Garden Party Raises Funds for Center Programs
On June 18, an estimated 1,400 people gathered at Pier 46 at Christopher Street and the West Side Highway for the 29th Annual Garden Party: A Taste of Pride, an event to raise funds for The Center’s family, youth and wellness programs.
"I think any opportunity that our community has to come together and celebrate with each other and focus on what we have to do is important," said Center Executive Director Glennda Testone. "I’m happy to host the 29th Annual Garden Party and we have a lot to celebrate, and a lot to focus on for the future. We’re happy to host this and give people a culinary kickoff to Pride."
"Thank you Glennda, not just for organizing this Garden Party, but for all the good work that you and everyone at the Center does, including all the volunteers," said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. "I want to wish you all a happy Pride and get everyone to remember where we were a year ago. At this point a year ago, we were hopeful that we might get marriage equality... July 24 the city legalized it and hundreds of people got married, and since then countless New Yorkers have been able to get married. I got married a couple of weeks ago... but that only happened because everyone on this pier and in our community kept fighting.
Quinn said that in 2009 in Albany, legislators thought the LGBT community would give up on gay marriage. "They thought we would have never get off the map, and we not only showed Albany that you can’t keep the LGBT community down, we showed the entire political community in the state that what you need to do is create a new dynamic for the game; if you lose, come back stronger and better and more fierce. That’s what we did, and so I want to thank all of you for making that happen," said Quinn.
"What a lovely night for the annual Garden Party," said New York City Comptroller John Liu, who was joined by New York State’s attorney general and the Manhattan district attorney. "Tonight is a beautiful night for kicking off Pride, although I’ve been to so many parades already, and am looking forward to the big one this Sunday. I’m sure I’ll see all of you out there. But tonight we are here to enjoy... and I’m here quite frankly to sample some of the great food we have."
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance thanked the LGBT community: "Our office works very closely with Glennda and others in the LGBT community to ensure that our laws are enforced fairly and protect all of us here in Manhattan, and we very much appreciate the partnership we have with The Center. I’m looking forward to this Sunday; I’ll be there, and I look forward to seeing you there as well."
New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman thanked the community and The Center for working with him, saying, "In the New York State Attorney General’s office, we defend the laws of the state, so I’ve gotten to defend our marriage equality law; we won every challenge. And we have also tried to defend our law and seen that it is treated with the respect it deserves from other states by challenging DOMA, and I’m proud to report that 11 days ago, we won a decision in federal court declaring DOMA unconstitutional."
Schneiderman said that his guiding principle -- equal justice under the law -- means a lot to those who have lived for years without having it. He thanked LGBT activists for their work to make New York a more equal, just state, but reminded them that more work remains to be done, saying, "There are plenty of states that don’t have equal rights, transgender rights are still to be fought for and to be won, and it’s a long, hard road for justice, but there’s no institution that takes care of all of us as we go down that road like the Center."
Scholarships Awarded to LGBT Youth
For the past 25 years, the Imperial Court of New York has presented scholarships to promising gay youth. On Monday evening, representatives from the Imperial Court including Emperor XXI Ritz Kraka, Empress XXVI Witty Repartee, and Board President Gary Cosgrove presented two new scholarships for promising gay youth.
"We believe that our youth is our future, and it’s important that they carry on the work that we’ve all begun here tonight," said Repartee. Working with the Center’s Youth Enrichment Program, the Imperial Court awarded two $1,000 scholarships, to Marquis Bynum and KIassandra Florentino.
Testone also presented two Harry Bartel Scholarships for young people with a record of community services to James Polite and Dillon Seebalack.
The event featured more than 40 food partners, among them Murray’s Cheese, Rickshaw Dumplings, Esca, Donatella, Li-Lac Chocolates, Grandaisy Bakery, Brick Lane Curry House, Aria, Dos Caminos, Mappamondo, Poco, The Treats Truck, Peanut Butter & Co., and many more.
Beverage sponsor Diageo provided Ketel One for their specialty drink, vodka lemonades, and host sponsor Prudential Financial sponsored the party again, as they have done every year since 2004.
The Center sold raffle tickets, and there was also a Foodies Silent Auction, which featured 29 lots including a chocolate tasting for 20 people, tickets to assorted Broadway shows, a private tour of the Metropolitan Museum of Art for 20, and tickets to a taping of "The Colbert Report," which (although free) were simply labeled "priceless." The mood remained festive throughout the evening.
"The Center is here for our community every day of the year, not just on the gorgeous ones like tonight," said Testone. "It was just about a year ago that the New York State Legislature approved marriage equality for our community. We certainly have a lot to celebrate tonight. There’s still a lot that needs to be done."
Testone announced that, thanks to generous fundraisers, The Center would begin offering on-site HIV testing to help the LGBT community.
"So I thank you for purchasing tickets tonight; I can tell you that your support really saves lives," she added. "Our youth and family programming, our health and wellness and recovery programs are really making a difference for our community, and each and every one of you are a part of that."
For more info, visit www.gaycenter.org