Rep. Maxine Waters, Josie Totah, Cast of "We're Here" to Speak at HRC & GLSEN LGBTQ+ Graduation

by Elliott Kozuch

WASHINGTON -- Today, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation, the educational arm of America’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) civil rights organization; and GLSEN, the leading national organization focused on LGBTQ issues in K-12 education, announced Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), Josie Totah, Shangela, Bob the Drag Queen and Eureka will speak to the LGBTQ+ high school and college class of 2020 on Friday, May 8 at 4 p.m. ET. This effort will honor the nearly half a million LGBTQ+ students HRC estimates are graduating this spring, who may be impacted by school and graduation cancellations and disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Those interested can register for the event here.


“Maxine Waters is a steadfast defender of equality who is fighting to reclaim the United States from the Trump-Pence agenda of hate, fear and discrimination,” said HRC President Alphonso David. “For years, Congresswoman Waters has been standing up for the marginalized and oppressed in our society. We are truly honored to have her share her thoughts and wisdom with the LGBTQ+ graduating class of 2020.”


Congresswoman Maxine Waters is considered by many to be one of the most powerful women in American politics today. She has earned a reputation as a fearless and outspoken advocate for women, children, people of color and the poor. Elected in November 2018 to her fifteenth term in the U.S. House of Representatives where she proudly represents California’s 43rd District, Congresswoman Maxine Waters made history in 2019 as the first woman and first African American to chair the powerful House Financial Services Committee.


“By living her truth as a trans woman, Josie Totah is setting an inspiring example for transgender, non-binary and gender-expansive young people everywhere that they can live and thrive as their true selves,” said David. “We are so proud to call this impressive young actor part of our HRC family, and know that her powerful message will galvanize the LGBTQ+ graduating class of 2020 to live authentically, follow their dreams and be proud of their LGBTQ+ identity and community.”


Josie Totah, who starred in the NBC sitcom Champions and will appear in the reboot of Saved By The Bell, came out as transgender in a powerful op-ed for Time. “My pronouns are she, her and hers,” Totah wrote. “I identify as female, specifically as a transgender female. And my name is Josie Totah.” Totah began her acting career at a young age, with breakout television roles on the  Disney Channel and network shows, including a recurring role on Glee.


David continued: “Shangela, Bob the Drag Queen and Eureka have fought to ensure the LGBTQ community -- and especially our gender non-conforming siblings -- is represented and celebrated in media and in activism. As we know from their strong presence on HBO’s ‘We’re Here,’ these three will no-doubt bring their charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent to this event and encourage the graduating class of 2020 to walk proudly into their next chapter with the same verve.”


Actor and performer D.J. “Shangela” Pierce continues to climb in notoriety. Shangela recently completed a 184 city international tour to sold-out audiences and was included in the prestigious TIME 100 Next List from Time Magazine. Shangela starred in the scene-stealing role as Lady Gaga’s drag mother in the Academy Award-winning film “A Star Is Born.” The alter ego of comic and actor, Caldwell Tidicue, Bob the Drag Queen is a talented, confident drag star. With multiple acting roles under her belt -- as well as a podcast and tour -- she is no stranger to the spotlight. Also known as David Huggard, Eureka is a plus-size drag superstar. Eureka has taken the singing, acting and modeling worlds by storm with the goal to give bigger people around the world the confidence to go out and live their dreams. All three are now taking the world by storm as stars of the new HBO series, “We’re Here.”


“Shea Diamond’s powerful story and message of resilience and hope resonates with LGBTQ youth across the country,” said David. “Through her music, Shea uses her voice to amplify the experiences of her community and to assert a truth that everyone needs to hear: that we all deserve our piece of the American Pie. We are so excited to welcome Shea at this ceremony.”


Singer, songwriter and advocate Shea Diamond released her debut EP “Seen It All” through Asylum Records in 2018 and that same year performed at HRC’s National Dinner, and multiple HRC events across the country. A proud Black transgender woman from the South, she also participated in HRC’s Americans for the Equality Act video series last spring, which featured actors, athletes, influencers and musicians calling on Congress to advance the Equality Act. Her latest single, “I Am America,” is featured as the theme to the new HBO series, “We’re Here.”


Additional speakers and performers include HRC President Alphonso David; GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard; Dillard University President Walter M Kimbrough; Marshall Fundamental Secondary School (Pasadena, Calif.) Principal Mark Anderson; University of Central Arkansas 2020 student and former HRC Youth Ambassador Lucas Segal; South Carolina State University 2020 student Charles C. Patton; and Class of 2020 high school students Jessica Chiriboga and Elle Smith. Following the event, HRC Youth Ambassador Nhandi, formerly known as dj young 1, will perform to honor the graduates immediately following the ceremony on her Instagram.


Given the severity of this pandemic, HRC has taken steps to protect the health and safety of our staff, members, volunteers, supporters and all those who are fighting so hard to advance equality and build a better world for all of us. Find a full list of all of HRC’s efforts and resources at this link. Read HRC’s brief on how COVID-19 disproportionately affects the LGBTQ+ community here.


For more information on GLSEN’s student leadership initiatives, professional development for educators, policy advocacy, research, international partnerships, and network of local GLSEN chapters, visit


The Human Rights Campaign Foundation is the educational arm of America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.


GLSEN works to create safe and inclusive schools for all. We envision a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or gender expression. Each year, GLSEN programs and resources reach millions of students and educators in K-12 schools, via action at the national, state, and local level. Since 1990, GLSEN has improved conditions for LGBTQ students across the United States and helped launch an international movement to address LGBTQ issues in education.



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