For the past 27 years, CCEJ has hosted an Interfaith Intercultural Breakfast for over 800 community members with a theme connected to an aspect of our work. The Interfaith Intercultural Breakfast is an opportunity for people of all racial, ethnic, religious, gender identity and cultural backgrounds to come together to celebrate our rich diversity and share in the vision of a truly inclusive community.

This year, the keynote speakers were Marsha and Aiden Aizumi, who spoke on the topic of affirming transgender people, and their personal journey as mother and son towards acceptance and love.


The morning began with attendees walking into the convention center to the soothing melodies played from solo harpist, Pheobe Schrafft, and warm welcomes from students of CCEJ Building Bridges Youth Leaders and PAAL/ Cabrillo High Schools. As attendees made their way into the Grand Ballroom, they enjoyed the festive music and vocals from the world’s first and only LGBTQ Mariachi band, the Mariachi Arcoiris de Los Angeles.

Cabrillo High School students opened the program with the Pledge of Allegiance followed by a welcome from CCEJ Executive Director, Kimmy Maniquis. Kimmy shared that this year marks CCEJ’s 55th year of bridging differences while striving to eliminate systemic discrimination through dialogue, education, and advocacy.

“We will continue to use dialogue, restorative practices and anti-oppression education to move us toward a place in which humanity is at the center— regardless of the violence and hatred that attempts to degrade us because of our gender identity, our race, class, language, our age, our faith, our disabilities, our sexual orientation, and what borders divide us.”

In keeping with this year’s theme of addressing gender identity, the program included information about gender pronouns and definitions for words guests may not be familiar with.

The event co-chairs LaDawn Best, President and Board Chair LGBTQ Center of Long Beach and Varun Soni, Vice Provost and Dean of Religious Life, USC continued the program by thanking the event’s benefactors Ann and Gene Lentzner and sponsors Dr. Mike and Arline Walter, Emerson and Darci Fersch of Capital Investment Advisers, Joyce and Hank Feldman of Performance Plus Tire, Port of Long Beach, and Kaiser Permanente.

Guests were then entertained by the very talented Renaissance Chamber Singers, who received a standing ovation for their rendition of the popular song “This Is Me”. This joyful message of radical love and acceptance, was followed by the invocation, which was delivered by four elders representing different faiths within the community.

*Elizabeth Norwood of the (Soka Gakkai International) Buddhist Community, *Rini Ghosh of the (Vedanta Society) Hindu Community, *John Ishvaradas Abdullah of the Sufi Community, and *Maneck Bhujwala of the Zoroastrian Community.

Following breakfast, CCEJ board member and longtime supporter, Gene Lentzner introduced guest speakers Marsha and Aiden Aizumi.

Marsha and Aiden shared their powerful stories with remarkable honesty and generosity. Aiden talked about the pain of feeling rejected by his school, church, and family. Marsha spoke of her initial reaction to Aiden coming out as transgender, and the deep harm she caused him. Marsha and Aiden then shared how they have grown individually and as a family, holding on to their love to get them through times of misunderstanding and conflict.

Throughout their combined talk, Aiden and Marsha held the audience, with many tears flowing down the cheeks of audience members. At the end, the audience honored Marsha and Aiden with a standing ovation. 

Rosecarrie Brooks, CCEJ’s Board Chair presented Marsha and Aiden with a small gift, thanking them for sharing their message of unconditional love and honoring each other’s true selves.

Rev. Kent Doss, brought the breakfast to a close with his thoughtful closing remarks asking every attendee to come out for justice and inclusion, or risk being assumed to be on the side of dehumanization and inequality.

To see photos from the 27th Annual Interfaith Intercultural Breakfast click here.


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