HRC Nashville announces dinner theme, honorees

As it celebrates 15 years, the 2010 Human Rights Campaign Nashville’s annual dinner will take a look back even as it honors some longtime community activists and leaders.

The event, which highlights the organization’s national efforts to end discrimination against members of the GLBT communities, will take the theme of “Tribute: 15 Years of Impact,” which will allow for some reflection, said Jeremy Davis, who is co-chairing along with Keith Hinkle and Debra Hyslop.

“We are inviting all of the honorees from previous dinner as well as the co-chairs of those events, so that we can take a look back at the diversity and hard work that we have honored over the years,” Davis said. “We think this will really kick everything up a notch and show how much we have done in Nashville over the years. It’s rare that you have award recipients with such a long history in the community, and also cover such diverse associations in the community.”

This year’s honorees include David Taylor and Michael Ward, who will be accepting the Legacy Award in recognition of their work within and outside the GLBT community; Dwayne Jenkins will receive the Community Leadership Award in honor of his community service, organizing and leadership; and the Equality Award will go to Maria Salas for her work raising funds and awareness of equality and diversity issues in the community.

In addition, Metro Nashville Councilmember Megan Barry will serve as the evening’s honorary co-chair. Barry sponsored a revised ordinance that included sexual orientation and gender identity in Metro’s nondiscrimination ordinances that was approved by the full council last summer.

“We want to spotlight that amazing victory, because it was a hard-fought battle and we want to pay tribute to her,” Davis said. “We have also reached out to all the council, whether they supported that or not, because the ones who didn’t support it, we think, were just misinformed.”

The evening will also provide scholarship opportunities for both students and those with financial concerns to attend the event.

“We have divided those into two segments: the emerging-leader scholarships program, which will work with 18- to 25-year-olds who are the future leaders of HRC,” Davis said. “They are students or young professionals who are looking to find something to get involved in, to be passionate about. We ask them to volunteer with setup so they can get a perspective on what it takes to pull all this together, and then we ask them to commit to us by sitting in on steering-committee meetings and looking at our volunteer options so we can match them up with a future need.”

The second group of scholarships, or fellowship program, is targeted to people who for one reason or another can’t purchase a ticket, but who would like to attend.

“Both of these are being funded by the membership, which is reaching out to people who would normally not be able to attend the dinner,” Davis said. “We want to make sure that anyone who wants to be involved has every opportunity to do so.”

From the honorees’ perspective, an evening of inclusion and diversity is a welcome event, according to one of this year’s winners.

“I think that with the recognition of prior honorees and dinner committee members, it’s something to be picked for the honor this year,” Salas said. “I feel like the organization gets its message out pretty well, but it’s a chance for people to learn what HRC does not only nationally but also what goes on that impacts us in the different states.”

The dinner, she added, “is a fabulous and energizing experience. The people who inspired me to get involved, to stretch and do more at any one moment, will be there, and I am so proud to be recognized along with these folks.”

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