Actors Anthony Rapp and Wilson Cruz received National Leadership Awards for their work to support lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people and the issues that affect their lives every day. Cruz and Wilson play the first openly gay couple in the Star Trek universe on Star Trek: Discovery. The Task Force applauded the two stars for fiercely increasing LGBTQ visibility.
The actors stressed how Star Trek is a vehicle for demonstrating equality. “Star Trek has always presented a vision of the future where the things that have divided us over the centuries, like race, age, sexual orientation, none of that matters on Star Fleet,” said Rapp.
Wilson Cruz said he was grateful to be celebrated by the organization who taught him how to connect and organize community. “To be honored by the Task Force as an actor and as an activist is especially moving to me because I know the hard work that the organization does every day, on the ground, in the grassroots,” said Cruz, who worked at the Task Force as an organizer.
National LGBTQ Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey kicked off the evening, “Tonight, we celebrate 50 years of progress since the patrons at the Stonewall Inn fought back against police harassment and launched what is now known as the modern LGBTQ movement. We celebrate 50 years of being fierce!” Carey pointed to the work of the National LGBTQ Task Force that ensures the next 50 years will see progress for the LGBTQ community: a national campaign to ensure equal rights for all people, “All of Me. All the Time”; a campaign to ensure the Census counts everyone, “Queer the Census”; and the “Queer the Vote” campaign to help communities get registered and turnout the vote.
Miami’s Gisela P. Vega, Ed. D. was honored as the 2019 Eddy McIntyre Community Service Awardee. Dr. Vega is the Director at the University of Miami LGBTQ Student Center and has more than 25 years of higher education experience. Dr. Vega exemplifies dedication to uplifting LGBTQ students’ experiences.
Community leader Juan Talavera served as Chair of the Gala and spotlighted the Gala’s new Young Leaders Initiative to connect their work to the Gala community. Radio personality Julie James served as Emcee, and performer Yoli Mayor entertained the crowd with a beautiful rendition of Hallelujah. The final song of the evening brought the national honorees back on stage to perform “No Day But Today” from the Broadway production Rent, in which they both starred.
Money raised from the Gala benefits the Task Force’s efforts to advance LGBTQ rights across the country. Through a partnership with The Miami Foundation, a portion of the proceeds from the Gala and the Task Force’s Winter Party Festival is donated to The Foundation’s LGBTQ Community Fund and regranted to organizations serving the local LGBTQ community. The Task Force has given back over $3 million dollars to critical services and organizations in South Florida. The 2019 Gala was presented by Gilead. This year’s Gala sponsors also include: Bacardi, Wells Fargo, Hilton, American Airlines, Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, and many more.