People gathered under clear skies on the rooftop of Sidetrack for the 6th annual PrideIndex.com Esteem Awards Saturday. The event, lead by Philip Esteem, honored 24 individuals with recognition and thanks for their contributions to the LGBT community.
PrideIndex.com honors people who have contributed greatly within the African-American LGBT community and their allies – people who, without their service, the community would suffer more greatly, according to the organization.
Esteem brings the ceremony together every year solely by soliciting financial assistance and donations from a variety of sources. He began the awards as a way to recognize those that might otherwise go unnoticed for the work they do.
“I’ve been a part of the Ruth Ellis Center since the very beginning,” said Dr. Kofi Adoma of the Detroit based Ruth Ellis Center. “After hearing about the horrific stories of young people being abandoned by their families, rejected, kicked out, displaced.”
This is typical of the type of service done by honorees who received recognition by receiving the awards.
“There’s a nomination process,” said Esteem. “…As well as a panel of people who vote for the honorees and winners [of the awards].”
Charles Nelson II, winner of the Outstanding Service, Male award spoke to the audience about the need for unity among the LGBT community. “Chicago isn’t just one neighborhood, it is a collective city,” he said.
Many of the awardees expressed excitement about the event and were proud to receive awards.
“I am very humbled by being among the recipient of awardees both today and in the past,” said June LaTrobe, Trans Community Liaison, Vice Chair and Public Policy Director of Illinois Gender Advocates. She was the winner of the Outstanding Service, Transgender award for this year.
Among the honorees, such notables as Professor Cathy J. Cohen of University of Chicago and Jackie Taylor of the Black Ensemble Theater were acknowledged. Cohen is known for her research on the intersection of politics and the African American experience and as one of the founding board members of the Audre Lorde Project in New York City. She was the recipient of the Outstanding Service, Female award.
“I feel honored to be in the company of people who are not only changing Chicago, but changing the midwestern United States, and also the world,” said Cohen. “I will take this in honor of all of the radical politics work being done here.”
Taylor, a well-known figure in the Chicago theatrical community and beyond, was the recipient of Artistic Expression Award. As a person committed to helping youth empower themselves through her many programs and opportunities, and as a pivotal figure in the Black community, Taylor has worked for many years providing a space for the stories of African American icons to be told through entertainment.
Work done by the award recipients ranged from national advocacy surrounding HIV/AIDS, to providing free legal services for transgender and gender non-conforming people in Illinois. Issues like same-sex marriage were hardly mentioned at the event, amounting to a very small portion of what the work done by the award recipients.
“For people of color, getting married, per se, or serving in the military are not the most important issues – they’re trying to find schools that are providing an adequate education for their kids, trying to make sure that folks in their community and in their homes are safe from the violence that exist in our neighborhoods,” said Cohen.
William Greaves, former Director of the City of Chicago’s Advisory Council on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Issues was also in attendance to receive a Special Recognition honor for his work in establishing much needed city ordinances for the rights of the LGBT community.
The event was hosted by C.C. Carter, and Langston Smith. Entertainment was provided by Phenomenon, who performed a piece about growing up on the south side of the city and existing in a community of violence while simultaneously being showered with unconditional love by her grandmother.
Tim’m West was also there reciting two pieces, “Peep Game” and “Yahoo Blues”.
Among organizations to receive awards were Affinity Community Services, Transformative Justice Law Project of Illinois, The Ruth Ellis Center and the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Esteem is already in the initial planning stages for next year’s awards ceremony and notes that his efforts would be greatly assisted by the donations of people who are interested. More information about his venture can be found on his website PrideIndex.com or TheEsteemAwards.com.
- Cathy J. Cohen, Professor of Political Science at University of Chicago/Author/Researcher – Outstanding Service, Female
- Charles Nelson, MSM Project Director, South Side Help Center – Outstanding Service, Male
- June LaTrobe, Trans* Community Liaison, Center on Halsted and Vice Chair & Public Policy Director, Illinois Gender Advocates – Outstanding Service, Transgender
- KOKUMO, CEO/Founder KOKUMOMEDIA – Outstanding Service, Youth
- Affinity Community Services – Outstanding Social Services/CBO
- Erik Sosa-Kibby, Author of “The Day Cole & Parker Came Into Our Lives,” for Grab Magazine – Outstanding Magazine Reporter/Columnist or Feature Article
- The Transformative Justice Law Project – Institutional Award
- Jackie Taylor, Black Ensemble Theater for Black Playwright’s Initiative (BPI) – Artistic Expression
- William Greaves, Former Director of the City of Chicago’s Advisory Council on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Issues – Special Recognition Award
- Patrick Kelly, Activist and Clinical Research Interviewer, Emory Hope Clinic Vaccine Center (Atlanta) – Outstanding Service, Male
- Michelle E. Brown, Civil and LGBT Rights Advocate (Detroit) – Outstanding Service, Female
- The Ruth Ellis Center for LGBT Runaways (Detroit) – Outstanding Social Services/CBO
- The State Of Black Gay America (SBGA) Summit (Atlanta) – Special Recognition