“I have been a gay black man all my life. And so, I ain’t scared of nobody.”
That’s how Don Lemon started off his inspirational acceptance speech for the Davidson/Valentini Award he received Saturday night at GLAAD’s 2017 Gala in San Francisco. The CNN anchor was honored for his contributions in promoting equal rights for the LGBTQ community.
After being presented the award by fellow CNN commentator Van Jones, Lemon talked about the things he had to overcome to get where he was today.
“I came from nothing. I came from a single mom,” he said. “People told me that I could never ever make it. My journalism professor in Louisiana State University told me I would never make it as a journalist. And I spent my entire career, my entire life since I was twenty-something, proving that person wrong. But on top of that, wanting to make my mother proud!”
He was humbled by the prestigious award, and thanked GLAAD for all the work they have done. But he also wanted to remind the audience that though their community has come a long way, there is still a lot of work to be done for LGBTQ rights.
“I remember when there was no Will, there was no Grace, there was no Jack, there was no Karen on television,” he said, adding: “I remember when people didn’t cover gay pride events and GLAAD events. When those events barely got media coverage. And when they covered them, they covered the most extreme parts of our culture…”
“…That’s why it is important to stand up [against] subtle and blatant homophobia,” he said. “To fight for our trans brothers and sisters; their very lives depend on it. They, too. have served and are serving our country proudly and with distinction.”
He continued: “We have to be the voice of my immigrant brothers and sisters, especially the young ones who know no other home than America. We have to point out outright bigotry and racism. And and as a man of color, I know it when I see. I can smell it coming… That’s where we are right now.”
GLAAD’s Davidson/Valentini Award is presented to an LGBTQ media professional who has made a significant difference in promoting equality and acceptance for the LGBTQ community. Don Lemon anchors CNN Tonight with Don Lemon and serves as a correspondent across CNN U.S. programming.
“I don’t accept this lightly and I don’t take it for granted,” he finished his speech, before boarding a plane back to New York to help with CNN’s Hurricane Irma coverage. “And I expect you to hold me accountable as well. So thank you all very much.”
Congratulations to Don Lemon!