by BTL staff
The big story at this year’s Pride Banquet and Awards Ceremony on June 25 wasn’t the award winners. Instead, honors were overshadowed by the borderline insulting production quality of the event, including allowing some winners to speak but shooing others away from the stage, mispronunciation of several nominees’ names and a general bumbling stride to the whole evening.
While we congratulate the winners at this year’s LGBT Pride Banquet, we hardly think the ceremony did them justice and was, in fact, downright rude at times.
The organizers’ first mistake was in their choice of master of ceremonies. While the idea to use one presenter instead of multiple was a good idea to save time, the committee should have chosen one who, first of all, was familiar with the banquet (local drag queen host Ima Cornholio admitted that it was her first time attending) and second, who wasn’t packing their bags to leave the state: At the end of the presentation, she announced that she’s moving to Arizona. Her performance was fun, but she was hardly a great representation of Michigan’s LGBT community.
And don’t even get us started on her use of the word “sexual preference” in a description of the Diversity and Inclusion Award. How did no one catch that faux pas? Here’s a lesson in diversity: Don’t use an outdated, anti-gay term reserved for right-wing politicians to describe our community.
Next, the handling of nominees and winners was appalling. Several times, the announcer mispronounced names. Then, in a more embarrassing turn, many of the winners weren’t even there to accept their awards, due to the fact that almost no one was told ahead of time that they had won.
But the main problem plaguing this year’s Pride Banquet was that the whole point of the evening – honoring members of our community – was entirely lost in favor of keeping the pace. All but four winners grabbed their plaques and rushed back to their seats, while only a minority of them said a few words about their work.
When winners did speak, their words were inspirational and touching.
“To those of you that still have your music inside of you, don’t let it go to your grave,” said Rising Star winner Edward Craine, a member of GLEAM and the Pride Banquet Committee. “Let it shine out. Show your pride.”
And Lifetime Achievement Award winner Jeff Montgomery saved the evening from total disaster with his inspiring speech.
“Our safety and equality will only finally come with direct engagement,” Montgomery insisted in his closing speech. “Facebook may lead to Betty White hosting ‘Saturday Night Live,’ but it’s not going to achieve full equality and liberation for gays, lesbians and transgender people.”
Montgomery also used the moment to announce his return to LGBT activism. He had resigned from his post as executive director of the Triangle Foundation in 2007, following a 16-year run.
“This award, far from thinking it’s a capstone, I regard it as my own kick in the pants,” he admitted. “I commit to my next chapter in helping to advance our lives. I’m coming off of the bench and back into the game.”
His words drew loud cheers and a standing ovation – a heartfelt response that all award recipients should have been able to experience.
But for the most part, winners were ushered on and off the stage like cattle. Never were they recognized for what they had done, leaving those who were unfamiliar with winners in the dark about why they had won.
All this in the interest of saving time.
Perhaps attendees wouldn’t be so eager to run out the door if the event weren’t just shorter in length, but better constructed. Saving time isn’t nearly as important as doing it right, and this year, many things seemed wrong. We urge Pride Banquet organizers to stop worrying about the length of the event and think harder about what the evening really means – to the people who attend, and especially to the award winners, who deserve their moment in the spotlight.
What did you think of this year’s Pride Banquet and Awards Ceremony? Send your thoughts to email@example.com.