Over 300 finely dressed diners packed tightly into the main foyer of the Detroit Institute of Arts, enjoying gourmet food, pontificating over art, listening to the grand voices of the One Voice and Sing Out Choruses, and bidding on extravagant items from a fast-talking auctioneer. The announced goal for Affirmations Spring Bash was to raise $75,000 for the community center, and while the event was an obvious success, the exact amount raised is still being calculated.
“It was an awesome setting, very well attended and everyone was really excited about it. A lot of people really enjoyed looking at the art,” said Affirmations board president Mary Rose MacMillan. “We haven’t had a formal event like this in several years, and it was a great introduction for Dave (Garcia, the new executive director).”
London Bell enjoyed one final night in Detroit. While the event was not really a going-away party for the beloved Health and Wellness Coordinator, in some ways it was a party for her. Bell is a straight ally. She is the daughter of a lesbian couple who witnessed discrimination first hand. She is an attorney and she most recently resigned as Health and Wellness Manager of Affirmations so she can move to Chicago to continue her law career and study International Human Rights Law and Policy and Criminal Justice at DePaul University College of Law where she earned her law degree. While at Affirmations she coordinated HIV testing, planned health fairs for the LGBT community and the Transgender community specifically, and was a key connection between Affirmations and outside organizations. On March 31 she was recognized at the Spring Bash with the Lorna Utley Outstanding Ally Award.
As Affirmations Executive Director David Garcia gave rounds of thank yous to the crowd, he noted specifically the importance of the straight allies, saying that in every fight for equality groups, oppressed groups have relied on allies to help champion their cause.
The Jan Stevenson Award was given to Suzanne Wait and Michelle Walters, Center Partners who support Affirmations both financially and with activism. They’ve organized various women’s groups at Affirmations over the years. Michelle is a co-founder of People of Diversity at Chrysler (now GALA) and Suzanne is a founding member of Ford Globe, and they are also active in PFLAG.
The Chuck Moyer and Tim Cavanaugh Philanthropy Award was presented to the estate of Lester London, a longtime supporter of the community center who died in early 2011. In his estate he left over $500,000 to Affirmations. Attorney Bob Tighe is the trustee of the estate and accepted the award on behalf of the Lester London estate.
“What a God-send that gift was,” said MacMillan. “It has provided us with the chance to pay down some debt, and it gave Dave some breathing room to get started in his new position as executive director.”
The theme of the Spring Bash was art, and one of the fundraisers was the opportunity to paint on a mural done by local artist Daniel Cascardo, who was on hand to help the would-be artists choose their paint-by-number-type section. Docent-led tours also gave attendees a personal look at the DIA’s greatest treasures.
“It is always exciting walking through the main entrance,” said Jerry Banister. Banister was joined by Scott Douglas as they wandered through the galleries before dinner. “Affirmations is a great cause, I’m happy to give my support.”
While the $200 a plate Spring Bash was a luxurious evening for those who attended, there will be a lower-cost Fall Bash later in the year, which will give more people a chance to celebrate the successes of Affirmations and be a part of its continued growth. Bell will most likely be in Chicago, but she said she will never forget the three and a half years she spent at Affirmations. “I will miss the staff and the community members that I got to know. I will miss my friends in the community and I will definitely miss the youth.”
Find out more about Affirmations at http://www.goaffirmations.org.