Openly gay furniture designer Mitchell Gold is most well-known for lush and plush home decor, but what some in the LGBT community may not be as aware of is his longtime advocacy on important issues- his generous philanthropy to the community and his work as founder of Faith in America, a non-profit organization dedicated to countering religious-based intolerance and clearing up the record about what it really means to be a person of faith and compassion.
Mitchell has given enormous amounts of time and money to battle the anti-LGBT forces, but his latest project, a book compilation entitled Crisis, is also a gift to the broader community... a soaring and moving testament to the struggles of LGBT people- and an often wrenching account of the obstacles and hate that so many people overcome to live authentically. And on Monday night in New York, some of the community's brightest stars and brightest minds, came out to toast Mitchell, his book and his advocacy on behalf of equality and civil rights.
The West Village Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams store was transformed on Monday into a gathering of familiar faces to the community: Mitchell himself, PFLAG executive director Jody Huckaby, award-winning actress Judith Light, faith crusader Rev. Jimmy Creech and out hip-hop artist Ari Gold (who, yes, I admit to having a big crush on) all came out for the first of three events launching Crisis and telling the stories of individuals who have overcome barriers to become leaders.
And while it would be easy to spend an entire blog post fawning over Ari Gold - like I did, giggling and turning red when my boss, Jody Huckaby, insisted on introducing me - I would be remiss without instead focusing attention on the stories behind Crisis and the testimonies offered up on Monday evening in Manhattan.
Crisis features 40 stories by 40 people who have been targeted and changed by confronting homophobia in their own lives. Bringing stories of discrimination by families, schools, workplaces and faith communities to light, each chapter tells about the real impact that discrimination has on the lives of individuals, communities and families. From Martina Navratilova to Huckaby, (both) Golds and other leaders like Rev. Irene Monroe, the book exposes raw hate, raw emotions and raw determination to rise above prejudice and work to create change.
At Monday's event, Light, a longtime supporter of the community and a longtime friend of Mitchell Gold, talked about her horror in the 80s watching the government turn its back on those suffering through the AIDS epidemic. And she saluted Mitchell and Crisis, reminding the audience of the importance of telling their stories and using them to fight prejudice and discrimination.
Though champagne was flowing - and Gold and Light were shimmering - the evening was, in fact, about telling tales of courage and compassion. And Mitchell Gold, who wrote for the book and led the charge in rounding up its contributors, vowed to use the project to support those who support LGBT Americans. Recounting his own family's response to the book, he noted that it sparked one of the longest, most meaningful conversations his family had ever had... that it was a gift to his family and a gift that the public can use to move equality forward. The proceeds from Crisis, he pledged, would be donated to worthy organizations like PFLAG to promote LGBT rights and bring other families, like his own, to the table to talk about what matters.
Crisis: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social, and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing Up Gay in America, is available now at Lambda Rising and other book sellers.