Storme DeLarverie’s name was not familiar to many of the celebrity guests in attendance at the 2014 Vision Awards presented by the Stonewall Community Foundation (SCF) last week at the Museum of the City of New York. Nevertheless, DeLarverie’s impact on the LGBT rights movement was certainly present.
On Saturday May 24, the 93-year-old, lesbian activist who helped lay the foundation for the modern-day LGBT rights movement died. She is one of the first documented people to fight the police in 1969 at the historic Stonewall Inn riots. For that action, she is commonly referred to as the Rosa Parks of the LGBT rights movement.
Her contributions have not been lost on SCF’s executive director, Jarrett Lucas. In pushing the movement forward, SCF has invested more than $17 million in over 600 organizations to strengthen the LGBT community. “When we look at the LGBT community today so much of it can be traced back to gender policing and Storme was a pioneer in taking that up. She should be remembered and known as such,” he said.
DeLarverie’s legacy can also be seen through the work of one of the evening’s honorees, Janet Mock. The transgender rights advocate along with Laverne Cox (who made history gracing the cover of TIME magazine) has helped usher in a greater awareness of transgender issues within mainstream society. At the event, Mock expressed enthusiasm for President Barack Obama’s plan to sign an executive order to prevent federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT employees after the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) stalled in congress. A 2013 study found that that the transgender community has an unemployment rate twice that of the general U.S. population.
“We don’t talk much about the low-income and homeless people in the LGBT community that are not able to get employment. It is necessary that we are able make money so we can support ourselves. One less hurdle will be an amazing feat,” she said.
Bevy Smith and Emil Wilbekin hosted the empowering evening produced by CJ South’s Creative Jenius Agency and guests enjoyed cocktails courtesy of Belvedere Vodka.
National Black Theatre addresses rumors of nearing its end
The National Black Theatre (NBT) is not going anywhere. That was the message that resonated with attendees at the sixth annual TEER Spirit Awards gala held last week in Harlem. Founded by Dr. Barbara Ann Teer, the theatre has become a cultural icon as New York City's longest-operating black theater company having hosted stars such as Alicia Keys, Nina Simone and Patti LaBelle. But a 2013 article in the NY Daily News alarmed some after current CEO, Sade Lythcott’s quotes framed the theatre as being in a dire financial situation. Jonathan McCrory, NBT’s director of theatre arts program, addressed those concerns on behalf of Lythcott (the daughter of Teer).
“The article was misquoted. Sade talked about financial situations for theatres of color in general. Yes, there are financial issues [at NBT]. All organizations have that but we are not about to close,” he said.
As it moves forward, the theatre is experimenting with new initiatives such as a playwright residency and reading series. The commitment to holistic programming is what makes poet and one of the night’s honorees, Sonia Sanchez proudly reflect on conducting Sunday workshops in the early days of NBT.
“It’s ritualistic theater which taught you how to function as a human being. That is the beauty of what she [Teer] pioneered.”
The weekly column, On the “A” w/Souleo, covers the intersection of the arts, culture entertainment and philanthropy in Harlem and beyond and is written by Souleo, founder and president of event/media content production company, Souleo Enterprises, LLC.