Better Brothers Los Angeles has been around for a little more than a year and has provided an outstanding array of social events to its members and supporters, but Saturday, March 28th at the historic Ebell Theatre in Los Angeles they raised the bar with the Truth Awards, their first grand gala event.
Better Brother Los Angeles was founded by Scott Hamilton, Vincent Holmes and Elton Wise. From the beginning the organization has grown and been embraced. It was created because there were “no networking space for Black gay men where they can network and socialize.” said Hamilton.
Better Brothers Los Angeles has a membership of 600 and hosts several events including a happy hour called “Wednesdays After Work”, hiking at Sandstone Peak in the Santa Monica Mountains, and an outing to see Choir Boy at the Geffen Playhouse.
Here are the awards - and honourees - from last week's gala.
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 me, as a photographer who has had the pleasure of being on many red carpets the night was special for so many reasons. This event felt like home, it felt real to me. It represented me in every sway. It was like I was at a family reunion seeing aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews. I’ve never had so much fun, felt so amazing, or felt so empowered and encouraged after a red carpet.
Moreover, as a Black man LIVING with HIV and as an activist fighting for fair housing rights and access to quality health care for my brothers and sisters battling their way through homelessness, poverty and HIV this event touched me at my core. It was such an honour for me to see many of my friends and people I love and respect receive awards for the work they do in the HIV arena. I’ve never been to an event that recognizes and celebrates the greatness and majesty of Black people. This event was empowering and encouraging, packed with plenty of laughter and smiles.
I know many Black men and women who are struggling with HIV, feeling like they are alone with no place to turn to for love and support, but Better Brothers Los Angeles is doing all it can to change things for people who simply need a place where they not only feel like they are loved and supported, but are embraced and encouraged to live. I truly wish all the Black men and women I provide HIV peer support for could have experienced this spectacular night.
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.
ABOUT THE DIVA FOUNDATION: founded in 1990 by Tony-nominated actress and HIV/AIDS advocate Sheryl Lee Ralph it'si 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.
TRUTH AWARDS PHOTOS