By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
On Thursday, November 17, the Freedom Oklahoma Unity Gala will honor 21 years of LGBTQ advocacy and progress in Oklahoma. This year’s celebration will be held at the Hall of Mirrors at the Civic Center Music Hall, 201 N. Walker Avenue, in downtown Oklahoma City. A VIP reception will begin at 6 p.m. and the dinner starts at 7 p.m.
The event will feature dinner, a silent auction, an awards program, and “fabulous company,” according to organizers.
“This Art Deco venue lends itself perfectly to the Unity Gala’s ‘Roaring Twenties’ theme.” said Troy Stevenson, Freedom Oklahoma Executive Director.
“We look forward to seeing all of you at this spectacular event to celebrate the work, victories, and contributions of the LGBTQ community and our allies here in Oklahoma,” Stevenson added. “There will be fantastic food, flowing drinks, and fabulous company. It is truly a ‘don’t miss’ evening,” he said.
All funds from the event will go toward Freedom Oklahoma’s mission to secure equality and legal protection for LGBTQ Oklahomans through advocacy, public education, coalition building, and individual empowerment in the civic process.
“We are extremely excited to announce this year’s slate of honoree’s for the 2016 Freedom Oklahoma Unity Gala,” Stevenson said.
Honorees include Bob Rogers Lifetime Achievement Award honoree – Dr. Laura Belmonte; Freedom Oklahoma Torch Award honoree – John Cresap; Freedom Oklahoma Trailblazer Award honoree – Scott Wilson; Freedom Oklahoma Ally of the year honoree – Dr. Victoria Johnson; and the Freedom Oklahoma Volunteer of the Year is Kelly Akin.
“My friend Laura Belmonte is a freedom fighter of the first order,” attorney and Freedom Oklahoma board member Mark Henricksen posted on Facebook. “Please come honor her lifetime of achievements at the Freedom Oklahoma banquet. In a lifetime of advocacy she has always been honest and direct, and her aggressive ‘take no prisoners’ style has produced enormous progress for civil rights for all.”
Stevenson added, “There will also be a special memorial presentation to longtime LGBTQ ally and advocate Bob Lemon who sadly passed away last week.”
Robert Dell Lemon was one of Oklahoma’s greatest equality and human rights activists. His passing on Saturday, October 22 was announced by his children, Robyn Lemon Sellars, last year’s Freedom Oklahoma Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, Chrys Lemon, and Eli “Moque” Grayson.
“This year’s auction is shaping out to be exciting as well,” Stevenson said. ”Stay tuned for the announcement of items that you won’t want to miss.”
One hundred percent of the funds from this event go toward Freedom Oklahoma’s mission.
The last year has been filled with victories, tragedies, legislative battles, and municipal progress; and it is time to celebrate how far we have come together,” Stevenson said. “We aim to make this a ‘don’t miss event’ for Oklahomans who believe freedom means freedom for everyone, and it will be even more spectacular with you there,”
Unity Gala individual tickets begin at $175. Click here for tickets and sponsorships,
“This is our fundraising event that goes back to the days of Cimarron Alliance Foundation’s event at the Coach House,” Oklahoma City resident Joe Poe said on Facebook. “It is our primary fundraiser of the year. It’s how we make the money for all our programs and lobbying efforts for your benefit. We look forward to seeing everyone there!”
For more information, visit freedomoklahoma.org.