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Inspire Awards


A night of achievement and inspiration

Tuesday, 20 December 2011 Written by // Brian Finch - Founder Categories // Community Events, Inspire Awards , Events, Events

December 14th, at the Courtyard Marriot in Toronto, the first Inspire Awards Presents a Lifetime of Achievement evening took place honouring three outstanding people in the LGBTQ community in the greater Toronto area.

A night of achievement and inspiration

Photograph: Etobicoke School for the Arts performers by On Q Photography for INSPIRE AWARDS.

I was very proud to have as a partner in the first Inspire Awards night back in the summer just before pride. With the popularity of the first awardsnight came the idea of honoring lifetime achievement.

One of this year's recipients was Boyd Kodak who has accomplished so much, not just in his work on trans and human rights issues, but also in the arts, film and performance. (Bob Leahy previously interviewed him for, and you can find that feature here.)

The second to be honoured, and in no order of ranking, was Michelle DuBarry, who has been doing drag since the days when it was illegal. In a documentary about the St. Charles Tavern, a local gay hangout in the early years, Michelle recounted how those entering on Halloween were pelted with eggs.

Jack Layton posthumously received the "honorary" lifetime achievement award, accepted by his two children Mike and Sarah. Jack Layton had been an early champion of same-sex marriage and equality stemming from his days as a Toronto City councillor.  He was one of the first politicians to attend Pride and was a regular at that event.

A highlight of the evening was host extraordinaire Mike Chalut of Proud FM, who kept the night moving along nicely, despite the odd technical difficulties.

Students from the Etobicoke School of arts, the same school that caught Lady Gaga's attention for their anti-bullying work, performed several amazing sets. I watched the performances and thought, "Wow, we've come such a long way." A group of young people performing at this kind of event 25 years ago would simply be unheard of.

Sofonda Cox paid tribute to Michelle DuBarry with her hot back-up dancers. Carrie Chesnut and Boyd Kodak performed an original composition.

Other highlights were the acceptance speeches, all of which could bring even the most stone-hearted of us to a place of mushy eyes. It was a night that was indeed quite special.

Kudos go to Antoine Elhashem, chair of the not-for-profit Inspired Awards Inc. board and all of those who worked hard to pull of a fun, classy and at times emotional night. It was a huge team effort. Also a big thank you to Xtra for featuring – on their cover –  the event, and to all those who worked so hard.

If there is one thing to say it's that the Inspire Awards crew know how to pull off a great event.

The following are two moments with Mike Layton, and Michelle DuBarry, filmed on the night of the awards show.

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