This year’s annual HRC national dinner in Washington, D.C., was a night of elegance, reflection, fun, charitable giving, celebrity guest appearances, and compelling speeches. Trans actress and ‘Pose’ star, Dominique Jackson, Ricky Martin and HRC’s new president Alphonso David, delivered some of the most poignant words of the night.
David, who is openly gay and African American, is the first person of color to head the organization. He brings his own very personal life experience to his new role, including a story he shared recently in an op-ed for USA Today regarding how his father initially rejected him when he came out to his family. His father ultimately had a change of heart and accepted his son, but David further explains,
When I finally came out to my parents, my father — who I so admired — told me that he wished I’d never been born. Over time, he came to accept that my sexual orientation was not something I could change. But for a crucial period in my life, I understood as so many others do too, the pain of being rejected by those you love the most.
One of David’s primary initiatives as the new HRC President is inclusion and combating the division within the LGBTQ community. As he states in his op-ed, the HRC has room to improve upon its relationship with marginalized groups within the gay community, specifically people of color and those who identify as transgender. Trans rights and protections are the first order of business for this new era of the HRC, and the movement was further amplified just hours before the national dinner when nearly 3,000 people turned out on Saturday afternoon in Washington, D.C. for the first-ever National Transgender Visibility parade.
We will not be erased. Our community will fight back and be:
— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) October 1, 2019
Ricky Martin, 2019 Recipient of the HRC National Visibility Award
Handsome Ricky Martin made hearts flutter –yet again, with his appearance at the HRC dinner. Joined by his husband, Yosef and their twin sons, Martin received the Visibility Award for his outspokenness as a gay man living in his truth who also puts in the hard work fighting for justice. Earlier in the year, Martin confronted the then-governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rossello, to request that an oppressive “religious freedom” bill (HB 2069) be removed from legislative consideration.
The bill would have allowed open discrimination based on religious beliefs about sexual orientation and gender identity. It passed with approval by the Puerto Rico House of Representatives and was close to becoming law until Martin stepped in loudly pushing back against it. Ultimately the pushback gained more public momentum, and the bill was removed.
This past July Ricky Martin once again stood up to Ricardo Rossello and took to the streets in protest with hundreds of thousands of his fellow Puerto Ricans, rallying against the shocking homophobia and corruption revealed in Rossello’s private text messages. In what was one of the most incredible examples of democracy, the people of Puerto Rico demanded Rossello’s resignation after weeks of protests throughout the Island.
In Martin’s HRC acceptance speech, he addressed the historic protest in Puerto Rico against the Governor, telling the D.C. crowd that when people unite, they have the power to change their government,
“The people of Puerto Rico wanted him out, and we got him OUT!,” Martin declared to enthusiastic applause from the crowd of nearly 4000 people.
Dominque Jackson, Recipient of HRC National Equality Award
The incomparable Dominique Jackson of ‘Pose’ delivered a riveting speech that got the crowd out of their chairs cheering wildly. The eloquent but outspoken advocate for Transgender rights looked stunning, as she took to the stage to share her story of growing up as a young person in a conservative Carribean community.
At the age of 18, after her family rejected her as a transsexual, Jackson fled her native Island of Tobago to live in the United States. She found acceptance in the ballroom scene in Baltimore, and though it’s a world of fun and fantasy, Dominique’s reality for survival back then sometimes included sex work and homelessness. In her phenomenal speech at the HRC Dinner, Jackson stressed the importance of supporting the Human Rights Campaign as their efforts might mean that other young transsexuals can get help and not need to turn to the streets for survival.
The closing of her speech was everything,
“It is not about us saying to someone else that I accept you or I tolerate you. You do not have the power to accept or tolerate me. I take that from you. You, Will, Respect Me!”
Comedian Dana Goldberg MC’d a post-dinner auction that raised over $200,000 and more donations were coming in as the night continued. There were more beautiful speeches throughout the night by out NFL Star Ryan Russell, actors Jake Choi and Dyllón Burnside, and Chuck Schumer. Powerhouse vocalists Alice Smith and Disco Diva Thelma Houston WOW’d the crowd with their fabulous vocal sets with Thelma of course ending with her classic Disco hit, “Don’t Leave Me This Way.”
The HRC National Dinner is a wonderful event and ticket sales go toward helping to fund the HRC’s daily fight to protect your human rights. Of course, donations of any size can help the cause, so I encourage you to discover the important human rights work of the HRC.
See the evening’s speeches below: