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HRC to honor CNN’s Don Lemon for LGBTQ visibility and advocacy at Time to THRIVE Conference

Lemon will be honored at organization's annual Time to THRIVE Conference focusing on LGBTQ youth

Don Lemon -- Photo courtesy of CNN
Don Lemon — Photo courtesy of CNN

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the educational arm of America’s largest LGBTQ rights organization, will honor Emmy-winning CNN Tonight anchor Don Lemon for his LGBTQ visibility and advocacy at its seventh annual Time to THRIVE Conference.

Lemon, who came out publicly as gay in 2011, has worked for CNN for 14 years, after having previously worked at NBC News and major NBC affiliates including in Chicago, Philadelphia and St. Louis.

He has covered presidential elections, anchored breaking news stories, and reported for the CNN documentary Race and Rage: The Beating of Rodney King.

Lemon has won multiple Emmys and an Edward R. Murrow Award, and been named one of the most influential Black people in America by Ebony magazine.

“Don Lemon has been an outspoken voice for the LGBTQ community in the media and beyond for many years, and we could not be more proud to honor him at this year’s Time to THRIVE,” HRC President Alphonso David said in a statement. “His tenacious reporting and dedication to telling stories that matter, as well as his commitment to holding politicians and public officials accountable, are invaluable qualities in today’s news cycle. As one of the most recognizable individuals on television today, Don serves as an inspiration to LGBTQ young people across the country.”

“I am so grateful for HRC and their amazing work with the LGBTQ community,” Lemon said in a statement. “They inspire me everyday to do my very best and live my truth — which is my hope for everyone. It is with humility and gratitude that I receive this award.”

The annual Time to THRIVE conference, co-presented by the National Education Association and the American Counseling Association, promotes safety, inclusion, and well-being for LGBTQ and questioning youth.

The event, which will take place Feb. 14-16 at the Renaissance D.C. Downtown Hotel in Washington, D.C., features more than 65 different workshops and brings together a wide range of experts to discuss best practices for working with and caring for LGBTQ youth and their families in schools, community centers, health care settings, and other aspects of their daily lives.

The conference will also honor actress and transgender advocates Nicole Maines and Camika Shelby, a Black Youth Advocate and Ambassador for the National Black Justice Coalition, for their work on behalf of LGBTQ youth.

Maines, currently starring as Nia Nal/Dreamer, the first trans superhero on television in the CW’s Supergirl, has been a transgender advocate from a young age.

In 2014, she won a landmark State Supreme Court decision against the Orono school district in her home state of Maine — the first time a state’s highest court ruled that a transgender person has the right to use the restroom that matches their gender identity.

“Nicole Maines has been breaking down barriers and blazing a trail for transgender youth for years,” David said. “It’s no surprise that she is continuing to create change and, through her visibility, inspire LGBTQ youth across the nation to be proud of who they are. We are thrilled to honor her at this year’s Time to THRIVE.”

Shelby is also the mother of Nigel Shelby, the 15-year-old Alabama teen who died by suicide after being relentlessly bullied for his sexual orientation.

Since her son’s death, Shelby has been working with NBJC to raise awareness of mental health needs of black LGBTQ young people and to “end the stigma around talking about LGBTQ issues in black communities,” according to a press release.

“In just a short time, Camika Shelby has emerged as an incredibly strong and vocal advocate for LGBTQ young people, especially Black LGBTQ students, who are facing mental health struggles,” David added. “We are incredibly grateful for her leadership in speaking forcefully and persuasively for those who deserve to have their voices heard.”

The Time to THRIVE Conference runs from Friday, Feb. 14 to Sunday, Feb. 16 at the Renaissance D.C. Downtown Hotel, 999 9th St. NW. To register, or for more information, visit

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