Whoopi Goldberg and William Kapfer Source: William Kapfer

Out with Dr. Bill: Stepping Into Pride

Dr. William Kapfer READ TIME: 11 MIN.

As I step into 2024 Pride Month, the air is alive with celebration and a profound sense of community. And at the end of May, I already had the joy of participating in several activities that truly embody the spirit and joy of Pride.

Island of Hope: America's Welcome

First, I attended the 2024 Ellis Island Medals of Honor ceremony in New York with Wendy Diamond and Janice Bryant Howroyd. It was fantastic spending time with Whoopi Goldberg and Priscilla Presley, and enjoying a stunning firework show under the Statue of Liberty.

Attending the ceremony this year was a truly personal and moving experience. The event, held in the Island's Great Hall during a stunning black tie gala, took place in a venue steeped in history – once the gateway for 12 million immigrants to the U.S. This historic setting added a profound sense of significance to the evening.

Since 1986, the Ellis Island Medals of Honor have celebrated Americans who enrich the diverse fabric of our nation. This year's ceremony honored remarkable individuals from finance, entertainment, technology, philanthropy, and media.

William Kapfer and Priscilla Presley
Source: William Kapfer

One highlight for me was reconnecting with friends, including the incomparable Whoopi Goldberg. I've known Whoopi for over 30 years, since meeting her and her brother Clyde on the set of "Boys on the Side" in Tucson, Arizona. Despite the crowd, Whoopi remained composed and gracious, making everyone feel special, even finding time to discuss her new memoir, "Bits and Pieces: My Mother, My Brother, and Me," which I enjoyed reading on Audible. Priscilla Presley was another delight to speak with. She shared her dedication as an ambassador for the Dream Foundation, which grants end-of-life wishes to terminally ill adults.

One of my favorite honorees was my longtime friend, Janice Bryant Howroyd, founder and CEO of The ActOne Group, the largest privately held, minority-woman-owned personnel company in the U.S., Janice is the first African-American woman to build and own a billion-dollar company. Her achievements and our friendship remind me that impactful mentors and coaches in our lives often don't look like us. She is a valuable confidante, a woman of color whose advice, support, and motivation have profoundly shaped my journey. Her insights and encouragement offer perspectives I might have otherwise missed.

The evening concluded with guests boarding ferries to the Statue of Liberty for a spectacular 20-minute fireworks show, rivaling the grandeur of the Macy's Day Fireworks celebration.

William Kapfer, Eric Holder and Eric Baker
Source: William Kapfer

Cheers and Justice: Lambda Legal Liberty Awards Shine Post-Trump Indictment

The second event that embodied the spirit of Pride was attending the 2024 Lambda Legal Awards. It was an incredible experience for me, one that Eric and I always love. Attending each year with our beloved friend, Dermott Will & Emery's Lisa Linsky, has become a tradition, and this year was no different. The ceremony was held at the Glasshouse in New York, a venue that I've really come to appreciate since it opened in 2021, and took place, ironically enough, just hours after Donald Trump's conviction.

The Glasshouse is nestled in the heart of Hell's Kitchen, and has this sleek, modern vibe with its all-glass exterior that offers breathtaking panoramic views of the Hudson River and the New York skyline. It's a perfect mix of urban sophistication and natural light, which makes it feel so special for gatherings like this.

The Lambda Legal evening began with a cocktail party in the spacious atrium. As Eric and I walked down the hallway leading to the room, it felt like stepping into the belly of a whale. The pure white fabricated arches resembled giant, curving ribs surrounding us. This immersive and surreal atmosphere was heightened by the way the arches undulated and converged as we moved through, giving the sensation of being enveloped by the whale's rib cage. Natural light streamed through the glass walls, casting moving shadows and patterns, enhancing the feeling of being inside a living, breathing creature. The whole experience was both psychedelic and dreamlike.

The highlight of the evening wasn't the spirited fundraising auction or the hilarious jokes by the dynamic host, comedian Dana Goldberg, about former President Donald Trump being found guilty by a New York grand jury on 34 felony counts just hours before. Instead, it was the presentation of the highest honor to former Attorney General Eric Holder.

William Kapfer and Jonathan Capehart
Source: William Kapfer

This prestigious award, given for his unwavering commitment to equality and justice, was presented by our longtime friend Jonathan Capehart, who recently completed his memoir, adding to his long list of credentials, including Associate Editor at the Washington Post, Anchor on MSNBC's Weekend Capehart, and Contributor on PBS NewsHour's Brooks & Capehart. Jonathan is now about to be an award-winning author with his manuscript "Black Boys Like Me: Lessons from Hard Work and A Search for Home," soon to be published. I couldn't be more proud of Jonathan, and I'm enthused to read his book cover to cover.

Holder's acceptance speech resonated with a powerful call to action, urging continued vigilance and activism in the fight for civil rights. His comments were particularly moving. "I am truly honored to have been recognized by Lambda Legal at last night's 2024 Liberty Awards National Dinner," he said. "I have been privileged to be a part of consequential wins for equality and fairness for the LGBTQ+ community – but at no point in the 50-year history of Lambda Legal has the work been more critical."

He continued: "As our community faces nationwide attacks on their civil rights, we must redouble our efforts to defend against the nearly 500 anti-LGBTQ+ bills that have been introduced in more than 40 state legislatures again this year. As the last and best line of defense for the community, Lambda Legal is singularly prepared to protect." The 2024 Lambda Legal Awards was more than an event; it was a powerful reminder of the resilience and determination of the LGBTQ+ community and its allies. It was a night of celebration, reflection, and a renewed commitment to the fight for equality and justice.

by Dr. William Kapfer

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