Stars Talk Equality, Sexual Assault at ACLU Dinner Honoring Colin Kaepernick

A roomful of celebrity activists didn’t mince words Sunday night at ACLU of Southern California’s annual Bill of Rights Dinner at the Beverly Wilshire. The event celebrated activists who make a difference by helping to preserve civil liberties and civil rights.

The list of outspoken talent included honorees Judd Apatow and Viola Davis, as well as presenter Van Jones, who all discussed the recent surge in sexual harassment allegations in Hollywood.

When asked about fired broadcaster Matt Lauer, Jones admitted that he didn’t like to discuss other news organizations, but that he did find recent sexual misconduct allegations “important to put some sunshine in some dark corners.” The CNN commentator, who introduced “Marshall” director Reginald Hudlin at the event, also posited why scandal isn’t necessarily career-ending.

ACLU SoCal's Annual Bill of Rights Dinner

“America is a land of second chances, a land of comebacks,” said Jones, who related his opinion to working in criminal justice. “I think the main thing is, people who make mistakes, I believe very few people are beyond redemption. An axe murderer maybe, but there are very few people beyond redemption, and we’ll have to see how people learn and grow.”

As for Apatow, the comedic multihyphenate said it’s not difficult to be a decent man in power. “I’m proud of the way I’ve attempted to behave in this industry,” Apatow said. “I think a lot of people treat the people I work with very well, but it’s important that everyone tunes into what we should do to respect each other, to protect each other.”

Before accepting her bill of rights award, Davis said she has many female acquaintances who have been affected by sexual misconduct. “Every woman that I know, maybe with the exception of two or three, has been sexually assaulted in their lifetime,” Davis said. “It’s been the big, white elephant in the room — that’s why it’s time to speak up.”

Jane Fonda was also on hand to take the liberty, justice & equality award. The veteran actress opened her speech saluting former NFL player Colin Kaepernick, who made a surprise appearance as the courageous advocate award recipient for his kneeling protest during the National Anthem. “Colin, you are woke!” Fonda began.

She continued her speech with jokes about her long history of being on the front lines of activism, which the “Grace and Frankie” star dates back to the 1970s. “The ACLU has been there with me every step of the way, of course so was the FBI,” she quipped. “But actually, I’m grateful to the FBI because when I was writing my memoirs, I forgot a lot of stuff, so all I had to do was go through 22,000 pages [of my file] — and I never broke the law.”

Gina Rodriguez used her speech to note the importance of seeing positive representations of Latinos who look like her on television. “I believe the images we see affect us in greater ways than we account for,” she said. “Images that affect our fellow humans are our responsibility [in Hollywood].”

The charity gala also feted activist Dolores Huerta. Billy Eichner, Lilly Singh, California congresswoman Maxine Waters, and Martin Sheen were on hand as presenters. Common and Andra Day performed “Stand Up for Something,” a song from Hudlin’s “Marshall,” with songwriter Diane Warren in the audience.

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