PrideIndex held its 15th annual Esteem Awards on July 2 at Sidetrack during Chicago's Black Pride holiday weekend.
The non-profit Esteem Awards is, according to its website, "dedicated to promoting positive images of the African American/People of Color, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning (LGBTQ)+ communities. Since 2007, the Esteem Awards has honored over 300 local and national organizations and individuals for their continued efforts in supporting the areas of entertainment, media, civil rights, social services, business and the arts."
Among the local awardees were DuPage County Democratic Party Chair and community organizer Ken Meija-Beal (Outstanding Service, Male); Nobody's Darling co-owners and activists Angela Barnes and Renauda Riddle (Outstanding Service, Female); Life is Work Founder and CEO Zahara Bassett (Outstanding Service, Transgender); Chicago Black Gay Men's Caucus Program Manager Shakur Silas (Future Leader); social-equity non-profit Lorde, Rustin and Bates (Outstanding Social Services/CBO); and the Black Alphabet Film Festival (Special Recognition), with Executive Director Adam McMath accepting. Barnes and a representative from Lorde, Rustin and Bates were not in attendance.
National awardees included South Fulton, Georgia, Mayor khalid kamau (Outstanding Service, Male); Tagg Magazine Publisher and keynote speaker Eboné Bell (Outstanding Service, Female); Human Rights Campaign Community Engagement Director Tori Cooper (Outstanding Service, Transgender); What's in the Mirror? Founder and Executive Director Tarik Daniels (Future Leader); National Center for Lesbian Rights (Outstanding Social Services/CBO); Greater Than AIDS (Institutional Award); INFEMNITY Productions LLC Creative Director and world-renowned concert pianist, author and filmmaker Nina Kennedy; K. Ross Original Art Proprietor and artist Kelly Ross (Artistic Expression) and GEMMEL & TIM documentary filmmakers Michiel Thomas, Michael Franklin and Niq Lewis (Special Recognition). Daniels and Ross were the only national award winners in attendance.
Following cocktails and conversation, Esteem Awards and PrideIndex editor/founder Phil Esteem invited his co-hostsactivist, author, Collections By Michelle Brown podcast host and public speaker Michelle E. Brown; and author of the award-winning novelist, essayist, screenwriter and playwright M. Shelly Connerto the stage with a rousing introduction.
Conner, a past Esteem Award winner, called on attendees to take a moment of silence for "Mama" Gloria Allen, Maxxson Smith, Elise Malary and the other LGBTQ+ people whom have died over the past year.
Brown said it was great to be back in person at this event and added that "not only are we queer, but we are all still here."
Both Conner and Brown announced the local and national awardees and called them to the stage to receive their awards.
The event also featured a spoken-word performance by Brown, who read part of Frederick Douglass' "What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?" and her own work, "I vote because …;" the musical stylings of BLAQ Genius; comedy by Sister Quintella Caldwell and Sampson McCormick; and door prizes.
Brown ended the event with a call to action to defend democracy and LGBTQ rights nationwide including voting in November.
See prideindex.com/ and theesteemawards.com .