Lambda Legal's tagline at its annual Bon Foster event on April 18 at Morgan Manufacturing was "We're Here."
The annual celebration is named for Robert "Bon" Foster, a powerful voice in Chicago in the early days of the HIV epidemic, and honors his activism in opposing injustice and resisting discrimination, as well as the bequeathing of his estate to found Lambda Legal's Chicago office in 1993.
Lambda Legal Midwest Regional Office Director Brian Richardson explained the mission of the event was to raise money and gain more visibility for Lambda Legal and the work being done.
"For me, I have a 5-and-a-half-year-old son at home who I adore, and I think about my coming-of-age and realizing how many benefits and opportunities I had as a queer man today because of the people who came before me," said Richardson on the importance of the type of work that Lambda Legal does. "I want to make sure his generation has even more opportunities across the board, regardless of sexual orientation, regardless of gender identity and find ways to ensure our society continues to move forward and continues to rise against the challenges that we're facing, so he and every generation after him can live in a more just, more equitable society."
While welcoming a full house, the celebration provided an evening of food, drinks, music, fundraising and the chance to hear about the work that Lambda Legal and its lawyers are doing.
Richardson described the event as a great opportunity to engage community members and gauge partners. It was a space where everyone could hear the story of Lambda, as well as its continual successes and challenges in Chicago and across the country.
"I think the event went phenomenally well," said Lambda Legal's Director of the Midwest Regional Office Brian Richardson. "It's my first Bon Foster since taking the helm of the Midwest office and it's just been a real honor meeting all of the great donors and community members who supported Lambda Legal over the years and seeing them come out again tonight, but then also all of the new people who are here tonight. I think this evening we may have hit our record in number of people attending because we filled up the entire place with new members, old members, supporters, allies, community partners and it just fills me with a great deal of hope."
Along with Richardson, speakers of the evening included event co-chairs Jason Z. Pesick, Anastasia Kaup, Jordan M. Heinz and Roderick K. Hawkins, Lambda Legal Interim CEO Richard Burns and Chicago-based Lambda Legal attorneys Jamie Gliksberg, Kara Ingelhart, Scott Schoettes and Camilla Taylor, all who shared details of various cases they are working on within the LGBTQ community.
"The attorneys there are really smart, they're thinking three steps ahead and it's just a great organization, a really high quality organization, high quality people doing great work for a very diverse community," said Pesick of Lambda Legal.
"In the current political climate, attacks on our community are happening at a faster rate than they have for the last decade, including attacks that bastardize the law in a way to further attack LGBTQ people and that's why we have to continue our efforts in the courts, in state houses, in state courts, on all fronts to fight for LGBTQ equality," said Richardson. "Lambda Legal has a track record of succeeding when the cards are stacked against us and figuring out the strategy to knock down sodomy laws, to knock down marriage laws, to knock down work place discrimination laws and that same strategic focus is what we're doing today in the face of the attacks from the Trump administration."
Richardson emphasized that Lambda Legal is about winning rights for the entire community and building a more just and equitable society. Hearing directly from the Lambda Legal attorneys, he said, was and honor and very powerful.
"It was an honor hearing directly from our attorneys who have been in the trenches before, who helped us win landmark cases and landmark decisions and who are still in the trenches today," said Richardson.
"It's really about the supporters and the community members coming together, supporting Lambda Legal, supporting the LGBTQ movement and working together and that's what inspires me so much about this event is that you see so many people from so many different parts of our community and our allies, come out together to celebrate and figure out how can we continue to win," said Richardson.
For more information on Lambda Legal, visit LambdaLegal.org .