Metro Weekly

Kamala Harris and Nancy Pelosi to Speak at HRC National Dinner

'Abbott Elementary' star Sheryl Lee Ralph and Amazon's 'A League of Their Own' will be honored with awards.

Nancy Pelosi (Photo Todd Franson/Metro Weekly) and Kamala Harris (Photo by Ted Eytan/Capital Pride)

Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will headline the Human Rights Campaign’s annual National Dinner event in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, October 29.

The annual dinner, which serves as one of the national LGBTQ civil rights organization’s top fundraising events, brings in one or two keynote speakers each year. It also honors several LGBTQ advocates and allies with special awards.

The dinner historically draws celebrity guest stars who serve as presenters and features live musical performances, but had to be held virtually over the past few years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year’s sold-out dinner is the first to be held in person in two years.

Given the stakes with this year’s midterm elections — with a likely wave of Republican victories installing anti-LGBTQ figures in key positions of power, both in Congress and at the state level — it makes sense that Harris and Pelosi, two longtime LGBTQ allies and figures beloved by establishment Democrats, would be asked to speak.

Both women are expected to deliver calls to action that will encourage the audience, which is comprised of some of the most politically active and deep-pocketed donors within the LGBTQ community, to rally around pro-LGBTQ candidates, primarily Democrats, in the last two weeks before Election Day. 

HRC will honor Emmy-winner Sheryl Lee Ralph of ABC’s hit series Abbott Elementary with the National Ally for Equality Award. The Amazon series A League of Their Own will receive the National Visibility award, with stars Abbi Jacobson and Chanté Adams accepting on behalf of the show. 

“I look forward to a night celebrating the strength, resilience, and dreams of the LGBTQ+ community alongside HRC and my fellow honorees,” Ralph said in a statement. “It has been my life’s work to not only tell stories and lift up the voices of Black women, but also to break the silence, shame and stigma around the HIV/AIDS epidemic — which has not ended, even as other health crises continue to disproportionately hit LGBTQ+ people.

“I am grateful to HRC for sharing their stage with me and for honoring me with the Ally for Equality Award.”

“I am so proud that A League of Their Own touched so many people in the LGBTQ+ community,” Jacobson said in a statement. “It was incredibly important to me — as a queer woman — to represent the different types of queerness that have always existed on the show. It is a universal story of resilience and hope — and it’s incredibly gay. I’m so grateful to HRC for honoring our whole team — cast and crew — that made this together, and for the entire community’s support of our show.’

“Playing Max on A League of Their Own felt so important,” Adams added. “Portraying her journey as a Black, queer woman in the 1940s allowed me to showcase Black joy during an era not known to do so, explore the different forms of Black love, and show that Black, queer people have always been here. Thank you to HRC for celebrating our show.”

Other special guests in attendance at the National Dinner include Lisa Ann Walter, the actress who portrays Melissa on Abbott Elementary alongside Ralph,  Maybelle Blair, the former All-American Girls Professional Baseball League player whose life served as the basis for the A League of Their Own series, actor Dyllón Burnside, from the FX hit series Pose, and noted actor George Takei, who played Lt. Sulu on the original Star Trek series.

Also appearing are actor and transgender advocate Brian Michael Smith, Tony-nominated actor Robin De Jesús, actress and trans rights activist Nicole Maines, actor Ian Alexander, actor Rafael Silva, and comedienne Dana Goldberg, who for the past several years, has served as the auctioneer for the HRC raffle.

The dinner will feature musical performances by Robin S., Shea Diamond, and DJ Nico Craig.

Also speaking at the dinner will be HRC’s incoming President Kelley Robinson, recently tapped to lead the organization. The first Black queer woman to head the national organization, Robinson is expected to deliver remarks about her leadership mandate: fighting for full equality and liberation for all LGBTQ people, without exception, and committing to pushing for transgender, racial, and reproductive justice at a time when such rights are currently under assault from lawmakers at the local, state, and federal levels — and likely will continue to be, after November’s midterm elections.

“It is an honor to join these groundbreaking performers on stage for my first HRC National Dinner as incoming president,” Robinson said in a statement. “The National Dinner is a time for the HRC community to come together in celebration of our queerness, and to honor those who are putting in the work advocating for our community on the ground and on our screens — particularly those, like our honorees, whose work celebrates those who live at the intersections of multiple marginalized identities. As we gear up for the midterm elections, happening just one week after this celebration, it is more important than ever that we demonstrate the power of the LGBTQ+ community — and the growing power of the LGBTQ+ vote.”

The Human Rights Campaign’s annual National Dinner will be held from 6:30-11 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 29 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, 801 Mt. Vernon Pl. NW. The dinner is sold out. For more information about the Human Rights Campaign and its various initiatives, visit www.hrc.org.

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