Point Scholar Omar Salman encapsulated the solidarity of the Point Foundation in a few powerful words during the annual Point Honors Los Angeles Gala Saturday evening at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. “It’s a community of survivors, people who survived rejection, people who have survived in a world that tells them that they’re unwanted or unworthy or lesser than just because of who they are. And that’s my story too.”
For many students in the LGBTQ community — like Salman, a medical student at Virginia Tech — coming out to family often leads to complete isolation, leaving them without resources and support for a prosperous future. The Point Foundation — the nation’s largest scholarship-granting organization for LGBTQ students of merit — aims to eliminate these tribulations by both supporting and empowering LGBTQ students through leadership training, community service, and mentoring.
Hosted by comedian Michelle Collins, hundred of people gathered for Saturday’s ceremony, including actors, musicians, current scholarship recipients and scholarship alumni.
Individuals who were honored during the event included actress and comedienne Wanda Sykes, honored with the point legend award for her professional success and unapologetic backing of the LGBT community. Actor Anthony Anderson, with whom Sykes works alongside on ABC’s “Black-ish,” presented Sykes with the award. Though humorously making her speech without the aid of a teleprompter, Sykes genuinely expressed how humble she felt for receiving the award; acknowledging the tireless work of the Point Foundation. “To the Point Foundation, the work that you do is just amazing, and it’s so important,” Sykes said. “I’m honored just to be here, and the mentors, scholars – you’re the heroes, you’re the ones who are doing all the work, I just marvel at these kids,” she continued.
Write and director Jill Soloway was granted the point impact award for her passionate efforts towards the LGBT community. Soloway was presented the award by actress Kathryn Hahn, who stars in Soloway’s Amazon series “Transparent,” which she created after her parent came out as transgender. “After this show came out, we experienced a giant cascade of love and support from the LGBTQ, and especially the trans community,” Soloway shared. “They really just wrapped their arms around us and brought us to the trans community in Los Angeles and the international trans community — and our family and the trans community and queer community came with us.”
Though unable to attend the ceremony, actor Wilson Cruz was honored with the Point courage award, which is given to individuals who have advocated for the future of the LGBTQ community.
Also in attendance at the evening’s’ gathering were Naya Rivera, Pete Nowalk, Adam Shankman, Greg Louganis, and Judith Light. Light recognized an impactful mentor and board member of the Point Foundation, Herb Hamsher, who passed away shortly after last year’s ceremony.
Not absent from the discussion during the ceremony was the tragic Las Vegas massacre that occurred on October 1. ”I know many of you feel as I do – an overwhelming sense of shock and disbelief,” said Jorge Valencia, Executive Director and CEO of Point Foundation of the tragedy. “This past week as I look at the faces and read the descriptions of the victims, I was struck by the many ways these people have contributed to our society. They were veterans, they were police officers, they were nurses, they were mothers, and they were teachers and students.”
Valencia also brought politics into the conversation; specifically the detrimental impact that several current policies have on the LGBTQ community. “Some of our scholars are experiencing new and unexpected challenges, and that’s largely because of the disappointing reality in which we currently find ourselves in,” he said. “Everyday, people in this country are being affected by our leaders policies, their executive orders, and their tweets.”
But for the members of the Point Foundation — a tight knit community who view one another as family — being a part of this organization has given them a special strength that no policy can overcome. “Many of our point scholars tell us [joining Point] was a critical point of their lives because it was the first time they felt accepted and supported,” Valencia said.
Towards the end of the ceremony, a live auction was held to support the foundation, which featured a “Will and Grace” experience package that includes entry to a taping of the show as one of the available items. The foundation also announced a $1.8 million donation from Wells Fargo, the presenting sponsor of this years ceremony.
The gala ended with a musical performance by Grammy nominated singer Adam Lambert, who performed three songs including “Whataya Want From Me” and “Somebody to Love.”