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Gabrielle Union, Dwyane Wade’s full NAACP Image Awards speech on Black LGBTQ rights

A man in a black suit and a woman in a gold dress smiling and holding gold trophies in front of a red background
Dwyane Wade, left, and Gabrielle Union-Wade attend the 2023 NAACP Image Awards in Pasadena.
(Richard Shotwell / Invision / AP)
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Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union-Wade used their platform at this year’s NAACP Image Awards to advocate for the Black LGBTQ community and praise their transgender daughter, Zaya, for her bravery.

After accepting the president’s award Saturday at the Civic Auditorium in Pasadena, the former pro basketball player and the “Truth Be Told” actor delivered a passionate, rousing speech that was widely lauded on social media.

Wade began the speech by directly addressing his daughter and Union-Wade’s stepdaughter, Zaya, who came out as trans in 2020. After the NBA star credited Zaya for making him “a better human” by being who she was “born to be,” Union-Wade spoke fervently about the struggles and rights of the Black LGBTQ community.

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“As my own father fights for his life in the hospital, I had to remember that he raised 3 fighters & I fought to get thru the speech,” Union-Wade tweeted after the show.

“Once D said the word ‘father’ I just broke. Thank yall for showing me grace tonight.”

Read the Hollywood power couple’s full NAACP Image Awards speech below.

Wade: Thank you guys for that ovation. We don’t stand up here alone, because we know it takes a village. It takes a community. We stand up here today as two people who have worked tirelessly to have resources and access. As two people willing to use our microphones for what we believe and what other families are going through.

I’m intentional when I use my platform. I recognize what I’ve been given, and it is my job to uplift the voices of others and share my access and resources. I want to take this moment to publicly speak to our daughter, Zaya. Zaya, as your father, all I’ve wanted to do was get it right. I’ve sat back and watched how gracefully you’ve taken on the public scrutiny. And even though it’s not easy, I watched you walk out of the house every morning as yourself.

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I admire how you’ve handled the ignorance in our world ... that you face every day. To say that your village is proud of you is an understatement. Thank you for showing me that there’s more than just one way to communicate effectively. You’ve taught me that communication with my mouth isn’t enough. I have to also communicate with my two ears and my two eyes.

As your father, my job isn’t to create a version of myself or direct your future. My role is to be a facilitator to your hopes, your wishes, your dreams. Zaya, you’ve made me a better human just simply by being who you were born to be: our baby girl, Zaya Wade. So baby, thank you for showing the world what courage looks like. I’m proud that I was chosen to stand in place as your father. And thank you so much to the NAACP for this incredible honor.

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Union-Wade: Thank you, Derrick [Johnson] and the NAACP. It’s humbling to stand here surrounded by friends and heroes, OGs and icons, all working to advance the lives of Black people and pay respect to an organization that has led us through over a century of relentless challenge, pain, triumph and change. And now stands with us again at the foot of a very new era of activism — a new era that demands our collective answer to one simple question: Will we fight for some or will we fight for all of our people?

Let’s just name a couple of hard truths. First, the intersection of Black rights and the rights of the LGBTQIA, trans and gender non-conforming people continues to be rough — that’s a huge understatement. Even as we demand equality at the top of our lungs, we consistently fail to extend our advocacy to protect some of our most vulnerable among us.

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And second, Black trans people are being targeted, terrorized and hunted in this country. Every day, everywhere. And there’s rarely a whisper about it. We honestly don’t approach this work as activists or leaders as much as we do this as parents — parents who love our children and will do whatever the hell we can to keep them seen and secure and safe.

This is a conversation worth having in ways that can actually build bridges — that don’t fan the flames of hatred or division. That don’t enable lawmakers or justice systems to look the other way when Black trans people are under attack.

That don’t drive more young people to hate themselves or harm themselves. That don’t cost people their lives. So we are humbled, and we are hopeful for the future. ... We are hopeful that we may witness a real shift in the fight for justice: the moment the movement makes room for everyone — everyone. Thank you.

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