Metro Weekly

Making a Difference

The winners of the Next Generation Awards inspire a commitment to our present and hope for our future

The first requirements of activism and leadership are drive, desire and commitment. As a city and region that draws people brimming with just those qualities, Washington is blessed with an abundance of young LGBT people who want to make their community stronger, better and more equal.

But just as important as drive and desire is recognition — recognition of jobs well done, causes well fought, art well created. Because, to be frank, it’s tough work, and a little recognition goes a long way to keep those fires of commitment burning.

Providing some of that recognition is the reason we launched the Next Generation Awards in 2009, honoring four stand-out young activists under the age of 30. In our second year, we once again have another group of four young people who not only have accomplished much, but promise to accomplish even more in the future. I was fortunate enough to interview each of them as part of the awards program. Hearing each of their stories was inspiring.

Hyacinth Alvaran is not only making strides in diversity through her work at the Human Rights Campaign — she’s helping to strengthen Washington’s growing Asian/Pacific Islander LGBT community and building the bridges between communities that will strengthen us all.

Andrew Barnett is well-known to Metro Weekly readers as the executive director of SMYAL, an organization that benefits from his deep level of commitment to creating safe spaces and increased opportunities for our LGBT youth. Every day, he’s strengthening a new generation.

Harjant Gill uses film to tell the stories of his many communities: Indian, immigrant, LGBT. His experience coming out as a teenager newly arrived in this country carries a special resonance, and as a result, his stories have found a home both in the United States and India, making his art into activism.

Amy Loudermilk has chosen to focus on an issue few like to think about, much less speak of: domestic violence in LGBT relationships. But, as she told me, when you ask the question, ”Where does a gay man find a shelter from an abuser?” and see how few answers there are, you realize how vital it is to find a solution.

While these four Next Generation Award winners have accomplished much, they’re not alone. Just as inspiring as the work that they do is the work being done by all of those nominated, from artists to activists to community leaders. It was no easy process for the selection panel to choose four from many, and I want to thank Dana Beyer, Jose Gutierrez, Theo Hodge, Michael Kahn, Paul Kawata, Donna Payne and Hank Stuever for their thoughtful consideration and discussion of all the nominees.

Finally, the Next Generation Awards are as much about what our honorees do after as what they have done before. Our 2009 winners — Ebone Bell, Linh Hoang, Jose Ramirez and Brian Watson — have each continued to grow and take on new challenges. (See ”Where are they now?”)

I consider myself fortunate to live and work in a community as vibrant and accomplished as Washington’s LGBT community. The stories of all our Next Generation honorees are the inspiration that keep my own drive and commitment fired up. If we still have a long way to go as movement, we should be proud to have so many ready to create our brighter future.

Sean Bugg is Editor Emeritus for Metro Weekly.