New Richmond Police Chief pledges continued support of LGBT Community

Chief Smith RPD

A recent meeting with the new Richmond Police Chief, Colonel William C. Smith, left four local LGBT leaders feeling good about our community’s relationship with the city police force. Well acquainted with our community, Chief Smith shared his vision of total support and an understanding of our challenges such as the murder rate of transgender people. He pledged complete fairness and stressed that he wants to know of any concerns or complaints that our community may have about his team.

Pictured are James Millner of VAPride; Chief Smith; Cheezie Farmer of Women of Essence and Diversity Richmond; Zakia McKensey of Nationz Foundation and Bill Harrison of Diversity Richmond. The group presented Chief Smith with a framed photo of him being sworn in as chief.

The Heart Behind Diversity: A spotlight on the amazing staff of Diversity Richmond

Ava Volunteer Spotlight

Our first spotlight shines on Ava, a Diversity Thrift manager. Ava has been with Diversity Richmond for 14 years.

“My role is to be dedicated in the work I do, including managing and being a good leader for Diversity Richmond (DR),” shared Ava. “I exemplify this by accepting new tasks, learning and growing with the organization, being consistent, and doing whatever I can to make DR better. I also see my role as getting to know the customers, what they like or how their day was and ensuring that they leave happy.”

Many of our customers look for Ava as soon as they arrive at the store. “Over the years I have gotten to know the customers and they have become like family…we inspire and support one another in life’s challenges.”

Ava learned of D.R. through a program with OAR, a non-profit that helps individuals acquire second chances. “I was incarcerated for 6 months and had been an addict for 32 years. Participating in OAR gave me the hope to get back into working and I had to be self-willing to change. I remember seeing the signs and the rainbow building from across the highway and thinking maybe one day I can work there, so when OAR said there was a position available, I was excited to take it.”

Ava’s life plan is simple: “Love everybody, do not be judgmental, and no hatred.” Looking back over her years of service at D.R., Ava says, “I have gained a team with great leadership. I have gained teaching myself the importance of believing in myself and knowing that I can do it. The opportunity to bring new, creative ideas to DR be more successful—in turn lifting others through their work.”

“Knowing that today I can be honest, respectful, and loyal to myself—which allows me to offer this to other people as well. Humanity and their ability to be kind, compassionate, selfless, and uplift fairness. My strong belief system and knowing that God Almighty has seen and will see me through my trials and tribulations. Knowing that God would not have given me anything I cannot handle and God has equipped me for everything, including burying my only son—a Chief Officer in the Navy.”

“If we all win, I win because we are all here together. I always build others up and don’t tear them down because it takes less energy to be nice and kind than mean and hateful.”

~ John Bowles, VCU Intern

Richmond’s “Men’s Sunday Social Hour” Meets the Needs of Many

Keith WattsWhile needing a safe place to talk about and share our experiences is something that many of us seek, social spaces, such as bar or club, that many of us frequent may not be the most comfortable space to do so. That is why several months ago Diversity Richmond established the “Men’s Sunday Social Hour.”

The group is led by Keith J. Watts, a Ph.D. candidate in Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Social Work. Keith is a recent transplant to Richmond, but he has quickly embraced us as his own. His welcoming personality and his understanding of being a gay man and the isolation and challenges that many of us face have made him a much-appreciated volunteer.

“I am no stranger to the marginalization that so many of us experience within our community and that is what makes the culture of inclusivity that clearly exists at Diversity Richmond so remarkable. Living up to its name, I have connected with folks from all walks of life through this organization, and that alone has provided me with opportunities to access the relationships, mentorship and support that were crucial to me feeling affirmed and at home in Richmond,” shared Keith.

“Men’s Social Group,” is an opportunity for gay men of any age to connect with others who may share similar experiences and who are looking for support and comradery. If you are interested in attending or have questions, please contact Keith at

The Men’s Sunday Social Hour meets at 4:15-6:15 P.M. every 2nd and 4th Sunday of the month at Diversity Richmond, 1407 Sherwood Avenue, 23220 in the classroom, door # 2.

Diversity Richmond Program Coordinator Job Posting

We Are HiringDiversity Richmond Mission: To the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community, their families, friends and allies, Diversity Richmond is a catalyst, a voice, a place and a resource that enriches and champions our diverse community, because we aspire for a vibrant inclusive Richmond where inequality does not exist.

Summary/Objective The Program Coordinator serves as a resource for Central Virginia’s LGBTQ+ members and communities and works collaboratively with community partners and board committees to support the mission of Diversity Richmond. This position coordinates our inclusion and racial equity programs such as our annual Black History/Pride events, Hispanic Heritage Month and VA Pride. They provide programming, training, outreach and education in the Greater Richmond area; assists community members and staff who access the services of Diversity Richmond; coordinates outreach programming and help to connect people with resources and referrals. Maintains donor data base.

Essential Qualifications
A minimum of three years nonprofit experience;
Knowledge of issues as related to LGBTQ+ people including, but not limited to, gender identity, sexual orientation, and the intersections of other identities;
Thorough knowledge of racial equity issues especially within the LGBTQ community;
Ability to juggle different projects simultaneously, with accuracy, follow-through, and timely completion;
Excellent communication skills to express ideas clearly and concisely both verbally and in writing;
Ability to recognize and protect confidential information in handling sensitive situations;
Ability to take initiative, problem solve and work independently with good judgment about seeking direction;
Ability to work some evenings and weekends outside of regular business hours as needed;
Bachelor’s degree required and experience in LGBTQ advocacy.
Position Type/Expected Hours of Work: Full time.
Compensation: Competitive salary, health insurance, paid vacation.

Application Process
Please submit resume and cover letter to by September 1, 2019 No phone calls, please. Email confirmation of receipt will follow. Diversity Richmond is an equal opportunity employer.

Building community, one building at a time: Margaret Freund

“Successful communities promote inclusivity. We need to stop only surrounding ourselves with people who are like us.”

Margaret FreundI have faced many challenges during my tenure at Diversity Richmond, but explaining Margaret Freund in a few paragraphs is impossible. Whether you’ve met her or not, if you have traveled the streets of Richmond, you’ve seen her work. For years, Margaret has played a major role in saving and restoring old buildings, but she does much more than that. One of the very few women working in this realm, she specializes in adaptive reuse, while bringing new life into neighborhoods.

Ever eaten at Bottom’s Up Pizza? Then say, “Thank you, Margaret” as renovating that building – before the Flood Wall -- was her first commercial project. Since that time, she has developed about 20 other properties in Richmond, including Canal Crossing, Haxall View Lofts, Lava Lofts and Lady Byrd Hat.

While Margaret is clearly a gifted visionary and a history maker, what impresses me the most is her commitment to inclusion and diversity. Her properties may vary in style, age and location, but they are connected with a common thread that she espouses, that of having a social conscience.

After completing law school, but deciding she did not want to practice, Margaret played in a band that rehearsed in the dilapidated basement of east end’s former Robert S. Fulton Elementary School. When the school’s owner died, Margaret pursued buying the building. “Back then, I was a house painter by day,” she laughed. “The school already had a few artists’ studios and I wanted to keep it that way.” While many developers would have demolished the school, Margaret saw how the beauty of a 1917 building could be transformed. And we thank her for that.

Since that time, Fulton Hill Studios has been the home of numerous creatives who have relished the original charm of the building, such as the woodwork, high ceilings, terrazzo hallways and slate classroom blackboards. And now, Margaret’s amazing vision is bringing another new life to the school.

Surrounded by 100-year-old trees, the newly renovated building will include a 3,000-square foot gym, art gallery, café, a ceramic studio and a market, in addition to art studios and live-work spaces.

Next door to Fulton Hill Studios is Margaret’s most recent project that overlooks the city skyline, Rocketts Landing and the James River. Artisan Hill Apartment Community has significantly changed the landscape of Greater Fulton, and all for the better. The beautiful neighborhood replaced an abandoned field that attracted unsavory behaviors and had become a dumping ground for trash. She built a new field, with lights, for the community to use.

“We had full support of the neighborhood residents, who also wanted to create more community. “My work on Artisan Hill addresses three areas,” she shared. “Creativity and art; health and wellness; and giving back to the community. Greater Fulton has always been a special neighborhood, and I want to keep this the diverse, inclusive community it’s always been.” Margaret lives in the legacy building with her partner of 8 years and their pets.

~ Bill Harrison

Why Margaret Supports Diversity Richmond

Margaret appreciates the work of Diversity Richmond because she well remembers growing up in a Richmond where inclusion was not looked upon as good. “What happens at Diversity Richmond is phenomenal. When I was young there was no place to go, no one to talk too,” she shared. “The number one thing that Diversity Richmond does is provide opportunities for people to better understand their own journeys as LGBTQ people. Having support can help people make better choices for themselves. It can be so good to be validated.”

Margaret Freund is CEO of Fulton Hill Properties, developer for Artisan Hill Apartment Community and Gold Sponsor for All Americans.

Artisan Hill Apartment Community

Artisan Hill collage

Artisan Hill photos by Chris Cunningham

Pride month activities in Carytown

Carytown Pride

Lots going on as the Carytown Merchants Association celebrates Pride Month. On Saturday, June 29th, a mini-Pride Festival will take place in the space behind AlterNatives Boutique, 3320 West Cary Street.

There will be fun music, face painting, informational booths, entertainment and a parade! The activities begin at 1:00 P.M. with the parade stepping off at 1:30.

Many Carytown businesses are sporting Pride-themed windows and are collecting funds for Diversity Richmond. We will be there along with several other organizations. We hope you will, too.

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Mongrel rallies for our community ... again

Mongrel staff

Mongrel is donating 10% of their Saturday, June 29th sales to Diversity Richmond!

Mongrel Logo

When Mongrel was founded in 1991 as “Cards, Cards, Cards,” the business was one the first openly-gay owned establishments in Carytown. Since that time the store has supported countless LGBT projects such as the OutRVA campaign coordinated by Richmond Region Tourism, in an effort to promote Richmond as a welcoming, safe destination for LGBT travelers.

So it was not a surprise that Mongrel quickly jumped on board to support the Carytown Pride celebrations. The award-winning shop has become a Carytown mainstay. Whenever you’re in Mongrel, be prepared to laugh as the cards bring out the best in all of us. Unique gifts and Richmond-themed products abound. Visit www.mongrelrva.com.

AlterNatives taking lead in Pride celebration

AlterNatives GuadalupeAlterNatives is an excellent example of what makes Carytown so special.

Locally owned, the store’s mission is based on the values of founder, Guadalupe Ramires who is working for social justice for Indigenous peoples. “In my culture, weaving is a sacred art. Many of our patterns are from a dream state. We dream the pattern and then we weave it.”

The store is bursting with color and is beautifully filled with ethically sourced weavings, clothing, jewelry and home decor. AlterNatives is also coordinating much of the Pride Festival that will be held on Saturday, June 29th in the parking lot behind their store. Located at 3117 West Cary, AlterNatives is a great place for the unique, meaningful gift for a friend or for oneself. Founder Guadalupe Ramirez’s vision is the basis of the AlterNative mission. Check out their web site AlterNativesBoutique.

AlterNatives Katherine

AlterNative employee Katherine Saint Clair Campbell loves Diversity Richmond and is excited about raising funds.

Bombshell big supporter of our community

Bombshell logo

I had seen the big pink building a million times, and knew it was a “hair place” called Bombshell, but that was about the extent of it. Boy, was I in for a surprise. It’s much, much more. It’s a place where we learn how to feel better about our bodies and just maybe fulfill a fantasy or two about things we’d always wanted to do, but were afraid to pursue. Fear no more, Bombshell is here.

From the moment one calls to make an appointment or to just explore the services offered, you are made comfortable. Are you a man (or woman) who has thought about having those eyebrows sculptured, a tanned body, unwanted hair removed or a waxing near those very personal areas to surprise a lover or to just enjoy yourself? The phone number is 342-0051. The rates are more than reasonable.

Drop by and explore. They will welcome you lovingly. Tell them Diversity Richmond sent you. Visit Bombshell.

Bombshell staff

The staff of Bombshell loves helping us love our bodies. They are donating sales proceeds of locally made skincare products to Diversity Richmond.

Chop Suey Books loves Diversity Richmond

Chop Suey Books

Seventeen years old, Chop Suey Books moved to Carytown a few years ago as did its huge following. The website says the store carries “gently used literature about art, photography, architecture, design, philosophy, poetry, film and the like.” The warm and friendly atmosphere welcomes visitors who love books or who need a special gift for someone who does. The store is located at 2913 West Cary Street, across from the Byrd.

Chop Suey Ward

Chop Suey owner Ward Tefft says, “Diversity Thrift is the only Richmond thrift that puts such a big percentage of sales back into the community.”

Thank you, Dr. Lisa Griffin

Lisa Griffin

Dr. Lisa Griffin is a well-known and respected clinical psychologist who works with gender-diverse children and their families at Pride Inside, a collective she founded, located in Carytown. Lisa has been instrumental in coordinating Carytown’s Pride celebrations. A more than well-known figure in our community, Lisa’s dedication has enabled countless numbers of children and their families to create a safe and healthy environment where both youth and parents are nurtured. Thank you, Lisa! 

Ladles and Linens Kitchen Shoppe

LadiesAndLinensLogo

“It’s always a kitchen party and everyone’s invited”

Yet another example of why Carytown is loved. Founded 22 years ago as a small shop in Lexington, Ladles and Linens is now also located in Roanoke and Richmond. If you are into kitchens and/or cooking on any level, you must visit Ladles. The staff stays ahead of cooking, baking, bar and food trends and offers such a wide array of things we love. Those impossible to find gadgets or that wonderfully unique gift will be found here, we promise.

Don’t wait for the holidays to visit and when you are there, thank them for being such responsible corporate citizens. Located at 3016 West Cary, check out their website.

Ladles and Linens staff

Store manager, Rachel, obviously loves her work at Ladles. Great customer service is the norm.

Ladle watermelons

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