Women net $375K-plus for Fenway Health

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From left to right: Judith B. Bradford, PhD, Co-chair of The Fenway Institute; Urvashi Vaid; Stephen L. Boswell, MD, President and CEO of Fenway Health; Stewart B. Clifford, Jr., Chair of Fenway’s Board of Directors; Jennifer Potter, MD, Director of Women’s Health at Fenway; and Women’s Dinner Party Co-Chairs Aimee Van Wagenen, Theresa Murray and Gina Savageau. Photo credit: Marilyn Humphries

By: Chuck Colbert/ TRT Reporter–

Raise your glass!

They did just that — the more than 1,100 women (lesbian, bisexual, transgender) and men who attended Fenway Health’s Women’s Dinner Party.

They toasted the event itself, now 21 years old and all grown up.

They raised their glasses to the increased numbers of women seeking primary care and other services at the Boston-based, state-of-the-art medical care facility that is Fenway.

Remembering Adrienne Rich

They also toasted — and mourned the recent death of — lesbian poet, essayist, and public intellectual Adrienne Rich.

Comedian Kate Clinton served as emcee for The Women’s Dinner Party, which is one of Fenway’s signature fundraisers and one of the LGBT’s community’s largest such affairs in New England.

In raising her glass to Rich, Clinton quoted the late feminist who wrote, “The decision to feed the world is the real decision. No revolution has chosen it, for that choice requires that women be free.”

Altogether, the 2012 Women’s Dinner Party, a gala evening of dinner and dancing, raised more than $375,000 in cash, pledges and in-kind support.

The Women’s Dinner Party is a signature event for Fenway and one of the New England regions largest LGBT community fundraisers. The party was held on Saturday night, March 31, at the Boston Marriott Copley Place.

A highlight of the evening was honoring longtime lesbian activist and LGBT community leader Urvashi Vaid with the Dr. Susan M. Love Award.

Urvashi Vaid

Urvashi, a community organizer, writer, and attorney, has been at the forefront of LGBT and social justice movements for nearly three decades.

Vaid is a former executive director of National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the oldest national LGBT civil rights organization. She served as executive director and leader of the Task Force’s Policy Institute, too.

A former columnist for The Advocate, Vaid is the author of Virtual Equality: The Mainstreaming of Gay & Lesbian Liberation and the forthcoming Irresistible Revolution:  Race, Class and the LGBT Imagination.

Currently, she serves as director of the Engaging Tradition Project at the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law at Columbia Law School.

Dr. Susan M. Love Award

Each year at the dinner party, Fenway presents the Love Award, to honor and celebrate a woman and/or an organization that has made a significant contribution to the field of women’s health.

The award is given in honor of its founding recipient, Dr. Susan M. Love, a pioneer in the fields of women’s health and breast cancer. Love helped found the Revlon/UCLA Breast Center in 1992 and currently heads up the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation, which is dedicated to eradicating breast cancer.

She represents what Fenway strives for

In introducing Vaid, Judy Bradford, Ph.D., noted the significance of this year’s award recipient.

“It matters a great deal to Fenway that Urvashi Vaid is receiving this award,” said Bradford, who directs the Center for Population Research in LGBT Health and serves as co-chair of The Fenway Institute.

“[It matters] because she represents what Fenway strives to be: The integration of best thinking, effective programs, and excellent health care to make a difference in the lives of people, all people, with specific attention to sexual and gender minorities,” Bradford said.

“[It matters] because she is one of us. Steadily focused on social justice to all members of our communities, the principles Urvashi has made clear underlie our dedication to ensure that human rights and access to health care are extended to all LGBT people,” Bradford added.

“[It matters] because she understands, completely and clearly that no one is defined only by race, only by gender, or only by sexual orientation. Each of us lives a unique life, and within that life should be treated fairly and with utter respect,” said Bradford.

Women Reproductive Rights and LGBT Rights

In accepting the award, Urvashi Vaid did not disappoint.

She spoke about the importance of connecting the dots between “women’s reproductive freedom and LGBT rights,” citing as an example, “the recent hullabaloo over Planned Parenthood and invasive vaginal sonograms.”

Vaid recalled how a gay man told emcee Clinton, her partner in life, that he “finally got it — that this fight was about social and political control of women’s freedom and women’s sexual agency and not just a moral argument about when life begins,” Vaid said.

And yet she wondered out loud: “To what extent would leading organizations and funders of the LGBT movement agree that an issue like reproductive freedom, violence against women, women earning less than men, or expanding the definition of family in welfare programming to enable low-income families and kids to be covered — whether those issues would be seen as important issues for the LGBT movement,” said Vaid.

Lesbians must step out

“For millions of lesbians, economic justice, addressing racism and winning fair treatment as women are still issues that matter a great deal. But these issues and many feminist concerns remain on the periphery of the movement that we as women have helped to build,” Vaid explained.

A remedy?  “Lesbians must step up and step out, politically and philanthropically,” she said,  “The time, need, and urgency is now!”

“I care about ensuring that my womb and gay men’s sexual freedoms are not regulated by the likes of Rick Santorum,” said Vaid.

The audience roared and applauded in agreement.

The Women’s Dinner party drew a number of elected officials, including Massachusetts State Treasurer Steve Grossman, State Representative Liz Malia, and Rhode Island State Representative Deb Ruggiero.

City of Boston officials also in attendance were Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino and his wife Angela Menino, as well as Boston City Councilors John Connolly, Rob Consalvo, Matt O’Malley, and Michael Ross.

Cambridge City Councilor Denise Simmons and Suffolk County Sheriff Andrea Cabral attended.

Elizabeth Warren, a Democratic Party candidate for the US Senate, was also on hand.

In a new feature, the Women’s Dinner Party employed social media so that attendees could find a friend’s table on the ballroom map and view live feeds.

Foursquare enabled check in.

Dinner Party Mobile (m.womensdinnerparty.org) empowered people to browse live and silent auction items, create shopping lists, and make silent-auction bids — all via smart phones.

Dinner Party Mobile facilitated donations online, tweets of the event, and photo submissions for an online photo gallery.

The Twitter feed and photo gallery were projected on screen in the ballroom during the dance party.

Event co-chairs for Women’s Dinner Party 2012 were Theresa Murray, Gina Savageau, and Aimee Van Wagenen.