Recap: ERA Virtual Gala 2021

On Sept. 23, 2021, Equal Rights Advocates’ 47th Annual Gala was held online for the second time. Gathering gender justice supporters nationwide, the event them “The Future Is…” asked attendees to envision the future of our movement as we celebrated movement leaders.

  • Click here to watch a full recording of the event

Featured speakers included

See quotes from their speeches below. The event was emceed by Renel Brooks-Moon, and featured uplifting musical performances by Madame Gandhi.

The following honorees were also celebrated:

Here are highlights from the event:

Renel Brooks-Moon

Dr. Renel Brooks Moon, Emcee:

“I believe that our being here, our surviving, despite all the tremendous losses of the past year, is a radical gift itself. So tonight, let’s celebrate our being here. Let’s celebrate the dignity, the commitment, the passion of the people who are also fighting for a more inclusive, equitable, and just future. Let’s celebrate everything Equal Rights Advocates has done, is doing, and will do to ensure that future.”

Noreen Farrell, ERA Executive Director:

“I think even on screens, we’re closer than ever because the past 20 months have brought us together in really unimaginable ways. This time has taught us such important lessons about each other, about the systems of care and work that are ready for change, about how to access justice in new ways.

“For 47 years, we have built the foundation for this moment, breaking ground for women and girls in ways that have really helped people across genders. People who were told, ‘This chance isn’t for you, you can’t lead, you deserve less.’

“We can emerge from this pandemic stronger and safer than we entered it. We can learn and work in safety, and with dignity, and with our kids. We can get paid our value and access justice. We all can be change-makers. So share your vision for the future.

Rosario Dawson

Rosario Dawson, actor and activist:

“As a Latinx woman, I believe in the power of my community to do big audacious things, to transform our country. The future is our voices. The future is a space for truth.

“Thank you, Equal Rights Advocates for your extraordinary policy work on pay and gender-based violence and for activating communities of color across the country as voters and change-makers.

Maria Hinojosa

Maria Hinojosa, Emmy-winning journalist, story-teller:

“Be that person that allows and creates a pathway for… Reckoning is not the word that I’m looking for, because it’s not really a reckoning, it’s owning what this country stands on.

“My first in-person interview after I got vaccinated was with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. And I told her that I had a vision that when she gets elected president, she will be the one to stand on the border and to say, tear down this wall. That it will have to sadly be a Latina, because everybody else sees immigration to be that issue over there for those people. It is our issue, next to, parallel to, intersected with—because many immigrants are Black—the Black Lives Matter movement and the understanding of what reforming, changing our discussion on immigration, that changes the entire future of the country. That is the future of the country. And we know who leads that: it’s women. So if the women figure out how to make that intersection of power, coalition, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the pro-immigrant rights movement—which are really both of them about respecting humanity for people of color—the future is extraordinary.”

Congresswoman Lauren Underwood

Congresswoman Lauren Underwood:

I believe the future is opportunity. In this future, all of us will have an opportunity to take care of our families, chosen and otherwise. With our fundamental right to vote protected, we’ll have the opportunity to guide the future of our country. With protections for pregnant folks at work, we’ll have the opportunity for healthier families and neighborhoods. With a commitment to an economy of care, we can create a world where there’s enough for everyone. With living wages that convey the dignity of work, we’ll have the opportunity to build assets and wealth down the generations.

I believe this future is possible through organizations like Equal Rights Advocates and supporters like you who make it possible. Thank you ERA for the work you’re doing right now to ensure a future that works for all of us.

Fred Alvarez

Fred Alvarez, ERA Board Member:

What kind of a future do I want? I want a future where everyone has access to justice.

“ERA has our back, every day. It runs a national helpline providing free legal advice to students and workers. It works alongside great educators and employers to implement best equity practices, making our businesses and schools better. Your gift today will also support ERA’s ENOUGH Pro Bono Network, the only pro bono network in the nation, serving students facing discrimination, harassment, or violence at school.

Valerie Butterbredt

Valerie Butterbredt, Emerging Leader Honoree:

“Women in the workforce, especially mothers, are faced with so much more barriers and challenges. One of the hardest things is getting women to acknowledge that it’s not their fault. And a lot of people put that blame on themselves.

“[Equal Rights Advocates] didn’t downplay my situation. They didn’t blame me and they didn’t push me aside. I wasn’t aware of my rights and I wasn’t aware of all the things that were available to me. I think that’s what made me feel that there’s a possibility for change, not just for myself, but for others.”

“That was one of the biggest things I wanted from all of this is to make sure that no other student ever goes through what I’ve gone through. I experienced pregnancy in racial discrimination, and I want others to know that they too have a voice through Equal Rights Advocates.”

“You do not have to do the status quo. So often we are forced to go on one path and just blindly follow it. It takes individuals like myself and others to have our voices heard.”

Madame Gandhi

Madame Gandhi, Musical Artist:

“I think one of the biggest lessons that I personally had taken away after this year and a half of pandemic is truly that the more I spend time healing myself, the more I feel empowered to step in, and lead in, my femininity, lead in my peace keeping, lead in my love, lead in my compassion.

“I don’t want our identity to be defined according to how oppressed we are. Do you feel me?

Elizabeth Cabraser, Ramey Award Honoree:

“I was taught and I was shown, by the way my parents lived, that work, that labor has dignity. It is essential to who we are as humans. I am committed to fairness, and equality and respect for women in the workplace. There’s nowhere we don’t belong. There’s nothing we can’t do. There’s no place we shouldn’t be.

“This is a partnership across generations to carry the torch, to pass the torch, to pass the word along, the history along, and the sense of possibility that we will get there if we just stick to it, if we just carry on.”

“Equal Rights Advocates amplifies both the need for workplace justice, and equality, for gender justice and equality, and is visible as an advocate so that people know that there is a place. There is an organization who are there all the time, every day, 24/7, standing up. So any individual that needs to join that fight, that needs to speak out, that needs to stand up, knows she’s not alone.

Hannah-Beth Jackson

Hannah-Beth Jackson, Former CA State Senator:

“One of my proudest accomplishments in office was forming a partnership between the Legislative Women’s Caucus as its chair and Equal Rights Advocates and other great organizations. Together, we created the Stronger California Women’s Economic Security Agenda, where we push groundbreaking bills that set the standard for the nation, including the country’s strongest equal pay, anti-harassment, and paid family leave bills.

Ifeoma Ozoma, Gender Justice Champion Honoree:

“Working with Equal Rights Advocates on this bill is such an honor for me, because of the demographic of workers that Equal Rights Advocates covers. Low-wage workers are impacted the most by any harmful practice, particularly when it comes to the use of silencing mechanisms like non-disclosure and non-disparagement agreements. I was in a position where I was silenced and I had a lawyer. I’m someone who had both the time and the resources. That’s not the case for millions of low-wage workers who are physically harmed on the job, who are emotionally harmed, who have their compensation stolen.

“So I really think that the work that Equal Rights Advocates is doing is beneficial to all of us. Because when low-wage workers are covered, when the most marginalized among us are covered, then we all are. I believe it’s really important, particularly for an award like this that I’m so honored to be receiving, that the focus really is on what it means for gender justice to be fighting with intersectionality as the foundation and as the very tip top of what you’re doing.”


Many thanks to our event sponsors for supporting ERA’s work and making this event possible, including Platinum sponsors Microsoft, the Morrison & Foerster Foundation and Morrison & Foerster LLP, and Wells Fargo.

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