Looking ahead and charting our course

Please let us hear from you!

The last few years have been an exciting time for Diversity Richmond. We rebranded and married our new name. We gave our building a fresh, new look and renovated some of the interior.

We also worked hard to raise the community's awareness of our presence. The figures say that we are accomplishing the outreach. The number of people using our building increases constantly. It is exciting to see so many new faces, people who have never been here before. We are growing at a rapid pace.

The world is also rapidly changing and Diversity Richmond must constantly pay attention to the new expectations and needs of the community.

We are in the beginning stages in the development of our five-year strategic plan and we want ... we need your input. What do you like about your community center? How could we do a better job? What can we do that we are not doing?

Please email your thoughts. This is a confidential way of relaying your opinions. The email goes directly to Dr. Yetty Shobo, the consultant who is guiding us through the process. No names will be shared with the input.

Thank you for your continued support.

Bill Harrison
President and Executive Director

"You've got a lot going on at Diversity"

We hear that comment lots. And it's true. Most every night your community center building is packed with folks who are working on a better self and an improved community. Play rehearsals, committee meetings, twelve-step programs, support groups and art gallery openings. It's a happening place.

This newsletter is filled with examples of how we are making a difference. If you are looking for ways to connect with others, want to work for social justice, or give back a few hours a month as a volunteer, you need look no further. Let us hear from you.

We are working diligently every day to become a more inclusive hub of activity and inclusion. Please join us.

Bill Harrison
President and Executive Director

Diversity Richmond launches campaign,"Let's Get Rolling"

Long range strategic planning depends on community feedback

In an effort to gain community input as it begins the process of mapping out a five-year strategic plan, Diversity Richmond is launching, "Let's Get Rolling."

"Our last plan was completed a while back and we accomplished much," stated board chair, Art Toth. "Now we need to look at where we go from here and community participation is critical."

Diversity leadership wants to know what people like about the organization, its programs, the thrift store, event hall, communications, staff, board and outreach. Also, how can Diversity do a better job? What is lacking? What would you like to see from your community center that is not there? What do you want Diversity to maintain?

Communicating thoughts is easy. People can email, with the messages going directly to Dr. Yetty Shobo, who has been contracted by Diversity Richmond to coordinate the planning process.

Comments can also be mailed to 1407 Sherwood Avenue, Richmond, 23220. To keep correspondence confidential, please note on the envelope "Let's Get Rolling."

"A nonprofit can never rest on its laurels," said Toth. "The community continues to change, as does its challenges. And because of that, expectations of the community can also change. We must stay in touch with our public to ensure that we are placing our focus where it needs to be."

Questions about the campaign can be directed to or by calling 804-622-4646.

Bill Harrison
President and Executive Director

We Need Your Body

Thanks to community support, Diversity Richmond accomplished much in 2016 and we have lots in store for this year.

We proudly now host our third LGBT twelve-step program, which meets regularly in our classroom. Our free wellness and fitness classes will begin soon along with our men's discussion group that starts in February. The Women's Coming Out group begins yet another year in collaboration with Metropolitan Community Church.

February is Black History Month with several programs planned, some in collaboration with the Black History Museum. (That in itself is history.) Local African-American LGBT pioneers will be recognized with discussions about African- American activism, black queer politics as well as workshops addressing the lives of lesbians and transgender people of color.

Diversity Thrift will soon be open six days a week (we're now open five) and a "boutique" area of higher quality merchandise is in the works. Iridian Gallery has an exciting schedule of work by LGBT artists, some nationally recognized.

We estimate that last year more than 10,000 people used our free meeting spaces and attended events here at Diversity Richmond. We continue to work with our partner agencies in helping with clothing for those in need.  Our partnerships with schools and nonprofits where folks with challenges volunteer at the thrift store continue to grow.

None of this is possible without your support and that does not mean only financial backing. We also need bodies.  We need folks to work with special events, governance, programs and helping in the thrift store. If you get in touch with us, we will put you to work and you will make a difference. Let me hear from you, please.

Bill Harrison

We build. We bridge.

I have often written about what I term, a "Diversity Wow Moment." During my tenure here, I have had many. Last week I experienced two the same night.

It was at the recent Iridian Gallery opening of "Bling It Out," an invitational of works by local artists who used Diversity Thrift purchases to create art. The event drew our largest gallery crowd yet, and just about everything sold. The energy in that room was electric. Lots of laughter, hugs and community. It was wonderful to watch.

Then the first "Wow" happened. I introduced myself to a young man who I thought to be an exhibitor. After a few minutes I realized this "young man" was a former ROSMY youth I had met several years prior. He is now a third year art student at VCU and wants to join the gallery committee. He spoke of how inspired he was by Iridian.

Then a few moments later I was introduced by another young artist to his parents. The father shared how thankful he was that his son had found "somewhere he could be himself and grow as an artist."

One by one, we make a difference. We change lives. We build, we bridge.

We work every day at Diversity Richmond to grow as a community center, that place where folks "can be themselves." Be it the transgender support groups, twelve-step programs, any number of community conversations, political candidate forums or times where we have fun and amateur singers compete for cash prizes.

The past year has been a mixed bag. We have celebrated often, mourned together and challenged each other to grow as individuals and as a community. Through all of it, your community center has been ever present.

Our next year will bring new challenges, innovative responses and the need for a truly united community. And once again, your community center will be at the forefront, leading.

Thank you for your continued support. We could never do we what do without you.

Bill Harrison

Pictured: Iridian Gallery steering committee member, Justice Dwight, center, with his parents, Crystal and Rall Elder at Bling it Out!

Hey Toots, we need a party!

Diversity Richmond Celebrates

In April 2015 we launched our rebranding campaign ... new name, new logo, new look, new strategies. We are proud of our accomplishments and want to share them, along with our 2017 plans with you.

Please join us on Tuesday, November 29 at 6:00 PM in our event hall. We'll announce our 2016 grant recipients (we have 14 receiving a total of $30,000), recognize volunteers, organizations and funders who have made a big difference in the community, plus we are giving a couple of lifetime achievement recognitions.

We are also excited that Richmond mayor-elect Levar Stoney will be with us as will Monument City Music, plus lots of good food by Nacho Mama's.

Your community center has been in the middle of so many things this past year. There is cause to celebrate. So we hope to see you on November 29.

None of our good work could have been done without community support. Come be a part of that community and celebrate who you are.

Please let us know that you are coming RSVP.

See you soon!

Bill Harrison

We are community

"Friday night, Diversity Richmond felt like a community center shining in the brightest light -- each other. We usually come together in our darkest hours, but this year we stepped into the comfort of each other. Through our special events such as Scary-oke,  All Americans and The Big OH, we are proving, time and time again, that we can come together to shine as we did Friday night"

~ Brian Harrison, Diversity Richmond Board Member

Some nonprofits shy away from special events. They require lots of work. Quite often, if one takes the profit made and divides it by the number of hours worked, the balance sheet is one-sided.

But, more happens with special events than raising money. A successful event also builds community. No better examples of such than the three events we orchestrated in the last few months. All did more than raise much needed money.

At Diversity Richmond, we strive to be a true community center, a place where people can come and be themselves. A place that is a safe haven for our community, be it at large events or simply when committees, theater companies, communities of faith or support groups need space for meetings, they know all they need do is call.

We also work to set good examples for the rest of the world as to what the LGBTQ community is all about.

I had one of my "Diversity Moments" at Scary-oke. As I sat there and watched people dance, many of them being twenty-somethings and many being allies, I thought, "Wow. Look at what we have created. Our community is out there having a blast, celebrating life. They could be anywhere else, but they choose to be here."

We are "getting there," but most every day we realize yet another unmet need, or we have an idea that will make our community stronger. Can you help us? Your community needs you.

Bill Harrison

Nationally recognized LGBTQ historians address Richmond crowd

Dr. Richard Godbeer of Virginia Commonwealth University and Dr. Marc Stein of San Francisco State University were well received at Diversity Richmond's recent community conversation about LGBT history. Both are nationally recognized authorities on the subject and shared fascinating stories of our civil rights pioneers and how society treated LGBT people, even as far back as the 1600's.

This program was the first in a series that Diversity Richmond will sponsor addressing our history. For more information, contact Rodney Lofton.

LGBTQ historian pics

Left: Big crowd filled The Iridian Gallery for the talk; Center: (L-R) Dr. Marc Stein and
Dr. Richard Godbeer; Right: Dr. Lauranett Lee, Beth Marschak, Bob Swisher,
Dr. Marc Stein, Dr. Ravi Perry & Dr. Richard Godbeer

Thanks again, Ryland

As I have shared numerous times in my letters to you, every so often we experience a significant moment here at Diversity Richmond. Last Sunday we experienced a moment that will live with me forever. Many of us knew Ryland Roane, the well-respected HIV/AIDS educator who had earned a national reputation for his ability to humanize HIV-disease while helping others learn how to live with dignity and hope. Ryland died August 13 from leukemia after only a few days of illness.

Ryland's mother chose to have his memorial service at Diversity Richmond and we were humbled and honored. Last Sunday a large gathering of folks came together to celebrate Ryland's life and a true celebration it was. Co-workers, family and childhood friends shared fond and sometimes humorous memories of a man who touched and changed the lives of countless numbers of people.

His pastor, the Rev. Dr. A. Lincoln James spoke lovingly about a man he called friend. If I have ever heard music by angels, it was Sunday. The Trinity Baptist Church choir sent messages above that all is right with the world.

As I sat in the back of the room, I thought, "Even from the grave, he works his stuff." The hall was filled with hundreds of people who had never ever imagined being at Diversity Richmond. But once, again, Ryland Roane bridged the gap and brought us all together as one, as community.

My words fail, but Sunday was yet another signal to me that Diversity Richmond is on the right path. Sometimes we mess up, but our good work and efforts to build and support a community, one of inclusion and justice, is what we are all about.

Thanks, again. Ryland. Once again you did what you do best. You helped us see the good in us.

Godspeed.

Bill Harrison

Your support means everything. Donate online or mail a check to 1407 Sherwood Avenue, Richmond, Va. 23220. Thank you, thank you!

Diversity Richmond offers $30,000 in grant funding

Over $900,000 distributed since 1999

As I sit in my office and type, I am listening to the beautiful music of the choir of a community of faith that meets in our building on Sundays. I am reminded once again of the strength and gentleness of our community. We can overcome anything. We have often proven that. We need to remember.

What more appropriate surroundings than this to share that our 2016 funding cycle includes $30,000 available to local LGBT, LGBT-friendly nonprofits. And, for the first time in our history, individuals are eligible for financial backing. For several years, people have approached us for the funding of terrific ideas, but our allocations were only for nonprofit organizations. This year we changed the rules.

And a big thank you to our board, volunteers, staff, and of course, our financial donors for making these funds possible. Since 1999, we have distributed over $900,000 back into our community.

Another way we help the community is by supplying free meeting space for nonprofits. It appears 2016 will be the biggest year yet for folks using the building.

To apply and for more information, click here for all the details.

This has been an exciting and challenging year for our community, on both national and local levels. What better way to end our year than awarding grants to fund ideas and programs that benefit our community.

We could not do this without you. Thank you for making so much good possible.

Bill Harrison

We never know when we'll never see each other again

Last Saturday I was at the car wash when I received a phone call that one of my best friends had died in his sleep the night before. We had been friends a long time, both coming from the same small hometown. Later in our lives, we learned we were both gay. Our friendship grew and although for the past few years, we did not see each other as often, when we did meet, it was like we had never parted.

I share this story as it was once again a lesson that life is brief, but more than that, we never ever know when we are seeing people for the last time. As LGBT folks, many of us know what being alone is all about. Sometimes our friends are much more connected to us than our blood kin. That is nothing unique to LGBT people, but I think we may possibly create our own families more than our straight counterparts.

I also share this as my temperament, my patience, my disposition is not always, shall we say, as pleasant as it should be. I could blame it on age or the pressures of life, but I recall years ago a friend gave me a door mat as a gift that stated, "Go Away." I need to do better. And maybe some of the folks reading this letter could take a look in the mirror, too.

There is more than enough bad stuff aimed at us from our enemies. We don't need to hurl any from inside our community. So, I am going to try and remember that every time I speak to someone, do I want that to be the impression that I leave them with...forever.

How about if we find ourselves ready to snap at somebody, that we close our mouths and take deep breaths? I'll let you know how that goes. It's new for me, too.

Best,

Bill Harrison

Your support means everything. Donate online or mail a check to 1407 Sherwood Avenue, Richmond, Va. 23220. Thank you, thank you!

Mapping the future in the here-and-now

Our new board chair, Art Toth, and I recently met to discuss Diversity Richmond's future. Our latest strategic plan objectives have been accomplished so it's time to map out what we hope to accomplish in the next few years.

Much has been realized within the last four years. We first conducted a needs assessment to learn what our community liked and also where we needed to improve. We rebranded, changed our name and made major alterations to our building, inside and out.

We enlarged the thrift store, reinvigorated our grants program, bought a new thrift store truck, and had a record number of folks use our free meeting rooms for committees, rehearsals, prayers and fundraisers.

We are very proud of our art gallery, The Iridian Gallery at Diversity Richmond, one of the few in the nation solely dedicated to LGBT artists. Our event hall was the place where 2,000 of our community gathered for strength as we remembered our brothers and sisters who were murdered in Orlando.

Because of our grants and other means of working towards a stronger community, we were honored by the Richmond Chapter of the Association of Professional Fundraisers with the "Foundation Philanthropist of the Year Award," the first time an LGBT organization had been recognized.

We continue to share free clothing with those in need and every Monday we work with kids living with disabilities as they volunteer in our store. More recently we've celebrated with two beer/food truck events, bringing lots of new folks into the Diversity family.

We have big plans and announcements that we will share soon. We are very excited and just wanted you to know that all this is made possible by you ... our community. Thank you.

Best,

Bill Harrison

If you would like to help support the work we do at Diversity Richmond, please consider volunteering or making a cash donation -- mail a check to 1407 Sherwood Avenue, Richmond, Va. 23220, or donate online. Every little bit helps!

Diversity Richmond Newsletter

Email(*)
Please let us know your email address.

First Name(*)
Please let us know your name.