Nursing PhD Student Martez Smith Honored for Contributions to LGBTQ Community
By Alexander Dean
Friday, September 27, 2019 3:52 PM
Martez Smith, LMSW, a University of Rochester Provost Fellowship Recipient and third-year graduate student in the University of Rochester School of Nursing’s PhD program, was recently honored with two prestigious awards for his contributions to the LBGTQ community.
Smith was awarded the 2019 Plug’d Trailblazer of the Year Award from the Haitian-American Community Coalition on Aug. 30 and is set to receive the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care (ANAC) Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Student Mentorship Scholarship on Nov. 9.
The Plug’d Trailblazer of the Year Award is presented to one community activist who has demonstrated excellence in their contributions to the LGBTQ community via advocacy, activism, and community organizing. Smith, a licensed social worker, was chosen for the award because of his tremendous work in addressing HIV health disparities and improving health for racial/ethnic, sexual orientation, and gender minorities. He was presented with the award at the 2019 Plug’d Masqerade Gala on Aug. 30 at the Alibi Lounge in New York City.
Smith was selected for the ANAC DEI scholarship after being nominated by Mitchell Wharton, PhD, RN, FNP-BC, CNS, who is an assistant professor of clinical nursing at the University of Rochester School of Nursing.
Smith has been a voracious advocate for the House Ball Community (HBC), a global network comprised of “houses,” which serve to groom Black and Brown LGBTQ people for participation in elaborate competitions against other houses, known as “balls.” His interest in HIV care is motivated by his experiences as a child in the House of Lanvin, an HBC house which is composed primarily of LGBTQ individuals of color. As an openly gay Black man living with HIV and as a co-chair of the Black Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) subcommittee of the New York State AIDS Advisory Council’s Committee to End the Epidemic, Smith has observed the positive impacts of his research on the individuals and communities he advocates for.
Smith is co-founder of the Keeping Ballroom Community Alive Network (KBCAN), a national network of house ball community members and activists. In August, Smith worked with KBCAN and local New York City organizations to host a ball at the New York City Mayor’s Office, advocating for the end of cash bail and remand, solitary confinement, and the decriminalization of sex work in New York State. Smith has also worked with KBCAN to create the Crystal LaBeija Organizing Fellowship, which provides 10 trans and gender nonconforming activists in the house ball community across the United States with resources, leadership development, and capacity-building opportunities.