40 Under 40 Winner: LaDawn Best

LaDawnBestOn Thursday, September 29, the Long Beach Post hosted an event to honor young people from around the city who are doing great things to better their community and beyond. Out of hundreds of nominations from our readers, judges chose 40 winners, representing a range of professions and activism. The Post will be profiling each honoree in the coming days.

In the short time since LaDawn Best, 39, became the Board Chair and President for the LGBTQ Center of Long Beach this year, the organization has increased programming for women, expanded HIV education outreach to target men of color and produced the first North Long Beach Pride event, according to her nominators.

“As a young person I didn’t have access to inclusive and culturally responsive spaces so I know first-hand just how valuable and needed they are,” she said. “The LGBTQ Center of Long Beach is a safe and accepting place that provides lifesaving services to many in our community. I am so lucky to have the opportunity to be a part of the Center family and support the work that they do.”

Described as “commanding” by her nominator, Best’s leadership strengths come from more than a decade of experience doing LGBTQ-specific work. Before becoming the Los Angeles program director at Peer Health Exchange, Best supported domestic violence victims at the Los Angeles LGBT Center. She also graduated from the African American Board Leadership Institute before assuming the volunteer position.

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“To receive an award for my work within my LGBTQ communities is something that is humbling and very special for me,” said Best. “I grew up and attended high school in a place that was not very accepting of diversity. As a young queer kid growing up in a town that didn’t respect my identities, I longed to live in a better place. That’s what brought me to Long Beach. I have dedicated my life to being the person I needed when I was younger because I didn’t have any LGBTQ role models that looked like me when I was growing up.”

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