You Called. We Answered.

Several years ago, to address issues that the local LGBT community had raised about their "Gay Community Foundation," a needs assessment was conducted to find out what was good and areas where we needed to improve. The community responded with vigor and then we began to map out the best ways to meet the needs. Much has happened since.

Our rebranding campaign, new name, marked improvements to the building, expanding Diversity Thrift, reinstatement of our grants program and our extended outreach efforts have dramatically raised the community's awareness of us and our work.

No better example than last week when hundreds of folks gathered to celebrate, "All Americans - A Summer Block Party Celebrating Community Unity." Lots of new faces, parents and kids, lively karaoke singing, music, photos....it was a fun few hours.

As I walked through the crowds I just felt so at peace. Nothing means more to us than to see people claiming 1407 Sherwood Avenue as "theirs." As our board chair, Art Toth shared, "People said that we finally were a real community center."

We will soon begin our next step in long- range strategic planning. We are very proud of how far we have come the last few years and are very excited about new ideas that are being considered.

Please join us in making those aspirations realities. If you have suggestions as to what you would like to see us do, please contact me soon.

Best,

Bill Harrison

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

Thank You New Beginnings Christian Church

The last month has been devastating for humankind. The Orlando, Florida massacre of 49 LGBT people, the deaths of two African-American men killed by law enforcement and the slaughter of five Dallas police officers rattled us all.

On Sunday, July 10th, New Beginnings Christian Church conducted "Prayer Vigil Against Violence" here at Diversity Richmond. It was a powerful hour as people shared their thoughts and feelings about our recent past.

One African-American mother spoke about her deep concern in raising her two boys in today's world. She has had conversations with her children that white parents see no need to have.

Much of the fear and anger expressed by some LGBT people of color in regards to law enforcement and feeling isolated within our own LGBT community may be difficult for white people (such as me) to understand. But we must try. Actually, we must do more than just try.

I do not know all the answers, but I do know that the first place I have to start is with me. If we are going to have conversations about race, we must be able to be honest and transparent without fear of being attacked by opposing views. We must create safe spaces where we can learn from each other. That is the only way we can change anything.

Our community, our entire society actually, is filled with good people. The vast majority of us want justice and fairness. Getting there is the tough part.

New Beginnings set an excellent example of how to build community. I say thank you to Pastor Lacette Cross and her congregation. They helped the healing begin.

Bill Harrison

Pictured left to right are are Evangelist and Diversity Richmond board member, Luise Farmer of MCC; Pastor Lacette Cross of New Beginnings; Pastor Kenny Callaghan of MCC; Pastor Michael Moore of Mt. Vernon Baptist; and the Rev. E. Taylor Doctor, Diversity Richmond board member.

If you would like to help support the work we do at Diversity Richmond, please mail a check to 1407 Sherwood Avenue, Richmond, Va. 23220, or donate online. We can't do any of this without your support.

As We Celebrate America

rainbow candle

Yesterday was July 4th, the official day of celebrating our nation. Last year at this time we were still joyfully reeling because of the Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality. This year we find ourselves mourning the deaths of 49 of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters who were killed in the Orlando massacre. The vast majority were people of color who were celebrating "Latin Night" at the club.

Life is a mixed bag. So is our country. Violence has become so commonplace that we are sometimes numb to the news.

Through the horrors, we cannot forget the good. We have a president who fully supports us and has taken political risks to ensure our rights. In Virginia, we have a governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general who have proven they are our allies. Locally we have senior law enforcement who is working with LGBT organizations to better understand our issues and who have demonstrated their commitment.

This does not mean that there is still not work to do. Dialogue needs to occur within our own communities to ensure that we too are working to ensure that justice prevails. It is very easy to complain. Anyone can do that. Being involved is what brings about change.

In this newsletter, you will find a story about Petty Officer First Class Zachary Corallo who recently addressed other military personnel about serving in the military as an openly gay man. Just one more example of how far we have come.

Meeting people "where they are" and having adult conversations where everyone not only talks, but listens, is key in building community. We have been doing that for years and if we want to maintain our progress, we must continue to educate society, our own community members included.

Diversity Richmond is committed to building an even stronger LGBT community. I invite you to join us.

Bill Harrison

If you would like to help us continue our good work, please mail a check to 1407 Sherwood Avenue, Richmond, Va. 23220, or donate online. We can't do any of this without your support.

There Will Always Be More Love Than Hate

The absolute unimaginable happened on June 12th, when 49 of our brothers and sisters, mostly members of the Orlando, Florida Latin LGBT community, were gunned down by a madman. Theories of his motive abound, with one being that he was a homosexual, fighting inward demons.

About 2,000 people gathered at Diversity Richmond in attendance of a candlelight vigil to recognize the people who were murdered and to begin the process of healing. Words of comfort, encouragement, anger and hope were shared. Candles were lit as names of the dead were read.

The international community responded overwhelmingly. The Eiffel Tower was illuminated in the rainbow colors, as just one example. President Obama ordered flags to fly at half-mast to recognize the victims of the largest mass murder in our nation's history. Hundreds of vigils were held around the country.

None of us can even begin to imagine being in that Orlando nightclub that night, but we all are feeling pain and sadness. We cannot allow people to forget. We have that responsibility, but maybe the best thing to do now is to begin our own healing.

Life can change in a moment's notice. If we heard one common message from most of the vigil speakers, it was that we must love one another. As one person who attended the vigil wrote on a card, "There will always be more love than hate."

Best,

Bill Harrison

If you would like to help us continue our good work, please mail a check to 1407 Sherwood Avenue, Richmond, Va. 23220, or donate online at www.DiversityRichmond.org. We can't do any of this without your support.

Another "Diversity Moment"

I have often shared that, in the midst of working at this hectic place, every once in a while something happens to remind us why we are here. We recently had another "Diversity Moment."

One of our programs that is making a definite difference is one that welcomes school kids on public assistance to shop for free clothing at Diversity Thrift. Last week, several young people from St. Joseph's Villa came to Diversity to shop for prom clothes.

St. Joseph Villa has served the community for more than 180 years. A sampling of their many programs includes assisting homeless mothers and their children, autistic youth and young people who need specialized teaching environments. Every spring, Villa kids are treated to their high school prom. We were delighted to lend a hand in making it a memorable experience.

When trying on her dress, one young woman twirled around with glee. Her joy was contagious as the other girls joined in with laughter and excitement. The young men were a bit more reserved, not allowing anyone to think that they were actually looking forward to a prom!

The staff that was present during the kids' shopping spree looked at each other and smiled. We did not need to speak. We knew what we were feeling. It was once again, yet another reminder of how fortunate we are to be a part of this wonderful place we call Diversity.

Best,

Bill Harrison

Services such as our free clothing program are made possible by the generosity of our supporters. To help, visit www.DiversityRichmond.org or mail a financial contribution to 1407 Sherwood Avenue, 23220.

We have no fear, as we have ROSMY

ROSMY

Diversity Richmond serves many purposes, with one being a resource for referrals. People call us every day looking for help. We hate it when there is a need that cannot be met. One area that we never fear making a referral is when a young person or a parent is seeking guidance in regards to sexual orientation or gender identity. We have no fear, as we have ROSMY.

ROSMY is celebrating 25 years in service to our community's youth and their families. Be it a 24-hour telephone information line, support groups or outreach and trainings for schools, ROSMY has been on the forefront for a quarter of a century in being there when no one else was. There is no way to even begin to estimate how many lives ROSMY has saved. Twenty-five years of youth testimonies can attest to that fact.

Many of us have often lamented the circumstance that there was no ROSMY for us when we were growing up. But, we have a ROSMY now and for that we can be thankful. ROSMY has allowed many adults the opportunities to give back and make a difference.

Thank you to all the good folks who made that courageous commitment years ago to be there for our young people. Thank you to everyone who supported this phenomenal organization over the years and to those who are there today, ensuring a safe and welcoming place for young people, many who have been disowned by their parents.

We are a good people. Our enemies will not defeat us and no better proof of our strength, our goodness and our fortitude than ROSMY.

Best,

Bill Harrison
President and Executive Director

Diversity Richmond continues to strengthen communities

Several years ago when we conducted our needs assessment, a study that helped us look at our strengths and weaknesses, one area was made clear by the participants' responses. People looked to us as a "unifier." We took that charge seriously and vowed to become an even stronger catalyst to get things done ... to bring positive change ... to promote justice and to advocate for fairness.

No better example of our good work than the recent meeting we hosted to address the needs of LGBT refugees. Several weeks ago we were contacted by Beni Dedieu Luzau, of the LGBTI Caucus of the Refugee Congress, as he needed an organization to host a community conversation about the atrocities that are committed against LGBTI people in other nations and their plights as they seek safety in places such as the United States. LGBT refugees are already trying to call the Richmond area their home and they need our help.

About 40 people attended, representing school systems, civic and social service agencies, communities of faith and immigration programs. Mr. Luzau gave vivid accounts of the violence committed against our sisters and brothers in other nations. For those fortunate enough to escape and make it to the United States, their needs are still overwhelming. Language and cultural barriers and lack of financial assets are but a few of the challenges they face. He shared that their biggest concerns were "something to eat, a place to sleep and clothes to wear."

While our community still faces challenges, none of us can even begin to imagine being jailed for life or even put to death for being LGBT. The program was an eye-opener for us. The meeting was the first step in bridging our community as we face yet another challenge.

"Being a catalyst to get things done" is what we do every day. We can only continue that charge with the community's support." Please consider donating online or by mailing a check to 1407 Sherwood Avenue, Richmond, Va. 23220. All donations are tax deductible.

Best,

Bill Harrison
President and Executive Director

Photo courtesy GAYRVA.com

Making history right here on Sherwood Avenue

A year ago we launched our rebranding campaign, with a new name being a central focus. Much has happened since. The exterior of our building is undergoing a make-over, we expanded our thrift store, enhanced our event hall and reached more people through our programs than ever before.

We relaunched our art space, giving it the new name of Iridian Gallery at Diversity Richmond. The gallery made history, being the first in the south to feature only LGBT artists and LGBT focused work. Our exhibits have garnered rave reviews.

We have made great progress in addressing homelessness among LGBT people. We are training CARITAS volunteers on transgender inclusive policies and are developing two of the first statewide webinars to eliminate barriers for transgender people accessing homeless services. This is being done through collaboration with the Fan Free Clinic, the Department of Housing and Community Development, VCU and Equality Virginia. Again, making history.

Our monthly radio program on WRIR 97.3 FM has reached a huge audience in discussing issues that face our community.

Having every meeting room in our building nightly booked is almost a regular occurrence. We are very proud that an LGBT Alcoholic Anonymous and a Narcotics Anonymous group now meet here weekly. One more indication that we are on the right track as a community center.

None of this work could be done without the support of our financial contributors, thrift store shoppers and donors, bingo players, dedicated board members, committee volunteers and a phenomenal staff. Thank you for supporting us and I hope you celebrate the roles you have made in "making history."

Bill Harrison
President and Executive Director

Diversity Richmond could use your support. Make a donation online or mail a check to 1407 Sherwood Avenue, Richmond, Va. 23220. All contributions are tax deductible.

North Carolina, Georgia and God

Every civil rights movement experiences occasional setbacks. We had one recently in North Carolina when the legislative branch killed all LGBT protective measures in the state. Many of those who voted in favor of the legal discrimination would tell you that is how God wanted them to vote. Many bad things have been done in the name of religion. It could have been worse. At least they did not kill anyone. Killings in the name of God have left many blood stains in our history books.

Several years ago a friend of mine was superintendent of schools in a southwestern Virginia locale. He led the charge in changing the name of the school football team from the "Confederates." A mother visited him and shared that she had spoken with God the night before and God wanted the name to remain. My friend told the parent that he had actually spoken with God that morning and God had changed his mind. If only the North Carolina issue could be that simple.

North Carolina is now facing much outrage due to their decision. Corporations are expressing anger as they have long been creating atmospheres of fairness and have no tolerance for bigotry. The LGBT community and allies are now suing the state. We hope they win big.

Ironically, a few days following the North Carolina decision, the Republican governor of Georgia vetoed a similar measure that had been passed by his legislators. This is even more proof that we cannot label people due to their political party affiliation when it comes to our movement and civil rights. Good people come in all sorts of packages and associations. We must reach out to all.

Many lessons learned these past few days with one being that our fight is far from over. We will prevail because truth and justice in on our side. Some might even say that God is.

Bill Harrison
President and Executive Director

Diversity Richmond could use your support. Make a donation online or mail a check to 1407 Sherwood Avenue, Richmond, Va. 23220. All contributions are tax deductible.

We must keep creating conversation opportunities

Diversity Richmond hosted a reception and community conversation for newly appointed Richmond City Police LGBTQ Liaison, Captain Angela Greene.

I recently had breakfast with a colleague and we spent quite a while discussing our community. When the topic of our recent police reception came up, she shared with me that there were a number of people in the crowd that night who had not had favorable experiences with law enforcement, but who attended anyway. They were there to ask questions and begin the process of building trust.

Our community is a diverse one, to say the least. Our journeys vary, and as different as each may be, we all have one thing in common. We all know what it is like to live in fear of the possible repercussions of being honest about who we are. Some people have faced much harsher judgements than others, but our pains and pasts can unite us.

And as my colleague also shared, those who do not look upon law enforcement favorably rarely have the opportunity to share their thoughts and feelings with police officers in a safe environment. So, she added, "We need to continue to create those conversation opportunities." And we shall.

Through the hectic pace of the day-to-day management of this wonderful place we call Diversity Richmond, we sometimes get vivid reminders of why we are here. Our police community conversation was such a reminder. And we will continue, with your help, building bridges, fighting injustices and battling ignorance.

Thank you for your on-going support.
Bill Harrison
President and Executive Director

To support the work of Diversity Richmond, make a donation or volunteer through www.DiversityRichmond.org or mail a check to 1407 Sherwood Avenue, Richmond, Va. 23220. All contributions are tax deductible.

Diversity Richmond hosted a reception and community conversation for newly appointed Richmond City Police LGBTQ Liaison, Captain Angela Greene. Capt. Greene and Chief Alfred Durham are ever-present within our community and are working to ensure that all citizens are treated fairly.

Positive proof that things are changing for the better

If there is any population of our community that faces hardcore, bigoted, legal discrimination, it is transgender men and women. However, our faith in justice was restored recently when a Richmond transgender woman was fired due to her sexual identity and was not only later re-hired, but the manager who fired her was terminated.

Georgia Carter was hired by a local Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant, but after returning home from the interview she received a phone call from KFC telling her she did not have the job due to her being transgender, citing bathroom concerns. Word spread about her situation following an interview with WRIC TV 8.

When corporate KFC learned of the incident, they contacted Ms. Carter, offered her an immediate position with any local KFC and then fired the employee who terminated her job. KFC stated the manager was terminated "for violating the franchisee's anti-discrimination policy which is inclusive of gender identity and sexual orientation." KFC is also conducting training at the restaurant "to keep this from happening again."

As we know, certain Virginia legislators do not believe that this sort of thing happens — therefore no need for legal protection. What happened to Ms. Carter is perfectly legal in Virginia. It is only because of the responsible corporate leadership of Kentucky Fried Chicken that justice prevailed. Virginia law was actually on the side of the employee who fired Ms. Carter.

Thank you, Georgia Carter, for standing up for transgender people -- actually for all people who face injustices. And thank you, Kentucky Fried Chicken, for being on the right side. You are a corporate example to follow. Too bad certain Virginia politicos are not on your payroll.

Sincerely,

Bill Harrison
President and Executive Director