Diversity Richmond and Virginia Pride to merge

Stronger Together

Two of Richmond’s leading LGBTQ organizations will increase impact in Richmond Region

Diversity Richmond and Virginia Pride, two of the Richmond Region’s leading LGBTQ organizations, announced today that they plan to merge effective April 1st As a program of Diversity Richmond, Virginia Pride will continue to produce its signature event, PrideFest, as well as other events that support the LGBTQ community. Events and activities will continue to be guided by a diverse committee of volunteers who will have the support of a full-time, paid Program Director. By joining forces, the organizations will make an even bigger, positive impact on the LGBTQ community and better fulfill their complementary missions.

The merger comes after years of significant growth of Virginia Pride and Diversity Richmond. Since 2015, Virginia Pride’s budget has increased by 500 percent and its impact through events and advocacy has increased substantially, straining its all-volunteer structure. The merger with Diversity Richmond will provide additional staff resources and organizational infrastructure that will support continued growth, increase community impact, and sustain the work of VA Pride for years to come.

“Virginia Pride enters into this merger with Diversity Richmond at a time when both organizations are thriving,” said President Stephanie Merlo. “In recent years, Virginia Pride has experienced exponential growth of our events, including an annual PrideFest that attracts more than 40,000 people, and has seen the significant impact of our advocacy efforts to make the Richmond region a better place for LGBTQ people to live, work and visit. Merging with Diversity Richmond will ensure we continue to build on our legacy of success.”

Diversity Richmond has also grown in recent years and is recognized as a hub for Richmond’s LGBTQ community. In a normal year, the organization hosts numerous events, provides meeting space for non-profits, since 1999 has provided more than $1.1 Million in grants and serves as a voice for the LGBTQ community. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Diversity Richmond has held three food drives, helping over 1,800 families, served as a COVID testing site for the Virginia Department of Health and hosted press conferences with Governor Ralph Northam and Richmond Mayor, Levar Stoney.

“By joining forces with Virginia Pride, we hope to take one and one and make three,” said Diversity Richmond Board President, Luise “Cheezi” Farmer. “We are confident that this merger will amplify the impact of the work of our organizations and allow us to better serve not just the LGBTQ community, but the entire Richmond Region.”

The organizations began exploring a merger in 2019. The process was guided by professional non-profit consultants, attorneys and overseen by the boards of directors of both organizations. Community stakeholders were also consulted to ensure there would be support for combining the two organizations.

“I think it’s great that Virginia Pride and Diversity Richmond are merging,” said Zakia McKensey, Founder of Nationz Foundation. “They are two of the most visible and respected LGBTQ organizations in Richmond and I think that our community will be very well served by them working together.”

Capital One has been a major corporate contributor to Virginia Pride for more than 10 years, ranking as its top donor in 2018 and 2019.

“Capital One is proud of our decade-long partnership with Virginia Pride and honored to be a part of their work to support the LGBTQ community,” said George Abbott, Managing Vice President at Capital One. “Richmond is a better place because of Virginia Pride. We look forward to continuing our support and hope this new association with Diversity Richmond will create even more impact for the community.”

Virginia Pride will help boost Diversity Richmond’s event planning and fundraising capacities, creating synergy between its programs and current roster of donors and corporate partners and the work of Diversity Richmond.

“Since its incorporation as a non-profit in 2006, Virginia Pride has been led entirely by volunteers all of whom have regular, full-time jobs,” said Virginia Pride interim executive director, James Millner, who will transition to the role of Program Director once the merger is complete. “This new structure will allow our volunteer leadership to have the support of full-time staff and will ensure that we are able to continue to produce the fantastic events and provide the support to our community that we are known for.”

“I remember when the first pride festival was held in Richmond 42 years ago when 75 people attended,” said Bill Harrison, President and Executive Director of Diversity Richmond. “If you had told me then that one day we would have 40,000 people at Pridefest, I’d have laughed. But, here we are. What Virginia Pride has accomplished as an all-volunteer organization is astonishing to me. Diversity Richmond is honored that we have this opportunity to provide the support they need to continue their incredible trajectory.”

The boards of directors of both organizations have approved the merger plan. Virginia Pride will submit the merger plan to its voting membership for approval at a meeting on March 22. The merger will become official as of April 1, 2021.

About Diversity Richmond:
Founded in 1999, Diversity Richmond is a catalyst, a voice, a place and a resource for Richmond’s LGBTQ community. Since 1999, the organization has returned more than $1.1 million in grants to community-based organizations serving the Richmond region.

About Virginia Pride:
Virginia Pride was incorporated as a non-profit organization in 2006 and today works to make the Richmond Region a better place for LGBTQ people to live, work and visit. Its all-volunteer Board of Directors engages in LGBTQ community advocacy and produces dozens of events including an annual Pridefest that is attended by more than 40,000 people. It is supported by some of the region’s most recognizable companies including Capitol One, CarMax, Altria and Wells Fargo and national sponsors Nissan North America, Tito’s Handmade Vodka and Jack Daniel’s.

Pictured above: James Millner, Stephanie Merlo, Luise “Cheezi” Farmer, and Bill Harrison.

Black and Bold 2021

As we celebrate historical leaders and abolitionists that resurface each February and commemorate other Black leaders who have transformed America, each in their own profound way, let us also continue honor those in our community today who deserve their accolades.

Black History Month gives us opportunity to have well-intentional conversations about the contributions and accomplishments of Black folks. Recognizable names are talked about for their writings and how they speak truth to their Black experience. It is always about slavery abolition or the civil rights movement in the 1960s, important parts of our history. But it's never about an aspect of Blackness just as important - our LGBTQ history.

Despite being part of the LGBTQ community, the experience of prominent Black figures in history is often relegated to just their Blackness, reducing their lives to a single aspect that minimizes their struggles and accomplishments. Many famous names like authors James Baldwin and Lorraine Hansberry are discussed without once mentioning their sexuality.

Also, other notable Black members of the LGBTQ community include Langston Hughes, Little Richard, Audre Lorde, Alice Walker, Miss Major and Angela Davis. All are incredibly important names in both their art and the civil rights movement, but this pattern of erasing aspects of their gender identity has largely gone unnoticed.

So, as we honor the experiences of our LGBTQIA+ community, Diversity Richmond, in its fifth year, celebrates the Black and Bold Awards. These awards honor the Black leaders in our community who have created change. Each person recognized this year has their own personal journey that has contributed to conservations about Black representation, identity, and diversity in our community today.

Luise "Cheezi" Farmer
Board Chair, Diversity Richmond

Two new shows at Iridian Gallery thru Feb. 20

IG Cartwheels In LR

Pictured above from “Cartwheels in the Living Room” by Eric Anthony Berdis and Braxton Congrove. Pictured below from "Imminent Peril - Queer Collection” by Erika Diamond. Photo and video tours of each exhibition and a podcast interview with Erika Diamond available online

IG Imminent Peril

Black & Bold RVA Save the Date! February 28th

Black and Bold RVA

Save The Date! February 28th

Please save the date and register here to join Diversity Richmond for our 5th annual Black and Bold Awards to honor Black LGBTQ+ leadership throughout the Greater Richmond community on Sunday, February 28th at 6pm. The event will be held virtually in partnership with Radio One and will be streamed simultaneously on the iPower Richmond and Diversity Richmond Facebook pages. The honorees will be celebrated with in-person receptions in the future once deemed safe.

This year the event will virtually honor four community members by celebrating their achievements and advocacy throughout the Black LGBTQ+ community. “Even with the challenges of the pandemic, these honorees have persevered and shown exemplary leadership. We are thankful for their profound contributions,” said Diversity Richmond Program Coordinator Evan Smith (they/them). Former Deputy Director of Diversity Richmond and founder of the Black and Bold Awards, Rodney Lofton (he/him), will serve as the keynote speaker.

BBRVA Rodney Lofton

Keynote Speaker Rodney Lofton (he/him)

BBRVA Charleen Baylor

Honoree Charleen Baylor (she/her) has a 30-year history of community service and volunteering. She owns the local restaurant, Nutty Buttery, a staple in the Richmond community. Despite the financial challenges of the pandemic, Charleen continues to build community through her endeavors.

BBRVA Stephanie Merlo

Honoree Stephanie Merlo (she/her) is a military veteran and advocate. She is the President of VA Pride and the Richmond Chapter Leader of Minority Veterans Association of America. In June 2020, she led Stonewall Rising, a LGBTQ March for Black Lives. Her work also empowers sexual abuse survivors.

BBRVA Ernest Charles

Honoree Ernest Charles (he/him) is the MA Clinical Training Manager at Health Brigade. His work has been integral to ensuring COVID testing and healthcare have been more accessible for Black and Brown communities which have been disproportionately impacted.

BBRVA Destini Joseph-Barnette

Honoree Destini Joseph-Barnette (she/her) is a member of Advocates for Richmond Youth, which supports youth experiencing homelessness. Her anti-racist initiatives in the community continue to advance the opportunities for Black LGBTQ+ youth and promote trans-affirming shelter practices.

ipower

 

Diversity Thrift donors made hundreds of masks possible

DT masks Jan 2021

Over the last few months, Diversity Thrift has donated fabric to countless folks making facial masks. One of those good people (thank you, Karen) dropped off a few samples of her handiwork for our staff. Pictured are Ava, Michael, Thomas and Andrew wearing their new COVID protections. This was made possible by our wonderful thrift donors. Again, we say thank you!

Holiday Food drive this Saturday!

food drive 2020 gift

Please help us spread the word

Diversity Richmond stockings are overflowing with goodness and we need everyone to help us share the bounty. Our third food drive this year is Saturday, December 19, from 9:00 till 11:30 A.M. Folks will drive through our parking lot (Sherwood Avenue entrance) and have their car trunks filled with a week’s supply of groceries.

“The drive is open to everyone who is facing food needs,” stated Diversity Richmond Board Chair, Luise Farmer. “This has been a difficult year for everyone and Diversity Richmond wants to help.”

This could never be possible without the tremendous support of FeedMore. Once again, they are providing thousands of pounds of fresh vegetables along with frozen chickens and hams. Dovin Property Management, Diamonds Direct and Mongrel are also sponsoring the drive along with Diversity Richmond donors.

“We hope to help at least 500 families,” shared Farmer. Our past two drives have been very successful as we anticipate this one being.”

We will be accepting donations until December 17th. If you have any questions, contact Raul Cantu at or (804) 678-8138

Donate to the Food Drive

Thank you for supporting Twelve Days of Giving

12 Days Of Giving

BREAKTHRU BEVERAGE’s gift of $2,500 Put us over the top!

Thank you to everyone who donated to our Twelve Days of Giving campaign. Our sponsors, Lewis Insurance, Treehouse Realty and Wanda Fears made a $5,000 match possible. The donation from Breakthru Beverage of $2,500 bounced us over the top. Final numbers are being calculated, but because of our community, we succeeded. The funds will be used to continue the many needed programs of Diversity Richmond.

Breakthru Beverage

Your gift shopping can support Diversity Richmond Programs

Amazon Smile. You shop. Amazon gives.

Did you know that you can support Diversity Richmond when shopping on Amazon? Click the link below to have your purchases go towards our cause! Your support allows us to provide services and resources to the community. Services such a our food drives which have provided hundreds of families with free groceries, our financial assistance program for LGBTQ individuals facing homelessness and the donation of our facilities to individuals and organizations in need of free meeting or event space. Diversity Richmond is committed to doing our part as our communities persevere through a difficult time.

Shop Amazon Smile

Diversity Thrift is hiring for two positions!

DiversityThrift truck

Cashier

Shifts are 8:30-6, three days a week guaranteed.
- 2+ years cash handling experience
- Lift 20-30 pounds
- Excellent customer service skills
- Must be able to stand and walk for 8+ hours a day
- Thrive in a fast-paced environment. Pay starts at $11/hour

Donation Processing/Floor Associate

This position is in our warehouse. If you like to stay busy and have great customer service skills, this is for you!
Responsibilities:
- Assisting customers in loading and unloading donations
- Processing donations and trash efficiently
- Lifting and moving furniture 50+ pounds
- Keeping the store clean and safe
- Part time benefits include PTO. Pay starts at $11/hour

To apply please send your resume to
You can also drop in for more information or to apply

New Thrift Store Hours!
Tuesday - Sunday 9 am - 5 pm
Donations Daily
Follow us on facebook for store updates

Twelve Days of Giving Almost at Goal!

12 Days of Giving

Our annual end-of-the year campaign is a huge boost as we plan next year’s work. Thanks to our sponsors, we have a $5,000 challenge, meaning every dollar donated up to $5,000 will be matched. We are just about at 50% of that goal. Can you help us help our community?

Make a Donation

Bling it Out 3! Art Auction

Bling It Out 3

Online bidding Dec. 10th thru 17th

You're invited to Iridian Gallery's biannual fundraiser auction Bling it Out 3!
36 artists have been given access to select items from Diversity Thrift to transform into brilliant new pieces of art. This work will debut at Iridian on December 10th from 6-9pm and will be immediately available to bid on our Instagram account.

All bidding will take place from Thurs., Dec. 10th at 6pm until Thurs., Dec. 17th at 12 noon EST at www.instagram.com/iridiangallery. Winning bidders will be contacted to arrange payment. Artwork needs to be picked up in person Dec 19-20. If you'd like to inquire about shipping, please contact before bidding.

The gallery is open to the public Tuesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Please contact with any questions.

Introduction To Pilates

Introduction to Pilates

Wed., Dec. 9th 6:00 p.m.
Diversity Richmond Event Hall

Diversity Richmond and Niche Fit Studio are joining together to bring a Health and Wellness class to our Richmond community. This is the first of several planned classes throughout the year to bring us together safely.

In the intro class, you will learn correct form, alignment, modifications, terminology and more from certified instructors at Niche Pilates Studio.

There is a strict 25 person limit for the in-person class in our 13,000 square foot event hall - but it will also be streamed live on Twitch!

Register here

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