Given the results of the recent election, a lot of guests attending the Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast Gala at the Omni Houston Hotel wore black. But the atmosphere was surprisingly upbeat as the sold-out crowd of 500 enthusiastically supported speakers who vowed to continue to protect reproductive rights and ensure quality affordable health care to thousands of women in the Houston area and across the nation.
"Our doors will stay open, no matter what," PPGG president and CEO Melaney Linton vowed to thunderous applause.
Gala chairs Gina and Jonathan Carroll got the evening off to a humorous start as a calm Gina welcomed guests and the more voluble Jonathan served as her anger translator (a la President Obama's anger translator Luther in the Comedy Central Key & Peele show) to explain what she (and the audience) really are feeling about Hillary Clinton's surprising loss in the presidential race. Gina also noted Planned Parenthood's 100th anniversary and the Gulf Coast chapter's 80th year in operation.
The evening's theme, "Hand in Hand, Generation to Generation," was a family affair as the Carrolls were supported by the couple's son, Jackson Carroll, Gina’s parents Napoleon and Antoinette Davis, and Jonathan’s nephew and wife, Jason and Kimiko Norman. Gala honorees Nancy McGregor Manne and Neal Manne were cheered on a by a table of family supporters, including two of their children, Ben Manne and Elisabeth Manne, and Nancy’s mother, Carol McGregor.
PPGC board chair Michael Nichols saluted the Mannes with the Sanger Circle award for their decades of support. Nancy has chaired the organization's board and the grand opening of the new Houston headquarters in 2010. Neal, a partner at Susman Godfrey, has served as pro bono legal counsel and successfully sued an extremist anti-abortion group that vowed to shut Planned Parenthood during the Republican Convention in Houston in 1992.
In accepting the award on behalf of him and his wife, Neal Manne encouraged the audience to not give up the fight.
"In the gloom of this political season, let's face the fact, no one ever said progress would be easy. As progressives in Texas we already know that progress is slow, it's difficult, it's incremental," he said. "This is not the first time we have lost the election. So let's summon a little bit of the toughness of (Planned Parenthood founder) Margaret Sanger, pick ourselves up and get back to work for women's rights and social justice."
After dinner, gala guests were joined by members of Planned Parenthood Young Leaders, where everyone rocked out to the music of Password. Auctioneer Eric Andell auctioned off a Cartier Tank Americaine watch donated by Deutsch & Deutsch jewelers in the Manne's honor (it went for $20,000 in a spirited live auction) and other items, including original art by William Loyd, and photography by Geraldine “Gerri” Gill and Kathryn Rabinow. The evening's proceeds exceeded $500,000.
Seen in the crowd were U.S. Representative Al Green, Texas State Representative Gene Wu, Houston city controller Chris Brown, Harris County sheriff-elect Ed Gonzalez and wife, PPGC board member Melissa Gonzalez, Albert and Anne Chao, Peggy Kohnert, Melissa Edwards, Annette Bracey, Robin O'Neil, Alan and Patricia Bernstein, Linwood and John Olson, and Lauren and Michael Reeder.