Lenny Gerber, wife of the late Pearl Berlin, and Pearl Berlin Scholarship Award recipient Anthony Cason Davis-Pait.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Members of the LGBTQ and allied community were honored for their service and their dedication in working for equality and social justice at the 2019 Guilford Green Foundation Gala and Green Party held on March 23.

The 325 guests watched as the following individuals received their honors: Paul Marshall, Visionary Award, for his decades of service in the LGBTQ community through Alternative Resources of the Triad, the Greensboro Pride Festival and countless other projects; Nancy Vaughan, Dawn S. Chaney Award, for her work to make Greensboro the top city in the Carolinas for LGBTQ people to live and work on the Human Rights Campaign Municipal Equality Index; John Faulkner, Distinguished Service Award, for his decades of support to the LGBTQ community as a founder of the Guilford Green Foundation Endowment, former board member and long-time donor; and Brian Coleman, Distinguished Leadership Award, for his years of service to the LGBTQ community as Fuchsia Rage, performing in support of local non-profits.

Individuals, business, and non-profit sponsors and donors raised $123,000 at the event and auction.

Keynote speaker Sarah McBride, transgender activist and national press secretary at the Human Rights Campaign, who told the story of coming out to her family and her college while serving as student body president. She said she was surrounded by love and support by both her family and the American University community. She realized not everyone had that privilege.

“It shouldn’t and it doesn’t have to be that way. It shouldn’t be a privilege to be able to keep your family after you come out. It shouldn’t be a privilege to be able to stay in school or keep a job after you come out. And it certainly shouldn’t be a privilege to be safe from violence,” she said. “Like so many people in this room, I wanted to make sure that the privileges that I had were no longer a privilege for the few but a right guaranteed to everyone no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

McBride also encouraged the audience to keep fighting legislation that seeks to harm the LGBTQ community under the guise of public safety or religious freedom.

“Religious freedom is a fundamental value. What it has always been and what it should always be is a shield to protect religious minorities from government persecution and what it should never be is a sword to inflict harm on already marginalized people,” she said.

She pointed out that fear mongering around restrooms have been at the center of every civil rights debate for the last 70 years, Guilford Green reported.

“These are nothing more than thinly-veiled attempts to push transgender people out of public life and back into the shadows,” she said. “The goods news is every single time they come for us… we grow stronger. It happens because of the work of groups like GGF.”

Anthony Cason Davis-Pait has become the first recipient of the Pearl Berlin Scholarship Award and was recognized for this at the Gala. The monies received will help him with his studies at Tufts University when he starts there in the fall.

The scholarship honors Berlin and her lifetime of work as an advocate for LGBTQ rights, marriage equality and education. It celebrates and supports continuing education for LGBTQ and allied students who exhibit courage and leadership in their schools and communities.

Davis-Pait demonstrated leadership in the LGBTQ community by presenting at conferences across North Carolina about his experience as an openly transgender student, helping organize the annual Alternative Prom for LGBTQ youth and serving as a liaison to school administration on transgender inclusivity, the Foundation shared.

info: guilfordgreenfoundation.org.

Lainey Millen

Lainey Millen was formerly QNotes' associate editor, special assignments writer, N.C. and U.S./World News Notes columnist and production director from 2001-2019 when she retired.