By Nathan Wildes
Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 10/23/17 – “Because she stood in her truth, I’m able to stand in my truth”, said Marsha P. Johnson Trailblazer Award recipient, Jazzmun Crayton.
Jazzmun Crayton (The 40-year-old Virgin), transgender actor for over 30 years and honoree of tonight’s Eleganza event, the culminating gala event that closed this year’s 2nd Annual TransNation Festival, used those words in speaking of the namesake of her award, Marsha P. Johnson. Marsha’s legacy was a major theme of this year’s festival as one of the “mothers of the movement”, coined by both Jazzmun Crayton and Laverne Cox.
The vibrant colors that the transgender community stepped out in tonight did not outshine the power of their message nor the pride and joy they shared in the money they raised for tonight’s host, St. John’s Well Child & Family Center. The leading provider of free health care and other services to over 2,000 transgender individuals who would likely not be able to afford such services otherwise, St. John’s also employs transgender individuals in every position within their transgender health initiative. Jim Mangia, CEO of St. John’s and founder of the program, could not contain love for the community nor his passion for speaking on the politics confronting the transgender community as Obamacare, a vital element in St. John’s ability to provide this service to the transgender community is being brought down in Washington.
The hosts for this festive evening of music, dance and recognition for the transgender community were Candis Cayne (The Magicians), the first transgender actress to play a recurring transgender character in Dirty Sexy Money and Laith Ashley, one of the first transgender male models to appear in a national campaign when he did so for luxury designer Barneys New York. Their message of unity within the transgender community and a return to love, kindness and empathy for all carried through the evening as those ideas were exemplified by each and every person in the room. “Every single social movement…has started with the few and grown to the majority…” said Cayne in reflecting on the current state of acceptance or understanding among the public for the trans community.
The evening’s festivities reached a highpoint as Eleganza’s A-lister attendee, Laverne Cox (Orange Is the New Black) stepped onto the stage and proudly presented the Marsha P. Johnson Trailblazer Award to Jazzmun Crayton. Laverne was quick to acknowledge Jazzmun as one who inspired her toward becoming an actor over 10 years ago. The pride and joy with which the transgender community greeted the Emmy-award-winning actress was met with equal pride and joy from Laverne at having the opportunity to be with her community in this evening of celebration and pride. Presenting herself in a beautiful, but soft-spoken, black dress tonight, Laverne was all-too-happy to relinquish the stage to Jazzmun Crayton. The eloquent and passionate honoree then proceeded to bring home the power of the message of Eleganza, St. John’s and the Transnation Festival by bringing up onto the stage literally dozens of fellow community leaders and champions that “stand with her” in carrying the legacy Marsha P. Johnson.
The message of unity, love, and compassion could not have found a louder, prouder, or more beautiful gathering of people as was on display this evening at the Cicada Club in Downtown LA.