When introducing this year’s Make Equality Reality gala from Equality Now, Aasif Mandvi and Sheetal Sheth embraced the virtual event that allowed audiences to make donations toward the organization’s gender equality initiatives from the comfort of their homes.
“Let’s kick off our heels. Who am I kidding? I’m not wearing heels. Who are we kidding?” said Sheth. “I’m wearing my socks, but whatever it is, get comfortable. Whatever it is for you to donate freely.”
“The Official Chart” co-host Jameela Jamil elaborated on Equality Now’s work with legal advocacy, regional partnership-building and community mobilization to combat sex tourism in Kenya and Malawi and sexual violence in Georgia, Bolivia and Russia. In the United States, she added, the organization continues to advocate the expansion of women’s constitutional rights.
V, the Tony-winning playwright of “The Vagina Monologues” formerly known as Eve Ensler, introduced the event’s special performance pieces, written by Netflix’s “Grand Army” writer Katie Karpilla and starring Brittany Adubomola. The one-woman performance, titled “Sierra Leone,” was inspired by real-life events of sexual violence happening in the country.
Following the reading was a speech from actor Karen Robinson on an ideal entertainment industry for women. She described that in her dreams, “I’m in the performing industry where 45-year-old women play 45-year-old women, and 45-year-old male characters date women their own age! Black women and girls can wear their hair any way they damn where leads.”
Meryl Streep honored the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg with a performance of a tribute written by Gloria Steinem, who supported Ginsburg’s endeavor to make “equality a reality for women and girls,” she said.
In closing, AnnaSophia Robb, star of “Samantha: An American Girl Holiday,” introduced additional resources for audiences, two reports that examine how legal systems in South Asia, Latin America and the United States are failing survivors in these countries. “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice,” said Robb. “And it takes work from all of us to do so. We can continue this progressive momentum this year has brought.”
The gala also honored documentary filmmakers behind “On The Record,” Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering, and presented the Changemaker Award to Nadeen Ashraf. The event also celebrated the work of Drew Dixon, Shanita Hubbard, Kierna Mayo, Dr. Joan Morgan and Sheri Sher.
Glenn Close Honored With AARP Purpose Prize Award
Glenn Close was presented with the AARP Purpose Prize Award for her work with the 10-year-old Bring Change to Mind charity that is committed to destigmatizing conversations surrounding mental illness and healthcare.
When presented with the award on Thursday night, Close said her proudest accomplishment is that “we’re still here.”
“We started this not knowing what we were getting into being ignorant about challenges of mental health, not knowing anything,” she said. “We have learned; we have grown; and we’ve become one of the most significant organizations working against stigma and in the area of mental health in this country.”
The “Hillbilly Elegy” star continued, “I feel blessed to be an actor in that I think to be a true to my craft. You have to be empathetic, and you have to be tolerant, because your task is to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Now more than ever… we can put ourselves in other people’s shoes and sometimes you have to study it; you have to learn about it. But if we’re all going to survive together and survive and triumph together, we have to have empathy.”
Close co-founded Bring Change in 2010, after her younger sister was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and a nephew received a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder. The organization has since founded peer-support programs that serve nearly 10,000 students in 22 states.
The actor intends to use the $50,000 prize to provide more spaces for “young people [to] gather and feel safe talking about depression, anxiety and other mental health issues” at more than 200 schools that are currently on the waiting list for Bring Change to Mind’s services.