Black History Month News

Florida Dream Keepers: The Established Leaders

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Jameer Baptiste
Written by Jameer Baptiste

Here at Florida Agenda, we honor and profile our community’s “Dream Keepers” throughout the year making sure to recognize our black leaders like Nadine Smith, the passionate gay rights executive director of Equality Florida and Aryah Lester, the courageous chair of the Florida Health Department’s Transgender Work Group, featured in our Florida’s Top 100 Movers and Shakers.

During Black History Month, we turn the spotlight on more who have paved the way (Established Leaders) and those who are taking the reigns (Raising Leaders).


Established Leader: Paul Smith, Field Instructor and Clinical Supervisor at Sunserve

A Vietnam Vet, Smith retired from the armed services to only devote his second career to his true passion–helping others through psychotherapy. In his early 40s, Smith received his master’s degree and a license in Clinical Social Work and psychotherapy. For the past 11 years, he has used his degree to help counsel our community as a mental health counselor at Sunserve, a South Florida non-profit social service agency. And when the organization needed more help with its graduate internship program five years ago, Smith stepped up and assumed the role as Field Instructor and Clinical Supervisor – training the next generation of clinicians.  Besides his volunteer work with Sunserve, Smith has also given his time to the Pride Center as the treasurer of the Senior Advisory Council and then as a member of the board of directors to now become the chair of the Governance Committee for the board.  In May of 2016, Smith will retire once again, but Sunserve will still have his warm embrace in the form of an adviser.


Established Leader: Christopher Bates, Social Services Manager at Florida Department of Health in Broward County

Bates has committed his life to advocacy work, specifically in the realm of HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness. His dedication to the cause is represented in the 35 years that he has either donated his time or worked with certain nonprofit organizations, committees and advisory boards from Washington DC to Florida. Bates was the founding member of the District of Columbia Primary Care Association and a member of countless other councils and committees. In Florida, Bates has served as the Deputy Director to the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health, Infectious Diseases and Executive Director of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS as an appointed Senior Executive Service member. Today, he is the Director of Men’s Health, Wellness and Prevention Program, and the coordinator for the Hepatitis Program, at the state of Florida Department of Health in Broward County (FDOH-BC). He is a principal leader in the development and implementation of the Men’s Health and Wellness Conference.


Established Leader: Dr. Sonia Mitchell, Executive Director of Florida Youth Pride Coalition

Dr. Mitchell has been empowering our youth since she arrived to Miami from Jamaica in the 1980s. Her philosophy is to allow our youth to flourish by making them part of the equation. Instead of instructing our youth, she includes them in every process from organizing events to business development and management. The Psychology and Philosophy Doctorate collaborated with LGBT youth to organize the first Diverse Minority Pride. And in 2013, they helped her establish the Florida Youth Pride Coalition by creating the name and the logo. Today, the organization functions with an innovative approach to youth mentorship. For every executive board position, there is a youth board position in which they share, collaborate and vote on all aspects of the organization while shadowing their respective executive board mentor.