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As I was showing off this week’s cover to a group of colleagues, one of them asked me to tell them about this year’s Next Generation Award winners. So I launched into what I thought would be a brief sketch of the four honorees — Gregory Cendana, Victoria Kirby, Daniel Fredrick O’Neill and Sadie Ryanne Vashti — highlighting their accomplishments that I had learned about in both the selection process and the profiles in this issue.
It wasn’t quite as brief as I’d expected. When I finished, I laughed, ”Now I feel like an underachiever.”
That might be a bit of hyperbole, but it’s no joke that I find myself impressed at the breadth of accomplishments of our third annual Next Generation Award winners. From HIV prevention to transgender rights to LGBT inclusiveness at Howard University to the intersection of labor and LGBT issues, there is a lot to celebrate.
I’ve had people ask me — sometimes jokingly, sometimes not — why Metro Weekly limits the awards to people under 30. My flip answer is that if you hang around long enough, like me, someone’s going to give you an award. But the more serious point is that, as a community, we actually do a good job of honoring the achievements of the many, many people who have devoted much of their own lives to improving the lives of other LGBT people.
What we’ve not always done as well is mark the accomplishments of the younger generation of LGBT activists and leaders — not just rewarding them for what they’ve done, but encouraging them to stay involved. Since my own early days as an activist, I’ve seen far too many people either burn out or lose interest because they didn’t feel they were making progress. While we’ve come far over the decades, we haven’t come so far that we can write off the loss of so much potential.
The idea behind the Next Generation Awards is to both honor and encourage activism and leadership by young LGBT people. And while we are honoring four individuals this year for their work, my hope is that we are also encouraging all their peers to stay involved, as well. I’ve seen the pool of nominees over the past three years and if there’s one thing I can glean from the boundless energy and impressive achievements of our younger LGBT community, it’s that our future is in good hands.
Of all the special events and issues we create at Metro Weekly, the Next Generation Awards have become one of my favorite moments of the year. Not only has the magazine honored some of the brightest lights in our community, I’m fortunate to have found good friends in our growing list of winners. I’ve also been privileged to work with amazing selection committee members, each of whom has their own impressive list of accomplishments and each of whom has approached this project with great dedication and respect for the nominees. (See our 2011 selection committee here.)
So, from all of us at Metro Weekly, our thanks to our selection committee and our congratulations to our winners. And to all of our readers, remember that we all know people who should be honored and encouraged every day — consider it an investment in our future.
Sean Bugg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @seanbugg