June 8, 2022 8:45 PM EDT

Ariana DeBose spoke about the importance of celebrating the LGBTQ community amid political turmoil in a toast at the 2022 TIME100 Gala in New York on Wednesday evening in New York City.

“I’m so incredibly proud to be part of a community that is resilient, that values empathy, that empowers one another to stand up for who we are,” the 2022 TIME100 honoree said.

“In a world where ‘Don’t Say Gay’ is quite literally being written into law because of other people’s power and influence… or perhaps the loss of those things, I want every single person who identifies as LGBTQ to know that you are loved, you are seen, you are valued, and you do belong.”

DeBose, who began her career as part of the original cast of Lin Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton, has made waves as an actor, singer, and dancer. Earlier this year, she won best supporting actress at the Oscars for her role in West Side Story, making history as the first queer woman of color to win an acting Oscar.

During her toast, she noted the importance of empowering youth. “Our youth face unimaginable challenges, too many to name, but we all know, see and feel them.” she said. “With the power and influence those of us in this room have, it’s so important that we not only show up for them and empower them, but that we also protect them… so they have the space to use their voices and live in a world that celebrates and uplifts all that they are and have the potential to achieve.”

During the gala’s cocktail hour, DeBose told TIME that she’s looking forward to finding out what this year’s group of TIME100 honorees will do with their influence. “I’ve always looked to past groups to see what they were focused on and what they were doing. And I asked the same question about this group that I get to be a part of: What are we doing?” she said. “There’s so much going on in the world. So many things need to be addressed, whether it’s keeping our young people safe, fighting for our rights, taking stronger steps towards saving the planet, or just keeping our humanity alive. Maybe that’s what we’re focused on as a group, our humanity.”

Returning after two years on pause, the TIME100 Gala is TIME’s annual celebration of the TIME100 list of the world’s most influential people, released this year on May 23. The Gala brings together icons, leaders, change-makers, and celebrities from across industries and nations for one lively evening of meaningful dialogue and celebration. This year’s Gala features live performances from Miranda Lambert and Mary J. Blige, two honorees on the 2022 TIME100 list. Further attendees from this year’s list include actors Andrew Garfield, and Amanda Seyfried, musicians Jazmine Sullivan, Jon Batiste, and Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, athlete Eileen Gu, director Taika Waititi, and legal activist Chase Strangio,

TIME is teaming up with ABC to bring viewers inside the exclusive TIME100 Gala for the first time with a special television event. TIME100: The World’s Most Influential People airs Sunday, June 12 at 8 p.m. EDT on ABC, featuring host Simu Liu, director Quinta Brunson, Ukrainian journalist Sevgil Musaieva, and more.

Read the full text of DeBose’s toast at the TIME100 Gala:

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Write to Simmone Shah at simmone.shah@time.com.

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