$30,000 now available through 2018 Grants Program

We are pleased to announce that through this year’s grants program, $30,000 is available to local LGBTQ and LGBTQ-friendly 501(c)3 nonprofits. What would your organization do with extra funds? Put on your thinking caps and let us hear how we can help you address our community’s unmet needs.

Deadline for applications is
Monday, November 5, 2018 by 4:00 P.M.

Click on this link to download the application

Every day at Diversity Richmond we strive to build a stronger community and our annual grants program is one way we pursue that goal. Since 1999 we have given about $1Million to local community organizations. This is made possible by Diversity Thrift proceeds, special event revenues and our financial donors who support our work.

Click on the link above to complete the application. We look forward to hearing from you.

To support Diversity Richmond, donate by credit card here or mail checks to Diversity Richmond, 1407 Sherwood Avenue, Richmond, VA 23220.

There should be a law requiring everyone to learn the Matthew Sheperd story

RTP Laramie 080w

The Richmond Triangle Players theater was packed to overflowing recently as we paid homage to the teenage boy who was brutally beaten and nailed to a fence because he was gay. While that happened 20 years ago, his story needs to be told now more than ever.

Present at RTP that morning was an array of political and community leaders, but the two people who could share the Matthew Sheperd story better than anyone were his parents, Judy and Dennis. The horrors of Matthew’s death, as shared by his mother, could easily happen to any number of people. Hate and prejudice knows no boundaries, be it race, religion, gender or any other means of difference. Since their son’s murder, the Sheperds have turned horror into healing by making hate crimes their lifelong campaign.

Richmond Triangle Players is soon producing “The Laramie Project,” the powerful production that tells Matthew’s story. It should be required for every LGBTQ person to attend. Our history is easy to forget, and our present state of affairs is also easy for some to ignore and that is a deadly thing.

Thank you Richmond Triangle Players. Your vision and leadership is an excellent example of the beauty and strength of our community. Bravo.

Diversity Reflections

Diversity Richmond hosts three weekly LGBTQ AA meetings.

Thursdays – 7:00 pm
Saturdays – 7:00 pm
Sundays: 11:30 am

The meetings are held in the Classroom (door entrance #2). For additional information, please visit www.AARichmond.org

Bisexual Support Group has moved

The Bisexual Support Group now meets at Metropolitan Community Church, 2501 Park Avenue, 23220. The discussion group is open to all people who are attracted to more than one gender. The group meets the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of the month in the Celebration Hall classroom (located in the church’s basement) and run from 7:00– 8:30 P.M.

Second Annual Petersburg Pride

Petersburg Pride

Hurricane Florence couldn’t damper the excitement in the air for the 2nd Annual Petersburg Pride Festival, held Sunday, September 16th. With the threat of thunderstorms and torrential downpours, members of the LGBTQ community braved the weather to celebrate Petersburg’s observance of Pride.

Diversity Richmond was proud to be in attendance for this wonderful event, including both past and present board members Crystal Suber, Ayana Obika, Luise “Cheezi” Farmer and Ray Green. The weather may have interrupted the festivities a bit, but Pride was celebrated and enjoyed by all in attendance.

First Baptist Church welcomes LGBT for community conversation

First Baptist

When we received the invitation from a pastor at Richmond’s First Baptist Church to participate in a congregational conversation about the LGBT community, he reassured us that it was in attempt “to have an honest dialogue” … for us not to fear because the invitation was coming from a Baptist Church.

As I entered the room, I was met by a woman who confided that her son was gay and would not attend church because he was told that “God did not love him.” This was causing her obvious pain.

It was emotional at times for all four of the panelist, I think. We each shared our own hurts, victories and those of our LGBT brothers and sisters. If someone has issues with our community it is usually based on religion and discussing those topics in a safe environment is when understanding takes place.

It was a good day. While we were probably “preaching to the choir” as the majority were vocally understanding and supportive, hearts were touched, and stronger bonds were formed.

“What else can we do?” was asked by several members. “Where do we go from here?”

Yes, it was a good day to be in church.

Bill Harrison

Richmond one of seven cities to host National Deadlift fundraiser for LGBTQ orgs

Cassi and HunterRichmond Balance, Väsen Brewing Company and host of volunteers made it possible

As a recent transplant to Richmond, when Cassi Niemann learned of the Women’s Strength Coalition’s mission and their national LGBTQ fundraising efforts through “Pull for Pride,” she immediately knew she wanted to bring the program to her new city. Her first step was to approach Hunter Rhoades, the owner of Richmond Balance, where Cassi trains her clients, and inquire if he would support the efforts. Hunter’s response was an immediate yes. Over the past year, Hunter and Cassi had been working together to create an inclusive and welcoming space within the brick walls of Richmond Balance. Providing people of all ages, genders and capabilities access to a safe space to learn how to get stronger, live longer and start a healthy fitness journey.

With this partnership, it was within a short period of time that they recruited over 50 participants who jumped at the chance to deadlift heavy weight and raise funds for Diversity Richmond and Side By Side. Thanks to the framework set up by the Women’s Strength Coalition, Richmond was now one of seven cities across the country to participate in this event during the month of June.

While we all know that eating healthy and exercise is necessary, visiting a gym is something many of us still shy away from. Or more specifically, entering the barbell area of the gym can seem intimidating to most. Perhaps it’s because it doesn’t seem accessible to everyone or because doing something new and different is daunting. Both Cassi and the Women’s Strength Coalition are aware of this and together with Richmond Balance; it is their goal is to help open the door to everyone. They stand behind the mission of the WSC, which is “Building stronger communities through increased access to strength training and to create a world where everyone has the equal opportunities to express their voice and power.”

To add to that, Cassi says “I want Richmond to be an inclusive and welcoming city that presents itself as strong, both as a community and as individuals. Everyone can be a strength athlete and there should be affirming spaces that allow that for all people.”

In the process of developing this event, Cassi and Hunter reached out to surrounding gyms, fellow strength coaches and local businesses for support and participation. Each contestant paid a registration fee and then was encouraged to enlist friends to pledge financial support as they promised to lift hundreds of pounds.

Tony Giardano, co-founder and Brew Master of Väsen Brewing Company in Scott’s Addition was delighted to donate his brewhouse for the event. Awaken Massage and CrossFit Full Circle both stepped up as local sponsors as well. Thanks to volunteer and local strength coach, Gabby Brost, there were over 40 local businesses who donated raffle prizes, gift cards and funds to help make Pull for Pride a success.

“There were no awards, gender categories, or required attire,” Cassi said. This was unlike any other lifting event and several of the contestants competed with themselves to beat previous deadlift records or enjoyed their first lift in public. Jay Alexander topped the day’s record, amazingly lifting 635 pounds. The Women’s Strength Coalition set out with a modest goal to raise $30,000, and in the end, they brought in $115,000 from the seven different cities. Richmond contributed over $8,000 of that total and as one of the newer cities to be added to the list, Cassi and her team feel pretty satisfied with that.

“We loved it. It was awesome to see so many people doing something they never thought they could do, in front of a supportive audience. I loved getting to know my new city and helping to raise the LGBTQ community’s awareness of welcoming, inclusive spaces in many different gyms - already within their reach. We are definitely hosting the event again next year.”

Watch a video recap of the event here: https://youtu.be/fYcyL2wVEQQ, produced by Johnny Villani and all photography was by Sarah Kane (https://sarahkanephotography.pixieset.com/pullforpride). For more information visit https://womensstrengthcoalition.com or contact Cassi and Hunter at http://www.richmondbalance.com.

GFC RVA - Supporting Gay Fathers in Central Virginia

GFC RVA

Since its founding in 1997, the non-profit organization, Gay Fathers Community of Richmond (GFC RVA), has been a supportive network of gay fathers and their families to share experiences, concerns and successes as alternative families, and the specific issues faced by gay or bisexual fathers.

GFC RVA is celebrating its 21st anniversary of supporting the Richmond LGBT community. The group was started by four men that had become friends through a common bond of coming out as gay fathers. With the help of gay fathers’ groups in Washington, DC and Baltimore, these men planned their first meeting. When they arrived at the church where they were hosting their first meeting, they had no idea how many men would walk through the door. Seven fathers showed up for the first meeting. The following month there were 11 interested dads. Bob Rodgers, one of the GFC Founding members reflects on the start of GFC, “After the first meeting, I realized this would be the beginning of building meaningful connections with men that are going through similar challenges and sharing our stories to offer each other support. The main thing we realized was we were not alone.”

GFC RVA has been welcoming new faces to the group for over 21 years. Membership has now grown to over 100 fathers in Central Virginia. Bob Rodgers continues, “GFC Richmond has been a part of my life for 21 years. It has meant connecting with guys who understand what you are going through. It is a support, networking, learning and social group. GFC meant a great deal to me after my coming out. I have built lifelong friendships and continue to build new ones.”

After the years, the GFC RVA has evolved into a dynamic group of amazing dads that have overcome the many challenges of balancing fatherhood, their professions, and their personal lives as gay men. Over the years, the social, political and legal landscape has evolved for LGBTQ equal rights and gay marriage. Being a gay father is no longer considered a social anomaly, but more of an accepted parenting model and vision of unconditional love.

There are fathers in the GFC RVA that have children from marriages to women. There are fathers that are raising children that were born through surrogacy. There are fathers that have children through adoption. Each story is an incredible testimony of love and commitment to their children, as well as the ability to live their lives authentically and honestly.

The GFC RVA has monthly meetings to provide opportunities for members to socialize as well as meet with community professionals and organizations. There are regular social and family events such as happy hours, theater nights, bowling outings, family hikes, and camping trips. Ongoing community outreach programs and social networking has allowed these fathers to forge life-long friendships. Jason Fair, GFC RVA President states, “This is an amazing group of fathers that are committed to their children and families, their community, and their personal journeys. I am proud to be part of this organization, provide support to gay fathers of Central Virginia, and to help increase awareness and build community connections.”

To celebrate GFC RVA’s 21st anniversary and the kick-off to Virginia Pride, the organization is hosting an event, Corks and Cakes – RVA… Celebrating Community, Diversity and Fatherhood. Sponsors and hosts Barrel Thief Wine Shop and Café, Pearl’s Cupcake Shoppe and Walnut City Winemakers will host guests for a wine tasting of featured wines from the Willamette Valley in Oregon, pairings of gourmet cupcakes from Pearl’s Cupcakes, and live music from Charlottesville acoustical duo, Misty Ridge.

Tickets are sold in advance on Eventbrite: https://corksandcakesrva.eventbrite.com

Date: Wednesday, September 19, 2018 (5:00 PM – 8:00 PM)
Location: Barrel Thief Wine Shop and Café, 5805 Patterson Avenue (Patterson and Libbie), Richmond, VA 23226

Connect with the Gay Fathers Community of Richmond by visiting their website at www.gfcrva.org or by joining their Meetup at http://www.meetup.com/GFCRVA.

Why a Black Pride Festival?

Diversity Richmond is proud to be a sponsor for

Black Pride RVA

Our community is making history with the inaugural Black Pride RVA being held this weekend. Local activists share their thoughts as to why a Black Pride Festival is needed:

BPRVA Lacette CrossThe Rev. Lacette Cross, one of this year’s festival organizers, shared that “Black Pride RVA is a weekend of events. The Saturday Day of Purpose is a festival with a purpose. There will be workshops, HIV testing, health and fitness vendors, entertainers and music. We seek to celebrate, educate and empower through a multidimensional event.”

“It always surprises me when persons ask about the difference in my journey as a Black LGBTQ person and a White LGBTQ person. The question in and of itself overlooks the diversity of our humanity, the intersectionality we all possess and the impact of a white supremacist culture. My journey is different simply because I am the person I am not only because I am Black or I am LGBTQ.”

 

Ayana ObikaAyana Obika shared, “I don’t see Black Pride celebrations as being divisive or separatist. Because they are not exclusive. Just like Richmond’s Que Pasa Festival or the Irish Festival, they are a celebration of the culture and history of a group of people and offer an opportunity for others to learn and appreciate that culture and history.”

“Black Prides offer opportunities for the centering of voices of Black LGBTQ folks which is often missing from traditional Pride Festivals. I believe that the lived experience of Black LGBTQ people is very different than the experience of white LGBTQ people in that not only will a Black LGBTQ person experience discrimination based on sexual orientation, the experience of racially based discrimination is very much an everyday experience to most Black LGBTQ people. I am grateful to the folks who took on the challenge of making this happen in our city.”

 

Zakia McKenseyZakia McKensey believes, “This event is not designed to separate us, but to uplift our communities and use our voices and resilience to celebrate the beauty of Queer People Of Color. The stigma within the African American community related to the LGBTQ community is one that is plagued with violence, compiled levels of discrimination, being ostracized from loved ones and even death in some cases for living your life authentically. Black Pride is a message to our community that we matter and we deserve our place in society to be respected and given a voice to celebrate our diversity.”

 

Jacques MonegainJacques Monegain added, “Enlightenment and education about our differences and similarities would create better understanding.”

 

Meet our new board members

New Board Members 2018

We are pleased to announce four new Diversity Richmond board members. Each will be featured in upcoming newsletters, but we did not want to wait in making our exciting announcement. All have proven tracks records of leadership and will add much to our journey of continued growth.

Margaret Hill, Executive Director of the Hanover Education Foundation and the Business Partnerships Specialist for Hanover County Public Schools; Shawn Smith, Director of Workforce Development, Goodwill Central and Coastal Virginia; Michael Young, Vice President, SunTrust Banks, Inc.; and Kevin W. Allison, Associate Vice President for Strategy and Development with the Office of the President at Virginia Commonwealth University.

“We have invested the last several months in researching exactly who we want and need to take Diversity Richmond to the next level and are very pleased with our success of recruitment thus far,” said Art Toth, Diversity Board Chair. “We still have a few slots to fill and have been much encouraged by the positive responses of the stature of people who want to join.”

Pictured above, from left: Margaret Hill, Shawn Smith, Michael Young and Kevin Allison

"My Journey"

I think we should change "Being in the closet" to "Keeping a straight face"

Jake and I have been emailing for several months. We have never met or spoken. I suggested that he write about his journey as there are others who are in his or similar positions. If you are one of those people and feel comfortable in doing so, email me and I will connect folks for support. All contact info will be held in the strictest confidence. ~ BH

I am in a cascading turmoil I am most definitely a 66 year old gay man, living in southern Maryland, or as I like to say, a 66 year vital gay man. Sadly, I can only live out being gay once in a while. For you see, even in 2018 I am closeted, the epitome of a tiny house. And it is as stifling as if I were claustrophobic. I am not free to stretch my limbs. I am not free to speak my truth. I am not free to be honest and live in my gay energy. I am not free to unabashedly offer my love to another gay man. Yet I crave it so much. I am hungry for the touch of a treasured gay man.

My name is Jake and I am hurting. I am married, actually for almost thirty-five years. I love my wife but I am not in love with her. I love my children and cherish my grandchildren. I wouldn't trade them for anything. At this point in our lives, it's not fair to my family to just leave and climb out of the closet. My wife did not know she was marrying a gay man. How is it fair to make her suffer, especially now, as she is in the last quarter of her life?

So here I am, sometimes in a fetal position begging my higher power for help or at least for relief. I may be older but I am still whole. I have all my parts, although they all don't necessarily function quite the same as when I was 22, but they do function. I too, like you I suppose, have physically sexual feelings. They build up and encompass my whole body and those feelings seek the fulfillment of human touch. Oh sure, I can touch myself, but you know, it's just not the same thing. It doesn't feel complete. So I sacrifice and I suffer in silence and the silence is deafening. And my cry rings out to the universe ... help me! help me! please help me!

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