My husband, Jason, kissed me at brunch. It just so happened that I was on stage in front of an audience of 250 people at the PGN Pride Brunch and Stonewall Awards.
Let’s start at the beginning. Pride in Philadelphia this year, in many ways, is historical and reaching new heights. While around the nation it seems there’s a new weapon against LGBT rights being born every day, we in Philadelphia have reason to celebrate making change. The Stonewall Awards were designed to celebrate those in our community who have given a lifetime of fighting for our community and to celebrate a new generation of leaders.
Governor Josh Shapiro kicked off the awards by delivering a passionate speech on the commonwealth’s long road of LGBT history and the battles that lie ahead. Our next mayor, Cherelle Parker, gave what has been described as a “come to church” talk, and the crowd fell in love with her. She brought Congressman Dwight Evans, State Sen. Vincent Hughes, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Councilman Mark Squilla, State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, State Sen. Sharif Street, Estelle Richman, and Rue Landau on stage with her. She even surprised yours truly with that moment.
There were even more wonderful moments. When Rue Landau, the first out nominated City Council member, was recognized at the ceremony, the room went wild. The Attic accepted the Youth Empowerment award and explained how over the years, they have helped 20,000 young people, many of them in critical situations. Galaei, led by Tyrell Brown, received the Community Unity Award. What Brown accomplished this year by uniting us for Pride is nothing short of a miracle. We’ve already received comments about how this year’s Pride was the best ever.
David Fair, a man whose activism speaks to me, received our legacy award and brought me to tears. The lifetime achievement award went to Estelle Richman, and for me to explain what she has done for our community would take an entire issue of PGN. She told one story that exemplifies her contribution. When she funded William Way Community Center’s elevator, they used the funds to pay long overdue bills, so she funded it a second time. She has advised more organizations in this community than any other person I know. We are a better community for both David and Estelle.
If that weren’t enough for one event, Amber Hikes brought healing and a call to action as only she can. Carson Kressley charmed us like he always does to all and spoke of the importance of visibility with bringing smiles to all.
The ceremony was hosted by WPVI’s Adam Joseph, who we surprised with an award at the very end of the show. He thanked everyone and gave an empowering speech about how difficult it is to come out, especially for someone in his position, and how WPVI General Manager Bernie Prazenica and the station stuck with him all the way. He was joined by his husband Carl on stage for an embrace. Tears were everywhere.
When it was my turn to thank everyone and send them off. My mind at that moment, at lightning speed, had visions of that very first Pride march in 1970 and everything since. I decided to share my story about coming out to my mother. When I told her, she was silent, and when I asked why, she said, “I’m afraid that when you’re old, you’ll be alone.” If she were here today, I could tell her, “Mom, I’m old. Mom, I’m happy. And guess what, Mom, I’m happily and legally married.” I was in tears. And Jason noticed, and he came to the stage and kissed me.
Dreams for a son from a mother, dreams from an activist for the future, and 50 years in the making for me, can all be explained now, by that kiss.