Rodney Lofton named Diversity Richmond Deputy Director

“A true history maker in his own right”

Lofton at Diversity RichmondLittle did Rodney Lofton know when he joined the Diversity Richmond Board of Directors a few years ago where that move would take him. At that time Rodney was executive director of The Renewal Projects, an organization that conducted retreats for people living with HIV/AIDS. Due to a decrease in funding, the organization closed its doors.

During that same time, the program coordinator for Diversity Richmond moved out of state. Diversity’s Bill Harrison asked Rodney if he would fill in until a permanent replacement had been found. “Well, that was one of the best decisions I have made since I came here,” laughed Bill. “I knew Rodney was a good catch and was so taken with his vision of what this place could become. So I asked him if he’d take the job. Thankfully the answer was yes.”

Since that time Rodney has accomplished much. So much, in fact, that he was recently named deputy director. Rodney is the first African American to be hired to a senior level position at Diversity Richmond, a history- maker in his own right.

One of his accomplishments that Diversity is quite proud of is the concept of and the orchestration of Black LGBT History Month last February. The recognitions included a gala where African American LGBT leaders were recognized for their contributions; a series of community conversations at the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia as well as forums held at Diversity Richmond. The partnership with the Black History Museum is believed to be the first such in the nation.

“We had hoped to have at least 50 people attend the gala,” said Bill. “We had over 200. It was one of the most powerful evenings I have seen at Diversity. We had so many people here who had never been to Diversity before.”

“Rodney is one of the best things that has ever happened to Diversity,” shared Board Chair, Art Toth. “In such a short period of time, he has tremendously grown our outreach. His vision enhances ours. He is a true team player and a leader.”

Rodney has a national reputation as an HIV/AIDS educator and has authored two books. He is a prolific speaker and can address most any LGBT issue. Rodney and his husband, Faron, live in Richmond’s Northside. He may be contacted at or 622-4646, ext. 203.

Community Supported Prints benefits Diversity Richmond

Community Supported PrintsCommunity Supported Prints produces limited edition works for the express purpose of benefitting non-profits that fight the good fight -- and sometimes lose -- on a daily basis. Their current offering benefits Diversity Richmond, and is available until Sept. 13.

Created and designed by Richmond based artist, Brooke Inman, this etching is hand-printed on Hahnemühle Copperplate paper. Entitled "Celebrate Diversity," each print is signed and numbered by the artist. JUST $35! Would make a great gift.

Get it here.

One way to help LGBTQ Texans

LGBTQ Hurricane Harvey Disaster Relief Fund

The catastrophic and historic impact of Hurricane Harvey will be felt by the LGBTQ community of Houston, Texas for a long time to come. You can help LGBTQ community members displaced by the storm today by giving to the LGBTQ Disaster Relief Fund, managed by the Montrose Center - Houston's LGBTQ counseling and community center serving Houston for 39 years. With more than 35,000 clients in core programs, they are already learning of staff and community members who have lost everything.

The LGBTQ Disaster Relief Fund will be used to help individuals and families begin to rebuild their lives through counseling, case management, direct assistance with shelf stable food, furniture, housing and more. The Center's dedicated case management team is on call to help homeless youth, seniors, people living with HIV, hate crime survivors, and those devastated by the storm.

Diversity Richmond welcomes two dynamic board members

Former Richmond Police LGBT Liaison Odetta Johnson and Local Communication Director, Domenick Casuccio

We are proud to announce two new Diversity Richmond Board members, Odetta Johnson and Domenick Casuccio. Both are well known respected leaders and we look forward to working with them as the community benefits through their leadership.

Odetta is a former Chief of Police for North Carolina University where she was in charge of campus safety and emergency management for a student body of over 8,500. Prior to serving at NCCU, she served on administrative leave from Richmond Police at Virginia Union University as the Interim Chief of Police. During her service with Richmond she also was the first LGBT Police Liaison in the Richmond Metropolitan Area. She retired with the rank of Major. Odetta also held the rank of Captain, leading a staff of more than 120 employees. She served the Richmond Police for 25 years.

Domenick has served on our programs committee and brings much experience in the areas of marketing, communications and media. He has already been instrumental in fundraising for Diversity, serving as a consultant for our recent Day of Giving. Domenick is a Director of Communications for the American Cancer Society.

Prior, he was the Director of Public Relations and Marketing at The Valentine. One of his many accomplishments while there was leading The Valentine in a comprehensive social media and marketing effort that significantly increased visibility and memberships. He also led the museum in completing a major renovation of their main galleries and the campaign for the opening of the newly remodeled space.

It is easy to see why we are so excited to have both Odetta and Domenick as a part of the Diversity Richmond family.

Richmond task force to establish a Human Rights Commission

Richmond City Council established a Task Force on the Establishment of a Human Rights Commission to evaluate the need for and scope of a Human Rights Commission. Please use the survey below to indicate your experiences in the City of Richmond within the past five years. The survey will be open for through September 21, 2017. Your responses are appreciated and will assist the Commission in their efforts. Any questions, please contact .

Take the survey

VA Pride is more than just Pridefest

Every September, VA Pride hosts a massive outdoor festival called Pridefest that features entertainment, activities, vendors, speakers and Youth Pride Village. Last year, Pridefest was attended by an estimated 30,000 people, making it one of the largest one-day events in our region. And we are hard at work to ensure that this year’s festival will be bigger and better than ever.

But, VA Pride, the organization, has made a concerted effort to expand its role in the community beyond a one-day event. Our board has adopted the philosophy that Pride should be more than just a festival. It should be a feeling that our LGBTQ community should have all year long. Our community should be proud of who they are, where they live and what they contribute to our society.

This year, we embarked on an ambitious campaign to host more events, to increase our visibility and to support the work of our community partners in new and exciting ways. Between April and the festival in September, VA Pride will have hosted or supported more than two-dozen LGBTQ community events. We partnered with Richmond Triangle Players to bring Coco Peru to town who performed her act to a sold-out house. We hosted a Memorial Day cookout at Babes. We’ve partned with Quirk Rooftop to host a bi-weekly happy hour to bring people together. We’ve worked with our friends at Hardywood, Ardent and Center of the Universe to create fun and unique events at their facilities and will sponsor events at Barcode, Godfrey’s and Babes leading up to the festival. Information on upcoming events can be found at www.vapride.org/events.

We sponsored “Nerve-Stories of Queer Resilience” with the Virginia Anti-Violence Project and helped fund transportation to the March for Equality in Washington with Diversity Richmond.

VA Pride has also stepped up to be a voice for the LGBTQ community in the media, offering perspective, balance and accurate information in the ever-changing landscape of the fight for equality. We’ve been featured in local news broadcasts and in multiple features in the Richmond Times Dispatch. For the first time ever, we worked with GayRVA to produce a summer edition of the Pride Guide that contained features on members of our community, news about events and explored issues of race, gender and sexual orientation. We also maintain an active social media presence with some 10,000 followers to stay connected to our community to help those in our community stay connected to each other.

As VA Pride grows, both as a festival and an organization, there are more opportunities — and a greater need — for our community to get involved in what we do. We welcome volunteers to serve on committees to help plan Pridefest, support events and to help with marketing and community outreach. And, of course, we need hundreds of volunteers to help make Pridefest a success on September 23. IF you’d like to get involved, please visit www.vapride.org/volunteer.

VA Pride is of our community, for our community. Live Free. Live Proud. And we’ll see you on Saturday, September 23!

PRIDE Scholarship applications due Sept. 8

VA PrideVirginia Pride’s Board of Directors is proud to assist members of the LGBTQ community and their friends, family and supporters with the expenses of post-high school education. Since 2013, their total scholarship allotment has grown from $1,000 to $8,000, thanks to the generosity of their Scholarship Sponsor! Scholarships will be awarded to the recipients onstage at VA PrideFest 2017 on Sept. 23, to be used as reimbursement for educational expenditures incurred during the 2017-2018 school year.

Get the application here

Governor McAuliffe recognizes Pride month for last time

Governor McAuliffe recognizes Pride

Once again, Governor Terry McAuliffe, in recognition of Pride Month, hosted the LGBT community at the Executive Mansion. McAuliffe is the first Virginia governor to hold recognitions in honor of the annual celebration.

Attendees from across the commonwealth were greeted by the Governor who thanked everyone for their support over the last four years. The Governor has been a staunch supporter of marriage equality and nondiscrimination measures that protect LGBT people.

Governor McAuliffe also recognized Equality Virginia and their executive director, James Parrish for the outstanding leadership that has been a major force in legislative progress as well as helping stop bad bills from becoming law. Virginia Pride president James Milner presented a gift on behalf of all Virginia pride festival organizers to Governor and Mrs. McAuliffe.

About 150 people attended the reception.

Pictured above: (L-R) Side By Side Director, Ted Lewis; Diversity Board Chair, Art Toth; Governor McAuliffe; Diversity Richmond Director, Bill Harrison and Nationz Executive Director, Zakia McKensey

Governor McAuliffe recogizes Pride month for last time

Left: Gov. McAuliffe and Equality Virginia Director, James Parrish. Right: Virginia Pride President James Millner (far right) and other festival organizers from across the commonwealth recognized Gov. and Mrs. McAuliffe for their on-going support.

Diversity Richmond launches five year strategic plan

Responsible nonprofits stay in touch with their communities. The needs and expectations of the public change and nonprofits must keep up or will become obsolete.

As busy as this place is, it’s difficult to imagine Diversity Richmond becoming outdated, but we take our responsibilities seriously. For the past several months we have been laying the groundwork, setting priorities for our next five years and are now mapping the next steps.

Over the last few years our workload has grown tremendously. For example, through a grant from Altria, we are battling homelessness in the LGBTQ community. Through referrals of partner agencies we are helping people who are facing dire circumstances, only because they are LGBTQ.

We continually look for ways to help. None of this work could be done without community support. Thank you for your ongoing allegiance to bringing about a fuller community of justice.

DR Board of Directors

Diversity Richmond Board of Directors (L-R) Jean Segner, treasurer; Beth Marschak, past chair; Crystal Suber, vice chair; Art Toth, chair; Cheezi Farmer, secretary. (Back L-R) Michael-Birch Pierce, Ayana Obika, Keri Abrams, Robyn Deane, Ray Green*, Brian Harrison and Robyn Bentley.
*After several years of service, Ray Green recently retired from the board.

Diversity Richmond partners with University of Richmond and The Valentine

DR partners UR Valentine

Recording HIV/AIDS Richmond history

For several months, The Valentine has been working on an upcoming exhibit, Pandemic, addressing epidemics that have affected Richmonders. The project will include the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the impact that the disease had on our city. The HIV companion piece, HIV@RVA is being produced by the University of Richmond, through the leadership of Professor Laura Browder. The main voices of HIV/AIDS prevention campaigns during the height of the epidemic were of white gay men. People of color rarely saw their faces on posters and public service announcements or in any media form. As an end result, many people became infected because the lack of effective outreach. HIV@RVA will address the fact that the stories of people of color living with HIV-disease have gone untold, unnoticed and unappreciated. While much of the project work is being donated, Diversity Richmond donated $1,500 as start-up funds. “This is an incredibly important project,” stated Diversity Director, Bill Harrison. “We have a moral obligation to have a fuller story told and we are honored to play a role in this.”

Pictured: Diversity Richmond Deputy Director, Rodney Lofton presents a $1,500 check to University of Richmond professor and curator of HIV@RVA, Laura Browder for HIV/AIDS history project

Diversity Thrift donation lands in North Carolina museum

DT donation NC museum

While recently processing thrift store donations, store manager, Ava Entzinger came across a pocket-sized photograph album. Entitled “Grandma’s Favorites,” the owner’s name was inscribed along with the note,” These precious photos are my valued treasures.” The grandmother’s name, Reidsville, North Carolina address and phone number were listed in case the album was ever lost.
 
So we did a little research and located the address on-line. The home looks vacant, but it’s a charming two story house with lots of shrubs and trees. It was easy to picture the grandmother on the porch or working in her garden.

We contacted the Museum and Archives of Rockingham in Reidsville and they are elated to add the album to their collections.  The Museum’s Jordan Rossi wrote, “As a county museum we emphasize genealogy and frequently offer genealogy consultations. Photographs are especially meaningful to people researching their families. We are excited to add this.”

Connections like these are not unusual at Diversity Thrift, but with this particular donation, there is a happy ending as it will be safely preserved forever.

LGBT Southerners are not invisible

LGBT Institute Survey 2017

The LGBT Institute at the Center for Civil and Human Rights has partnered with Georgia State University to conduct an anonymous, volunteer research study of LGBTQ people in the South. Dozens of community and grassroots organizations and individuals are helping spread the word. Diversity Richmond is one of them, and we hope you’ll join us.

You can take the Survey here. We know the South is under attack most often when it comes to anti-LGBTQ legislation and physical violence, even though more LGBTQ people live in the South than anywhere else in the country. And, compared to all LGBT funding, the South received little for research.

This survey aims to help fill this gap, and ensure our stories are told. Solid research is an important tool that helps us tell our stories and dismantle discriminatory systems. The need for this survey has become even more urgent as LGBTQ people are being erased from policy and research: LGBTQ questions from the National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants (NSOAAP) and the upcoming 2020 United States Census are gone. This survey make clear: our lives and our experiences will not be erased. Please join Diversity Richmond in taking and promoting the survey.

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