissy Estrella, as part of the Amor Latin Nights held every Saturday at Stonewall.

“We need to continue the dialogue we started three years ago after Pulse and give voice to the voiceless,” said Myrna Maysonet, a partner with Greenspoon Marder and the firm’s Chief Diversity Officer. “We will not stop advocating for diversity in all of its plurality. A vocal minority will not control our narrative.” Earlier this year, the firm donated the funds to build a permanent memorial for the Pulse shooting victims at Orlando’s historic Greenwood Cemetery and made a $60K gift to the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center to honor their memory.

Across the U.S., and as recent as June in Central Florida, extreme fundamentalist religious groups are raising their voices calling for despicable acts against the LGBTQ+ communities in the name of God. The festival seeks to counteract this kind of hate by facilitating connections between faith leaders with non-divisive messages and LGBTQ+ individuals for whom faith and spirituality is important. The message that LGBTQ+ people cannot possibly belong within faith communities has been deeply damaging. Stonewall research found that a 32 percent of lesbian, gay and bi people, and 25 percent of trans individuals are not open about who they are in their faith communities.

“Faith is one of the pillars of the Puerto Rican culture and Hispanics at large,” said Nancy Rosado, who together with Negrón founded Del Ambiente. “We want our community to know and feel that in spite of the hateful noise made by a few, being LGBTQ+ is not mutually exclusive with celebrating one’s faith.”