Yesterday New Jersey’s GLBT community flexed its political muscle with a gala fund raiser to support pro-equality Senate candidates in next month’s elections. (Too much is at stake to let the GOP take the reigns, for a whole host of reasons too numerous to name but that’s not for here…) Hosted by Garden State Equality, the annual Blue Jean Ball served three primary functions: to raise money, to have fun and to recognize some amazing New Jerseyans whose courage makes us all less unequal.
Andre Jackson takes the Hester Prize at the GSE gala. Click to enlarge
The day’s top prize, the Laurel Hester Award went to Andre Jackson, he of the infamous yearbook flap earlier this year. While it’s a shame that Andre was forced to endure such an ugly and public battle, the experience has clearly molded him into a poised and articulate civil rights champion. (Me and my blogmates here at Blue Jersey won last year’s Hester Prize, and it feels really good to pass the torch to someone like Andre.)
Congressman Rush Holt and NJ Senator Ellen Karcher followed Andre on stage to an enthusiastic response, but it was still young Mr. Jackson who scored the day’s only standing ovation.
Congressman Holt, NJ Sen Karcher
Probably the best thing about the BBQ was the atmosphere. the setting was (mostly red) Hunterdon County: lovely, bucolic, a pitch-perfect fall day. The theme: country western, and for good reason. The party was at a horse farmstead. Jersey Fresh, indeed.
Early in the day I was sharing a moment with a friend about my age (35) when the entire arc of my liberal activist life seemed to flash before my eyes. You see, there we were yesterday, the GLBT community (and allies) coming together to fight for marriage equality. When suddenly I had a flashback to what got me into politics to begin with: the AIDS crisis. Sitting there on that lovely farm with so many hundreds of nice people — many with their pets and kids in tow — listening to an amazing band and it felt so far removed from my early ACT UP days. I confess: I prefer issues like full marriage equality and transgender solidarity over watching my friends dropping dead of AIDS any day.
I suggest such a radical evolution would have been impossible without the Steven Goldsteins of this world who remain unflinchingly relentless in the face of inequality.
(Some cool pix, beneath the flip)