Governor, Boston Bruins, MA Coalition for the Homeless, and Esmond Harmsworth honored at second annual event
MassEquality announced that it raised approximately $140,000 at its second annual Icon Awards. Governor Deval Patrick, the Boston Bruins, the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless, and Esmond Harmsworth were honored at the event, which took place in the Oval Room of the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel in Boston. David Brown, Chief Advancement Officer for the Forsyth Institute, emceed the event.
The sold-out event drew 260 guests including Congressman Edward Markey, Congressman David Cicilline from Rhode Island, MA state Treasurer Steve Grossman, Governor’s Councillor Eileen Duff, state Senator Pat Jehlen, state Representatives Carl Sciortino and Dan Winslow, and Boston City Councilors John Connolly and Matt O’Malley.
In accepting his award, Gov. Patrick said, “I am proud of the examples of inclusion in the room tonight. We’re odd animals and we can be beastly to one another at times in how we exclude people. When you reach out and include someone who had been marginalized it is profound,” he said. “There is so much value in reaching beyond your comfort zone and being a part of making common cause with others to improve things for everyone.”
MassEquality Executive Director Kara Suffredini described the Icon Awards as an opportunity to honor individuals and entities that have gone above and beyond in supporting LGBTQ issues. “Icons aren’t just allies, they are symbols of what others should aspire to in their support of LGBTQ issues. Tonight is about celebrating that heroes do exist.”
“This room is full of heroes. As heroes, we have a code. Stand up for others. Leave no one behind. With great power comes great responsibility,” Suffredini said, in calling on attendees to “recommit (themselves) to hasten justice and equality.”
Suffredini referenced a number of MassEquality priorities, including, “redoubling our efforts to end not only bias-related homelessness, but all homelessness, transforming who grown men and women and young people have permission to admire by taking on cornerstone cultural arenas, mandating every school in the Commonwealth explicitly prohibit bullying based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, ensuring every aging service provider be educated about the needs of older LGBTQ adults, securing public accommodation protections for transgender people, and continuing to elect a government not only for us, but of us.”
Patrick Burke, Executive Director of the You Can Play Project, received a standing ovation before presenting the Corporate Icon Award to the Boston Bruins. He said that “While MassEquality is working to make equality legal, the You Can Play Project is trying to make it cool.”
Bob Sweeney, Executive Director of the Boston Bruins Foundation, thanked MassEquality in accepting the Icon Award and reiterated the team’s commitment to ensure equality, respect, and safety for all athletes, despite players’ not being able to attend because of a home game that evening. Citing the team’s participation in “Spirit Day” to end bullying, Bruins captain Zdeno Chara’s appearance in the very first You Can Play Project video, and alternate captain Andrew Ferrence and player Shawn Thornton’s outspokenness on behalf of LGBTQ equality, Sweeney said that the Bruins were proud to accept the award because “of course an openly gay player would be welcome on the team.”
Robyn Frost, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless, reminded everyone in attendance that even as they celebrated the strides made toward LGBTQ equality, there were homeless LGBTQ youth on the streets that very evening with no place to stay. “The work we do with MassEquality is so important to increasing shelter and housing for homeless youth.”
Esmond Harmsworth recalled just how difficult it was to advance LGBTQ equality during the 1980s. “Remember the 1987 March on Washington?” he asked. It was difficult to find celebrities and others who would come out in support. “It was too dangerous and career ending to get up in public and say anything positive. Today, in Massachusetts we are the state of the art when it comes to LGBTQ rights. Anything we do gets attention, and we can continue to make progress that can have massive influence nationally and internationally.”