LOS ANGELES – Award-winning actress Sheryl Lee Ralph, The DIVA Foundation and Better Brothers Los Angeles are excited to announce the inaugural Truth Awards, celebrating openly gay and lesbian African Americans, whose accomplishments have positively impacted the perception of the Black LGBTQ community. The Truth Awards will be held Saturday, March 28, 2015 at 7 p.m. at the historic Ebell, located at 743 S. Lucerne Blvd. in Los Angeles. On that special night, organizers hope the awards ceremony will trend on social media with the hashtag #TruthAwards.
The awards show will be co-hosted by SAG-nominated actress Cocoa Brown (Tyler Perry’s “For Better or Worse”) and award-winning comedian Sampson McCormick, who recently released his comedy album, “That Bitch Better Be Funny: Live at the Howard Theatre,” making history as the first openly gay comic to headline the historic venue in Washington, DC. Special performances by neo-soul artist Rahsaan Patterson and Grammy-nominated singer Angie Fisher as well as choreographer Ken Morris and the debut of his new work, “Brother’s Keeper,” performed by the Lula Washington Dance Company. Plus, honoree Darren “Buttah Man” Brin will showcase his comedic prowess as well. The event is sponsored by Gilead, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, and the generous support of businessman and activist Gerard McCallum.
Among the honorees, gay activist Jewel Thais-Williams will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award along with reality star Wendell James, who’ll be recognized with the Philanthropy Award. Williams founded the Catch One Night Club in 1972, making it the oldest Black-owned gay and lesbian club in the country. And for two seasons, James has allowed cameras to roll, documenting his life as a surrogate parent with best friend and Emmy-nominated actress Kym Whitley on OWN’s docu-series “Raising Whitley.” In a recent gut-wrenching episode, James shared his struggles with his homosexuality and his Christian faith.
“It’s time we uplift and recognize the accomplishments of African Americans in the LGBTQ community, who are living their lives unabashedly out loud and openly for all the world to see,” says Ralph, who also founded the Diva Foundation. “Hopefully, by celebrating the courage of these gay and lesbian individuals, we will encourage, inspire and motivate others to live their truth.” Notable allies in Black Hollywood will join Ralph in presenting the awards to the Truth Awards honorees.
Tickets are $175 for VIP and $125 for general admission. Tickets can be purchased online at www.truthawards.eventbrite.com
The Truth Awards will benefit the DIVA Foundation and its partnership with Better Brothers LA with several initiatives aimed at affirming and strengthening the African American LGBTQ community educationally, financially, physically and socially. Proceeds will also benefit the Better Brothers LA Book Scholarship and other programming needs of the organization. For more information about the organization and its scholarship program, visit www.BetterBrothersLA.com
2015 TRUTH AWARDS HONOREES:
And so, without further ado, here are the 2015 honorees of the Truth Awards:
· JEWEL THAIS-WILLIAMS -- Lifetime Achievement Award – a club owner and health care practitioner. Williams opened Jewel’s Catch One Night Club in 1972, making it the oldest Black-owned gay and lesbian club in the country. Williams also co-founded the Minority AIDS Project, the Imani Unidos Food Pantry in South Los Angeles and Rue’s House, the first housing facility for women with AIDS and their children in the United States. In 2001, she founded the Village Health Foundation to offer health and hope to the un- and under-insured. But more courageously, she befriended the LGBT community -- initially hit with HIV/AIDS pandemic – providing a safe haven for those stricken with the deadly disease.
· STANLEY BENNETT CLAY – Lifetime Achievement Award – as an award-winning actor, author, journalist and playwright, Clay is certainly a quadruple threat. Among his many accomplishments, his role in the television movie “Minstrel Man” turned him into an instant matinee idol, causing his handlers to advise him to hide his sexuality from the general public. He refused, gave up his onscreen acting career, pursued writing and a stage career, and won the NAACP Best Actor Image Award for his performance in “Anna Lucasta.” He was also nominated for the same award for his performance in “Zooman and the Sign.” Clay went on to write, direct and co-produce his first full-length play, “Ritual.” It earned him several awards, including the L.A. Times Critics’ Choice and L.A. Weekly “Pick-of-the-Week” mentions. The film version, written and directed by Clay, nabbed him the Jury Award at the Pan African Film Festival.
· WENDELL JAMES – Philanthropy Award – a reality star, James is known as much for his fashion sense as well as his giving heart. He’s been an advocate and fundraiser for HIV/AIDS awareness, hosting the DIVA Foundation’s DIVAS Simply Singing benefit for the past six years. His philanthropic efforts have supported the Kiki Shepard's KIIS Foundation (for Sickle cell anemia awareness), the Mablean Ephraim Foundation (scholarship fund), the New Image Emergency Shelter (homeless shelter), the Rowell Foster Children’s Foundation (foster care awareness) and the Reed for Hope Foundation (disease prevention and wellness education).
· VALLERIE D. WAGNER – Advocate Award -- as the COO of the AIDS Project LA (APLA), Wagner manages the operation of three federally-qualified health centers, providing primary medical care, oral health care, and behavioral health services to LGBT and HIV/AIDS communities in Los Angeles County. A tireless advocate for the human rights of the LGBT community and people living with HIV/AIDS, Wagner has worked with culturally and linguistically diverse populations locally, nationally, and internationally for more than 30 years.
· DR. WILBERT C. JORDAN, MD, MPH – Advocate Award -- the founder of the Oasis Clinic in 2000, Dr. Jordan received the Surgeon General’s Award for his work with HIV. He’s dedicated his career to working with HIV/AIDS awareness in the African-American community, and he’s one of the first health practitioners to work and treat patients with the life-threatening disease. A Harvard graduate, he has been involved with the AIDS epidemic from its earliest discovery and detection. In 1983, he reported the first heterosexual case of HIV in Los Angeles County. The next year, he started the AIDS Clinic at King-Drew Medical Center, now known as the OASIS Clinic. He has treated more than 3,000 patients.
· DEONDRAY AND QUINCY GOSSFIELD – Culture and Arts Award -- known as the creators and directors of the 2008 GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Television Anthology, “The DL Chronicles,” Deondray and Quincy LeNear Gossfield have been friends, collaborators, partners and now husbands for more than 18 years. Interestingly, the couple showcased their commitment to each other with marriage at the 2014 Grammy Awards. The Gossfields are also two of the producers for the hit reality competition shows, “Randy Jackson’s America’s Best Dance Crew” on MTV, “The Sing Off” on NBC, and “Face Off” on SyFy. Their latest show, “The World Dog Awards” on the CW, which honors man’s best friend, was such a hit with pet lovers that it’s getting renewed for a second special in 2016.
· B. SLADE -- Courage Award – an award-winning producer and songwriter, B. Slade has released several hundred songs on more than 30 albums, while producing several others for both gospel and secular artists. He has won seven Stellar Awards, a GMA Award and nabbed three Grammy nominations – including Best Soul Gospel Album for his 2004 gold album, “Out The Box;” Best Urban/Soul Alternative Performance for his single, "Blend” in 2009; and for writing and co-producing Angie Fisher's debut hit single, "I.R.S." last year, which received a nomination for Best Traditional R&B Performance.
· DARREN “Buttah Man” BRIN – Courage Award – the director of music and development at BET, Buttah Man oversaw the music for the long-running show “106 & Park” and other music properties for BET. Prior to BET, he worked in the music and talent department at MTV, and launched MTV Jams, successfully building the brand into one of the most recognizable channels for hip hop music. He also created, produced and hosted the first nationally-televised hip hop game show "Hoodfab," which aired on MTV Jams, MTV2, Mobile and MTV.com.
· DR. TENIKA JACKSON – Mentor Award – a community activist and clinical psychologist, Dr. Jackson and her wife was featured in the “Love Section” of Jet magazine in 2011, making them the second lesbian couple to be featured in that section of the publication. Last year, she was showcased in the book “Dark Girls,” by award-winning director Bill Duke, a companion piece to his documentary of the same name, which explores the prejudices of dark-skinned women around the world.
· STEPHEN THOMAS AND GLEN LAWRENCE – Mentor Award – Thomas and Lawrence started their partnership together on the dance floor of the Catch One Night Club. That 33-year romance culminated in their marriage in August 2014. For Thomas and Lawrence, mentoring is more than just being a leader, it’s about being a friend. It’s the ability to listen without judgment; to counsel openly and frankly; to be patient, forthright and caring. Their commitment and dedication to young people, struggling with and accepting their sexual orientation, have made a positive impact in the LGBTQ community.
· BENJAMIN CORY JONES – Passing the Torch Award – a writer on Amazon’s new series “Hand of God” and creator of HBO’s “Bros.” In 2013, Jones was selected to participate in the prestigious ABC Television Writing Program and was a staff writer on the ABC family drama series, “Chasing Life.” He was also the writers' assistant/script coordinator on ABC’s “American Crime” with Oscar-winning screenwriter John Ridley. Jones recently produced a pilot presentation, for a semi-autobiographical show, called “Bros,” which is now in development as a comedy series at HBO.
For more information about the Truth Awards and its honorees, visit www.BetterBrothersLA.com/truthawards
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ABOUT THE DIVA FOUNDATION
The DIVA Foundation -- founded in 1990 by Tony-nominated actress and HIV/AIDS advocate Sheryl Lee Ralph -- is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, created as a living memorial to the many friends she lost to HIV/AIDS as an original cast member of the Broadway musical “Dreamgirls,” and because of her concern for the threat HIV/AIDS posed to women and children. Over the years, the DIVA Foundation has worked to break the silence and erase the stigma still connected to HIV/AIDS and encourage people to get tested in order to know their HIV status.
ABOUT BETTER BROTHERS LOS ANGELES
Better Brothers Los Angeles was created to provide spaces for Black gay men to network, socialize and be BETTER – at life, love and community. Developing a sense of community has been a challenge for some Black gay men, given the cultural and religious opposition to their sexual orientation. As those challenges have receded in mainstream society, they still present significant difficulties and constrain a sense of well-being for Black gay men within the Black community. Better Brothers Los Angeles has sponsored cultural, recreational, and social/networking events, and continues to create a community where Black gay men and women can walk with a greater sense of confidence and pride. Visit www.BetterBrothersLA.com