By: Chuck Colbert/TRT Reporter—
Once again, the creative black-tie gala of dinner and dancing sold out. The Men’s Event, one of Fenway Health’s signature fundraisers and one of the gay community’s largest affairs in New England, raised more than $650,000 for the local neighborhood health-care facility, which has grown to become one of the nation’s, if not world’s, leading medical care providers and research institutions for LGBT people.
This year’s 21st annual gathering drew more than 1,300 mostly gay, bisexual and transgender men and some women to the Boston Marriott Copley Place Saturday evening, April 26. Local comedian Jimmy Tingle, a Cambridge native, served as master of ceremonies.
“We have two mayors in the house tonight, two mayors,” Tingle told attendees, referring to the current mayor, Martin J. “Marty” Walsh, and former mayor Thomas M. Menino, whom Fenway honored at the gala with its prestigious Congressman Gerry E. Studds Award.
The award is given each year at the Men’s Event to honor “individuals of integrity and selflessness who embody the spirit of service and provide positive leadership for the LGBT community.” Congressman Studds represented southeastern Massachusetts in the U.S. Congress from 1973 to 1997 and became the first openly gay congressional member in 1983 when he proudly acknowledged his sexual orientation standing on the congressional floor. Studds passed away in October 2006.
In his remarks, Mayor Walsh praised Fenway for its “wonderful work,” adding, “No community partner does more to support our city than Fenway Health does. It’s a global leader in healthcare for men and women in the LGBT community. That leadership not only keeps our residents healthy, it brings great benefits to our entire city,” enabling “us to attract and retain a vibrant and talented workforce. That’s a huge advantage for us in our mission to become leaders in the innovation economy and in the arts and culture.”
Walsh also used the Men’s Event to announce new appointments in his administration. One of them is Jerome Smith as new head of the Office of Neighborhood Services (ONS). Before his appointment, Smith served as chief of staff for state Senate President Therese Murray. Before that, Smith was outreach coordinator for the LGBTQ community in Boston.
“Jerome has the perfect combination of skills for this position,” said Walsh. “I think there is some important symbolism, too, in his appointment. ONS is all about neighborhoods. In many ways, it’s the heart of city government.”
“Jerome is the first person of color, and the first gay person to fill this post,” he said. “I think this shows that the gay community is no longer treated as a separate entity in our city.”
Walsh also announced Ken Brissette as the city’s new tourism director. “But first let me congratulate Ken and his partner Tom on their engagement,” said Walsh. [pullquote]“Jerome is the first person of color, and the first gay person to fill this post,” he said. “I think this shows that the gay community is no longer treated as a separate entity in our city.” … Walsh also announced Ken Brissette as the city’s new tourism director. [/pullquote]
In appointing Brissette, Walsh said that during the campaign, “artists told us the arts are much more than a tourism strategy, and our tourism industry told us that, as wonderful as our cultural scene is, attracting visitors requires a broader base of activities.”
Consequently, he said, came the decision to give the arts and tourism their own departments, with a new arts chief to be announced soon.
For more than six years, Brissette has served as chief operating officer for the state tourism office. Before that, he was a travel industry executive in the private sector. Brissette is a former Boston Public High Schools teacher.
In addition to Boston’s two mayors, the event drew Maine’s openly gay congressman, U.S. Representative Mike Michaud, who is also a gubernatorial candidate.
The Men’s Event also attracted Massachusetts state and local elected officials, including Steve Grossman, state Treasurer and candidate for governor, state Senator and Majority Leader Stanley Rosenberg, as well as state Representatives Gloria L. Fox, Jeffrey Sanchez, and Tom Conroy, a candidate for state Treasurer.
Also in attendance were Boston City Councilors Ayanna Pressley, Matt O’Malley, and Josh Zakim. Attorney general hopeful Maura Healey and candidate for treasurer Deb Goldberg were also present. [pullquote]The Men’s Event also attracted Massachusetts state and local elected officials, including Steve Grossman, state Treasurer and candidate for governor, state Senator and Majority Leader Stanley Rosenberg, as well as state Representatives Gloria L. Fox, Jeffrey Sanchez, and Tom Conroy, a candidate for state Treasurer. …Also in attendance were Boston City Councilors Ayanna Pressley, Matt O’Malley, and Josh Zakim. Attorney general hopeful Maura Healey and candidate for treasurer Deb Goldberg were also present.[/pullquote]
A highlight of the evening was honoring Menino, known for his longtime loyalty and steadfast outspokenness for full LGBT equality and social justice, including progressive public health policies and, of course, same-sex marriage.
“When he needed to be, he pounded his fist and used the power of his office to force what he knew would make the city and all of its people better,” said Andrea J. Cabral, Massachusetts secretary of public safety, in her introductory remarks before the awards presentation. “But most of all, he calmly looked bigotry in the eye, stripped it for all its disguises, and called it for what it is. He did not let it hide behind religion or euphemisms, like conservative or old fashioned. He did not accept people’s unwillingness to change as an excuse for not demanding change, and he never mistook the small mindedness of the few for the voices of the many.”
In his acceptance remarks, Menino said, “I didn’t do anything special. I just did my job.”
The mayor’s comments also touched on his deeply held view that government, like that of the late Congressman Studds, is there to help people.
“He believed in government,” Menino said. “He believed in helping people.”
Here in Massachusetts, Menino added, “We’ve come a long way, but we have to be careful because there are [some people] out there who don’t want us to make changes. They want us to go backwards.”
Certainly, “Massachusetts is a progressive place,” he said. “We are the right place.”
Since leaving office this past January, Menino has served as co-director for Boston University’s Initiative on Cities, a new venture that invites leaders of cities around the world to share their hands-on knowledge with academics and scholars.
Even out of elected office, “I’ll still be there for you,” he said. “No matter what you need.”
Co-chairs for the 2014 Men’s Event were Joe Caputo, Rob Krasow, and Matthew E. Thompson.
“I have been a supporter of Fenway for about 20 years,” said Caputo in a brief interview during a VIP reception early on in the evening. “Working on the Men’s Event has been very rewarding. I am able to do something for those who need support that Fenway Health gives.”
The Men’s Event $650,000 total includes proceeds from dinner-ticket sales and in-kind support, as well as revenue from a live and silent auction. [pullquote]“We’ve come a long way, but we have to be careful because there are [some people] out there who don’t want us to make changes. They want us to go backwards.” Former Boston Mayor, Thomas M. Menino[/pullquote]
In all, Fenway has raised more than $1 million so far this year from last month’s Women’s Dinner Party and now the Men’s Event, revenue which will provide care and services for many women and men’s health programs and healthcare for all people who are still living without insurance and can’t afford to pay for it themselves.
In addition to providing comprehensive medical, behavioral health, dental, and eye care services for all, Fenway offers HIV/STD counseling and testing, HIV care and STD treatment, as well as health navigation for those at risk for HIV and substance use. Other services include acupuncture, detox and substance-abuse services. The Violence Recovery Program assists victims of anti-LGBT harassment and violence as well as intimate partner violence, and the Fenway pharmacy gives away more than $400,000 in free and discounted medications to patients in need, including many living with HIV.
John Wolfarth, who made a pitch during the Men’s Event for attendees to consider Fenway Health for medical care, said the facility serves more than 20,000 patients.
“I am asking you to take the next step of support,” he told the gathering. “There are plenty of reasons,” namely “quality, convenience (four locations) and comprehensive” coverage.
At Fenway, Wolfarth added, “The quality of care is matched by the quantity of compassion—your care, your community. It’s really that simple.”
For more information about the Men’s Event and the men’s health services provided by Fenway Health, visit www.fenwayhealth.org.
[View the rest of the Fenway Men’s Event here.]