By Lauren Said-Moorhouse, CNN
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have said “we know a ripple of hope can turn into a wave of change” after they were honored in New York for their work on racial justice and mental health.
The award honors “exemplary leaders across government, business, advocacy, and entertainment who have demonstrated an unwavering commitment to social change and worked to advance equity, justice, and human rights,” according to organizers.
The couple paused briefly on the blue carpet to pose for photographers before making their way into the event. They did not stop to talk to the media or respond to questions from reporters about their upcoming Netflix docu-series, which is due to release on the streaming platform Thursday.
During the gala event, the Sussexes announced a new collaboration between their own non-profit organization and the RFKHR.
“We are honored to receive the RFK Ripple of Hope Award this year, and to partner with the Kennedy family in the creation of The Archewell Foundation Award for Gender Equity in Student Film,” the pair said in a statement. “Our hope with this award is to inspire a new generation of leadership in the arts, where diverse up and coming talent have a platform to have their voices heard and their stories told.
“The values of RFK Foundation and The Archewell Foundation are aligned in our shared belief of courage over fear, and love over hate. Together we know that a ripple of hope can turn into a wave of change,” they added.
RFKHR President Kerry Kennedy said the organization chose to honor the pair because it was “proud of their work on racial justice and mental health parity and awareness” and for “showing up when people really need them.”
She added: “If you look over the last two years, hospitals, universities, governments, even Hollywood have all grappled with racial justice issues, with gender, with sexual minorities, etc … And I think it’s really great that they’ve gotten us to start talking and normalizing this discussion.”
Later during the gala, Prince Harry joked with the crowd during an onstage Q&A about how he thought the couple had left their kids at home for a “date night.”
“To be honest with you, Kerry, I actually thought we were just going on date night. So I found it quite weird that we’re sharing the room with 1,500 people,” the duke quipped in a short clip provided by the gala’s organizers.
“We don’t get out much because our kids are so small and young, so this is completely unexpected,” he added. “But it’s nice to share date night with all of you.”
As the audience laughed, Meghan chimed in: “Thank you for bringing me on this very special date night.”
Hosted by actor Alec Baldwin, the annual gala also recognized Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky; Frank Baker, co-founder and managing partner of private equity firm Siris; Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan; and Michael Polsky, founder and chief executive of Invenergy. NBA legend and civil rights activist Bill Russell was also posthumously honored.
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CNN’s Max Foster, Julian Cummings and Sabrina Souza contributed to this report.