Photo: Amy Sussman / Staff via Getty Images
  /  02.26.2023

Gabrielle Union and Dwyane Wade’s appearance at the 54th NAACP Image Awards was bittersweet. The couple was on hand to accept the President’s Award during Saturday (Feb. 25) night’s televised ceremony. The distinguished honor recognized their advocacy efforts.

During Dwyane’s speech, he spoke directly to their transgender daughter, Zaya Wade. “As your father, all I’ve wanted to do was get it right,” he began. “I’ve sat back and [watched] how gracefully you’ve taken on public scrutiny. And even though it’s not easy, I watched you walk out of that house every morning as yourself. I admire how you’ve handled the ignorance in our world. I admire that you face every day. To say that your village is proud of you is an understatement.”

He continued, “As your father, my job isn’t to create a version of myself or direct your future,” he added. “My role is to be a facilitator to your hopes, your wishes and your dreams. Zaya, you’ve made me a better human just simply by being who you were born to be — a baby girl, Zaya Wade.

Union later revealed in a tweet that while she appeared as a pillar of strength beside her husband, internally she stood before audience members with a heavy heart. She wrote, “As my own father fights for his life in the hospital, I had to remember that he raised [three] fighters, [and] I fought to get [through] the speech. Once D said the word ‘father,’ I just broke. Thank y’all for showing me grace tonight.”

She was flooded with comments thanking her and Dwyane for their powerful words, as well as prayers for her father. “It was an amazing speech from both of you. Thank you for always using your platforms to speak up for ALL of us. Praying for healing grace for your dad,” wrote media strategist and activist April Reign. “See, I enjoy when people showcase their passion. I’m so sorry that your father is fighting for his life while you fight back the rage. But thank you for delivering such a heartfelt speech. Sending prayers to you and yours my dear,” read another comment.

You can view Gabrielle and Dwyane’s full speeches below.

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