By Cornelius A. Fortune
DEARBORN – LGBT community members and activists gathered for the 12th Annual Triangle Foundation Dinner Saturday, Sept. 30, at the Ford Conference and Event Center in Dearborn.
Attendees in lavish gowns and two-and-three-piece suits enjoyed an evening that examined “The Broken Promise of Liberty,” and took time to honor some influential LGBT individuals and organizations with the Catalyst Award, given yearly by the Triangle Foundation.
Jeffrey Montgomery, executive director of Triangle presented a 12-year history of the Catalyst Awards and offered a forward-looking view.
“We all have to be committed to voting,” he said. “Proposal 2 must be voted down. Ending affirmative action will be one last time a promise was broken. They’ve done everything to relegate us to second-class citizens, (but) Triangle Foundation has been proud to be a leader (in this movement). We are effective and we are successful.”
Keynote speaker state Rep. Carl Sciortino Jr., D-Mass., found the event refreshing.
“Our community is often divided. I say, thank you for being inclusive,” he said. He also discussed the marriage amendment, and his belief that civil unions don’t have the same power as the word “marriage.”
“The word marriage has power,” he affirmed. “Every year we celebrate gay pride, and everyday someone stands up, and says ‘Yes, I am gay.’ It’s important to remember what we’ve come from. There’s a lot of work to be done. There’s a lot to fight for: unemployment, education, hate crimes protection, the right to marry who you love, these are the challenges you’re facing today.
“I challenge you to not just reflect on these challenges, but to take action. Right now is the time to mobilize voters.”
Gov. Jennifer Granholm stopped by to caution voters that her opponent, Republican Dick DeVos is not an option for Michigan, or for LGBT people.
“Oct. 10 is the last day to get people to register to vote, and we need to make sure members of this community vote,” said Granholm. “This race is critical. We need to send a message to the rest of the nation that Michigan is not going to be a red state. This is the set-up for 2008. For those of you who care that we have just policies in Michigan, vote Democratic. Proposal 2 is bad for you. Don’t wait till ’08, start the fix in ’06.”
Recipients of this year’s Catalyst Awards included the Rev. Beth Rakestraw; John Burchett, chief of staff to Gov. Jennifer Granholm; The Motor City Bears; Keweenaw Pride; and the Ruth Ellis Center. The Catalyst Awards honors quality of work, people, groups or organizations leading the fight to end discrimination against LGBT people in Michigan.
Other officials in the audience included Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy; state Sen. Buzz Thomas, D-Detroit; radio personality Tony Trupiano; 36th District Judge Rudy Serra.
Burchett called Triangle Foundation the most effective advocate on issue after issue.
“I’m totally honored to get this award,” he said. “I’m really proud of Triangle Foundation, and I’m deeply proud to be a part of Gov. Granholm’s team. She gets it; she gets our community. I’m proud of the things we’ve accomplished.”
But it was a fiery oratorical message from Rakestraw that got some of the biggest applauses of the night.
“It is time to speak our truths,” she urged, “particularly for me as a person of faith. So much of the hatred that we experience is faith-based; that’s not the God I know, and it’s time we challenge people about that. Speak your story; tell your truth.”
Sean Kosofsky, director of policy, Triangle Foundation, felt that the evening had the right balance of politics and hope.
“We’re just incredibly honored to continue our tradition recognizes top talent in the LGBT community across the state,” he said. “We’re thrilled Gov. Granholm joined us. This gives us an opportunity totally the troops, to excite people about freedom, equality, and the political ramifications of inaction this fall.”