The ACLU SoCal’s annual Bill of Rights Gala usually includes the presentation of several awards to celebrities, politicians and others for their support and advocacy of social justice at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.
However, this year’s event skipped the awards ceremony. Instead, the gala was an hour-long virtual program on Sunday that celebrated the work of the ACLU while also sounding an alarm to vote next month.
Billy Porter hosted the starry affair, which included appearances from Barbra Streisand, Rita Moreno, Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Martin Sheen, Sam Waterson, Diane Warren, Charlie Puth, David Byrne, Justin Tranter, Tom Morello, Norman Lear, The Chicks and Jason George.
“My friends, we live in a moment of constant lies and hard truths,” said ACLU SoCal’s executive director Hector Villagra. “The sitting president not only questions but threatens the integrity of our elections. He gives credence to white supremacy but he has previous little to say about the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. He attacks freedom of the press and the right to protest. He throws the legitimacy of our highest court into chaos, threatening the most basic rights of women and the LGBTQ community.”
Speaking of the Black Lives Matter movement, Porter said, “To our white and non-Black friends, welcome to the conversation. I am glad you are engaged in the in this struggle, but do not imagine for one second that this is news. Black Americans have faced state oppression and violence daily for over 400 years. The hashtags and names we know so well — George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Daniel Prude — are the results of centuries of unchecked institutional racism. Here we are, America at a tipping point with decisions to make come November. It is political. It is always for us political. Our democracy and our rights are on the ballot.”
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Judd Apatow provided some laughs as he spoke from his bed the day after the first presidential debate. Both his greying hair and beard were long and messy. “It’s been a stressful year, look what it’s done to me,” he said. “I used to have dark hair. I used to look young and refreshed. And I’m healthy — this is healthy. The first debate was last night. I had nightmares all night afterwards.”
He compared watching the debate to having surgery. “It felt like when you’re having an operation and you wake up in the middle and you feel all of it, but no one knows you’re awake and you’re just there and you’re being operated on but no one knows you have your consciousness. That’s what the debate felt like.”