On Monday, June 6, 2016, The Stonewall Community Foundation hosted its annual gala in Tribeca, NYC. Guests and honorees included Ronan Farrow and Selenis Leyva.
When we arrived to the chic and deceptively huge TriBeCa Rooftop, there was a stunning energy all around: mixed drinks featuring Belvedere (red) edition vodka were being passed around, exotic hors d’ouvres were served, around the corner, a red carpet was being streamed live on Facebook, hosted by Micah Jesse, dressed in a bright aquamarine blazer and salmon shoes, who was practically skipping around the roof, chatting with anyone willing to have a moment of airtime. Guests filed in for the cocktails and snacks and company of other LGBTQ allies, with smiles and laughter around, it was a sense of total excitement and optimism.
Guests included Levi Strauss & Co. executives, who spoke about Levi’s commitment to the LGBTQ cause since its earliest days (wearing a denim jacket emblazoned with a ‘Harvey Milk’ on the back, internet sensation Jeffrey Marsh, Marizol Leyva, sister of “Orange Is The New Black” star Selenis Leyva, as well as Geena Rocero, founder Gender Proud, a prominent transgender activist and organization, respectively, as well as members of the community Stonewall has helped.
This excitement and optimism isn’t unfounded. For this year’s Stonewall Community Foundation Vision awards, special focus was on the complexities of gender, which, as a subject, has burst onto the scene as a controversial but necessary topic, dominating everything from web series’s to 24-hour new cycles– and now, even the dossiers of policy makers. With a spotlight on the subject, the Stonewall Community Foundation is in a critical position, as it’s the only public foundation of this type. Stonewall Community Foundation has a commitment to LGBTQ, which it fulfills with educational opportunities, a grant-giving program, as well as many other charitable efforts. But for the evening, special attention was paid to the award winners, who included Ronan Farrow, for his critically times and thorough investigative reporting on transgender issues.
While speaking with Ronan on the red carpet, he told us about his commitment to “telling stories that might not otherwise get told” and “every reporter wants to do something big, something meaningful, when they do, they know it”.
Another award winner was Selenis Leyva, who currently stars on the hit Netflix series “Orange Is The New Black”, which broke new media ground by featuring prominent transgender activist Laverne Cox as a lead character. Selenis’ sister, also transgender, spoke about the importance of family and simply listening to a person’s story. Selenis joined in by video, thanking guests and commending the Stonewall Community Foundation for its commitment to the cause.
As a demonstration, it’s worth noting Stonewall Community Foundation has managed to raise $18 Million towards LGBTQ causes and nonprofits, and the results have been very real for LGBTQ persons all over the city. During the evening alone, at least $50,000 was raised, signifying the hope and willingness of allies.
But it’s not all easy or without challenge: guests witnessed the heartbreaking stories of children getting bullied in their earliest, most formative years for being born as the wrong gender, subject to ridicule, but from a source of misunderstanding, not hate. Filipino transgender woman Geena Rocero told the guests not to fear a transgender person, simply go up to them and say “Hi”. Another assault has been on the bathroom rights of transgender people, which has gone from being a private space to a very public discussion.
Dinner was served, and DJ Olivia Dope provided a soundtrack that was as vivid and thrilling as the crowd that evening was.