2009 – Dr. Victoria Ann Lewis and George Takei

On a warm summer evening, the 8th Ivy Bethune Tri-Union Diversity Awards played to a packed house at East West Players in Downtown Los Angeles. Honorees included Dr. Victoria Ann Lewis (Actors' Equity) and George Takei (Tri-Union).

Former Ivy Awardee Robert David Hall's eloquent introduction of Dr. Lewis – a disabled performer who, among her many credits, established the "Other Voices" lab at the Mark Taper Forum, affording writers and performers with disabilities access and opportunity – spoke of her fire to initiate change and make the world a fairer place. Dr. Lewis, in turn, shared her vision of our industry reflecting the true American scene, where anyone with a story to tell is not ashamed to share it. "We are not alone," she said. "We have community."

The Tri-Union presentation began with "The Human Heart" from Once On This Island, beautifully expressing the ceremony's overall sentiment while honoring our Tri-Union awardee, George Takei. It was sung by Three Filipino Tenors member Randy Guiaya, accompanied by pianist Mark Abulencia and William Burke.

Tim Dang, the Producing Artistic Director of East West Players and an inaugural Ivy honoree, reviewed George Takei's history as a pioneer for equality in the Asian/API, Japanese-American and GLBT communities, and his dedication to civil rights, human rights and the power of art to make a difference. He also spoke of Mr. Takei's involvement in the Arts in Transit program, a commission appointed by the late Mayor Tom Bradley to make art integral to our city. Mr. Takei planted the seeds that bloomed as beautiful, locally-inspired metro stations as well as generating work for visual and literary artists, whose drawings and poetry grace LA's public transportation and other atypical venues that merge art and daily life.

Mr. Takei started by discussing the meaning of the word "union" – and the union of artists who define values and shape our society; artists are the link which connect our diversity. He spoke inspiringly of the physical barbed wire fences that enclosed him in the internment camps, and the invisible barbed wire that still threatens to restrict the rights of many people. Inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., at a lecture where he heard him speak of peace and of bringing people together no matter their differences, Mr. Takei discovered that his mission entailed reaching beyond barriers, always seeking roles that challenged or broke down those invisible fences. "Artists – actors – are the tissue of understanding, bringing people together. Artists are the agent of change." He continued: "Writers and artists personify our values, unite us, bring us together with understanding. Through diversity we can appreciate our unique wholeness, which makes us equals." Mr. Takei closed by reminding us of his favorite line from Star Trek: "Infinite diversity in infinite combinations."

Adapted from an article by Pat Loeb.