Billy Porter Rails Against ‘Centuries of Unchecked Institutional Racism’ at Celebrity Studded ACLU Fundraiser

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 18: Billy Porter speaks onstage at the 78th Annual Peabody Awards Ceremony Sponsored By Mercedes-Benz at Cipriani Wall Street on May 18, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Pont/Getty Images for Peabody)
Mike Pont/Getty Images for Peabody

Cinderella star Billy Porter and director Judd Apatow were among the major Hollywood names, including Barbra Streisand, Rita Moreno, Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Martin Sheen, Sam Waterson, Diane Warren, at Sunday’s virtual fundraiser for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), where attendees advocated social justice reform from the luxury Beverly Wilshere hotel.

As a result of the Chinese coronavirus pandemic, the event did not feature its usual awards ceremony and instead took the form of an hour-long virtual broadcast celebrating the work of the ACLU and urging people to vote in next month’s all-important presidential election. The event, hosted by Emmy-winning Pose star Billy Porter, also featured appearances from the likes of, Charlie Puth, David Byrne, Justin Tranter, Tom Morello, Norman Lear, and The Chicks.

Part of Porter’s address involved discussing the Black Lives Matter movement that has come to the forefront of conversation this year following hundreds of violent protests and demonstrations.

“To our white and non-Black friends, welcome to the conversation. I am glad you are engaged in this struggle, but do not imagine for one second that this is new,” he continued. “Black Americans have faced state oppression and violence daily for over 400 years.”

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“The hashtags and names we know so well — George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Daniel Prude  — are the results of centuries of unchecked institutional racism,” he continued. “Here we are, America at a tipping point with decisions to make come November. It is political. It is always for us political. Our democracy and our rights are on the ballot.”

Director Judd Apatow also made an appearance at the event, speaking from his bed the morning after the fiery presidential debate between President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

“It’s been a stressful year, look what it’s done to me,” he said. “I used to have dark hair. I used to look young and refreshed. And I’m healthy — this is healthy. The first debate was last night. I had nightmares all night afterward.”

“It felt like when you’re having an operation and you wake up in the middle and you feel all of it, but no one knows you’re awake and you’re just there and you’re being operated on but no one knows you have your consciousness,” he continued. “That’s what the debate felt like.”

Meanwhile, the ACLU South California executive director Hector Villagra launched an attack on Trump, arguing he is somehow a threat to the “most basic rights” of women and LGBT people.

“My friends, we live in a moment of constant lies and hard truths,” said Villagra. “The sitting president not only questions but threatens the integrity of our elections. He gives credence to white supremacy but he has precious little to say about the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. He attacks freedom of the press and the right to protest. He throws the legitimacy of our highest court into chaos, threatening the most basic rights of women and the LGBTQ community.”

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