At the intersection of race and identity: Black History Month and #glaadawards

This month we celebrate Black History Month by identifying those who have been at the forefront of cultural change and accelerating acceptance for the LGBT community over the past three decades through the #glaadawards.

Yet, as we have witnessed through recent events, lasting change is sometimes incremental in nature and issues of inclusion still arise.  Responding to the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, GLAAD CEO & President Sarah Kate Ellis wrote a Guest Column in The Hollywood Reporter this past weekend.

 “What we know to be true at GLAAD is that images matter.  Onscreen images of diverse characters and storylines are usually society’s first entrée into understanding a community that doesn’t look like them or act like them. Awards shows, which are viewed widely, are a part of bringing these characters into our living rooms and, in many ways, into our families. The celebration and nomination (or lack thereof) sends a message about the validity, relatability and overall worthiness of these stories and the lives they portray.”

Her entire op-ed can be read at

Entertainment media reflects who we are as a people; whether we exist with dignity as whole and complete individuals or are erased from the landscape and remain invisible.  For 27 years, the GLAAD Media Awards have been a force for change by recognizing fair, accurate and inclusive representations of our diverse LGBT community and the issues we face.  By empowering real people to share their stories across all media platforms, we accelerate acceptance and advance equality at home and across the globe, especially in places where simply being out can be a risk.

Women of Brewster PlaceIn 1990, the FIRST ANNUAL GLAAD MEDIA AWARDS honored The Women of Brewster Place with Outstanding Television Mini-Series.  Produced by Oprah Winfrey, it featured an ensemble cast of African-American actors; among them Cicely Tyson, Robin Givens, Paul Winfield and Moses Gunn.  Lonette McKee and Paula Kelly were featured in pivotal roles as a lesbian couple at a time when television did not present many such relationships.  Just as Brewster Place celebrated the strength and resilience of three decades of women in an urban tenement, GLAAD honored this mini-series for its LGBT content and rich diversity.

Paris BarclayThe 12th ANNUAL GLAAD MEDIA AWARDS (2001) bestowed the Stephen F. Kolzak Award, in memory of the late casting director who devoted the last part of his life to fighting homophobia and AIDS-phobia with the entertainment industry, to Emmy Award winning director and producer Paris K.C. Barclay.  As the first openly gay and first African-American president of the Directors Guild of America, he has directed over 130 television episodes, including:  Glee, Smash, The Good Wife, ER, The West Wing, Sons of Anarchy and NYPD Blue. In 2008, Paris Barclay co-wrote the movie Pedro, based on the life of Pedro Zamora, with GLAAD Award recipient Dustin Lance Black.  Their film also became a GLAAD Award nominee.

Lee Daniels 2010 GLAAD AwardsFilmmaker Lee Daniels (Precious) received the Davidson/Valentini Award, presented to an openly LGBT media professional who has made a significant difference in promoting equal rights for our community, during the 21st ANNUAL GLAAD MEDIA AWARDS in 2010.  That year, Daniels became the first openly gay African American person to be nominated for an Academy Award ® in the Achievement in Directing category. Precious was also nominated for a GLAAD Media Award in the Outstanding Film -Wide Release category for its inclusion of the character "Ms. Rain," an out lesbian teacher.

Laverne CoxIn 2014, the 25th GLAAD MEDIA AWARDS celebrated its first quarter-century by honoring one of the most diverse productions in television history with Outstanding Comedy Series.  Orange is the New Black, seen on Netflix, broke color, class, gender, sexual orientation and gender identity barriers in a medium seen around the world.  Perhaps most significant is that we see a trans character portrayed by a trans woman:  Laverne Cox.  Accepting her GLAAD Award, Ms. Cox stated that “I think it’s important for people to tell diverse stories.”

Shonda Rhimes and Kerry WashingtonThe following year, Scandal actress Kerry Washington accepted GLAAD’s Vanguard Award at the 26th annual ceremonies.  Presented to a member of the entertainment community who has made a significant difference in promoting equal rights for LGBT people, Washington stated that “We need more diverse LGBT representation…and we need more employment of LGBT people, in front of and behind the camera. … We can’t say that we believe in each other’s fundamental humanity and then turn a blind eye to the reality of each other’s existence and the truth of each other’s hearts.”

GLAAD Award NomineesAmong this year’s diverse group of nominees are Empire (FOX) , Tangerine (Magnolia Pictures), The Prancing Elites Project (Oxygen), How to Get Away with Murder (ABC), Master of None (Netflix), Black-ish (ABC) and Le1f.

The GLAAD Media Awards recognize and honor media for their fair, accurate and inclusive representations of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and the issues that affect their lives. The GLAAD Media Awards also fund GLAAD's work to amplify stories from the LGBT community and issues that build support for equality.

For a complete list of this year’s nominees, click here

The GLAAD Media Awards ceremonies will be held in Los Angeles on April 2, 2016 at The Beverly Hilton and in New York on May 14 at the Waldorf Astoria New York. Find out how you can buy tickets or host a table here.

To receive the latest updates on the GLAAD Media Awards, follow @glaad on Twitter and use the hashtag #glaadawards.