The 12th Annual Esteem Awards paid tribute to 11 individuals and organizations Sunday for their contributions to the LGBTQ community.
Held in conjunction with the Lighthouse Church of Chicago's Black Gay Pride Worship service on July 7, the mostly Black honorees received their awards in a ceremony-slash-chicken and waffle brunch co-hosted by Pastor Jamie Frazier and the Awards' founder Phil Esteem. The honors went to LGBTQ persons from both Chicago and across the nation as well as several local institutions.
"It feels really good to know people are paying attention to the work you do," said Perre Shelton, the honoree for the Future Leaders/Outstanding Millennial-Chicago award.
Shelton described himself as a "spokesperson" for the intersection between the LGBTQ community and people of color.
Shelton was one of several activists honored. Affinity Community Services Executive Director Imani Rupert-Gordon received the Outstanding Service-Female honor for her 15 years' work for social justice in higher education, social work and nonprofit management.
"A lot of people that I admire and respect have been honored, and I'm just happy to be among these amazing people," Rupert-Gordon said. ( Affinity received the Esteem Awards' Outstanding Social Service/CBO honor in 2012. )
One honoree had been waiting on his award longer than others. Sampson McCormick, a stand-up comedian, had performed at the Esteem Awards five times since 2012. He received the Special Recognition-National honor when he performed his sixth set for the Awards, earning laughs as he discussed navigating barber shops as a gay man and drug-centric racism in his hometown of Los Angeles as well as throwing humorous barbs at an older white man seated near the performer who turned out to be Tyrone Mixx, the founder and DJ of the legendary nightclub The Generator.
McCormick's material addressed more serious topics as well, particularly the prevalence of deaths of Black and trans men under 30. He said he wanted his comedy to focusing on highlighting "where [Black LGBTQ persons] need to heal as a community" and closing the gap between Blacks and the greater LGBTQ community.
This was Lighthouse Church's first time hosting this particular award ceremony, in Lincoln Park's Saint Paul's United Church of Christ. Describing the congregation as a predominantly African American, LGBTQ-friendly community, Frazier said the event was an opportunity for the church to demonstrate its commitment to inclusion.
"It's a beautiful thing to celebrate being Black and gay in Chicago," Frazier said.
Other honorees included transgender advocate Channyn Lynne Parker, LGBTQ storytelling forum OUTspoken! and the Gene Siskel Film Center of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Department of Public Health administrator Antonio King, writers Steven Fullwood and Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Ka'Riel Gaiter and the Brave Space Alliance were also honored, but did not appear or send representatives.