Multiple LGBTQ+ community members and allies were recognized for the work they’ve done in Philadelphia at the William Way LGBT Community Center’s Indigo Ball: A Cause for Applause dinner on Oct. 14. The theme of this year’s black-tie event, which took place at Congregation Rodeph Shalom, was “bridging the gap,” and served to honor people whose work encompasses uniting “our communities across identities and interests,” according to a press release.
Mayor Jim Kenney received the Lifetime Achievement Award for his decades of work advocating for Philly’s LGBTQ+ communities throughout his political career as well as the work he has done as mayor, which includes helming anti-poverty initiatives, pushing for criminal and racial justice reform, and helping to guide the city through a pandemic and out of it again. A few days after the event, Kenney signed an executive order that designates the city a safe haven for those seeking and providing gender-affirming health care.
“When we talk about Jim’s lifetime achievement, it starts decades ago when he served on our City Council and was one of our most vocal supporters — at a time when few city leaders had the courage to stand up to powerful figures who opposed LGBT rights — including the city’s Cardinal, some of his fellow city council members, and, to be clear, many Philadelphians,” said William Way Executive Director Chris Bartlett in his introduction.
Bartlett also pointed out Kenney’s advocacy for William Way to receive millions in state and city funds for the construction of the center’s new space, also known as the Build the Way campaign.
“I’m incredibly honored to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award from the William Way LGBT Community Center, which serves some of our city’s most vulnerable residents,” Kenney said in an email. “At a time when the LGBTQ community faces increased discrimination and violence, I’m proud that under my Administration, Philadelphia remains committed to ensuring fair treatment and opportunity for all people.”
Other community members received awards that evening, including local experimental cabaret group the Bearded Ladies Cabaret, which regularly collaborates with and performs at William Way.
Janus Ourma, who has served on William Way’s volunteer Arts Committee, received the Community Service Award. Ourma likened William Way to a US embassy, but instead of helping Amerians, it helps the LGBTQ+ community.
“This is precisely what the William Way LGBT Community Center does for all Queers living in the greater Philadelphia region,” Ourma said in an email. “It is our Queer embassy, and as such it is dedicated to the life and liberty of everyone in our Queer cultural community.”
Ourma added that the Arts Committee “supports and promotes a unique and dynamic community arts program for all Queer artists living in our region, especially with the annual juried art exhibition, the biennial art student exhibition and solo and group exhibitions of emerging and established artists. Our city is made more inclusive, more democratic, and more magnificent because of our Queer community center and its programs.”
Two representatives from Free People accepted the Corporate Partner Award: Morgan Bordlemay, sustainability and social impact associate manager and Quoc Nguyen, creative tech director at the company.
“At Free People, accepting this award is such an honor,” Bordlemay said in an email. “We have proudly been working together with William Way since early 2021 and since then have truly built a beautiful relationship amongst our communities.”
Free People teamed up with William Way’s Arcila-Adams Trans Resource Center, the Office of LGBT Affairs and other community orgs to make rainbow tassels for graduating seniors; sponsored William Way’s yearly Summer Vibes block party; honored William Way at Free People’s community event Gather for Good, and more.
“It’s an extreme honor to receive an award from William Way, who does so much for the LGBTQ+ community,” Nguyen said in an email. He first became acquainted with William Way when he moved to Philadelphia 19 years ago and went to his first LGBTQ+ prom at the center.
In seeking advice from William Way for Free People’s first Trans Day of Visibility event in 2021, Nguyen ended up meeting with Darius McLean, chief operating officer of William Way and director of the center’s Trans Resource Center.
“From that connection, I’m so proud of the great partnership that Free People has developed with William Way,” Nguyen said.
Other awardees include former William Way board member Chad Bundrock, who received the John J. Wilcox Leadership and Service Award, and artist Lee Alter, who received the Community Service Award.
As of presstime, the Indigo Ball took in $129,707 “and counting,” according to William Way Development Manager Dave Eldridge. Funds will be allocated toward William Way’s arts and culture, empowerment and community connections programs such as the LGBT Elder Initiative, the Trans Resource Center, the LGBTQ+ archives, activities, art exhibits and more.
Amerihealth Caritas, which provides health care solutions for underserved and disabled people and others in need, was the presenting sponsor of the Indigo Ball. Other sponsors included Philly AIDS Thrift, PECO, Tito’s Vodka, The Philadelphia Foundation and Volvo Cars of Fort Washington.