Shawn SmithDiversity Richmond is a volunteer led organization with our Board of Directors at the helm. As we continue to get through this pandemic together, Diversity Richmond will shed a light on our wonderful board members that make our work possible. In the coming months we will ask board members some questions so our community can better know our board. This month’s feature is Shawn Smith.

1. How did you first become aware of Diversity Richmond, and what led you to join the board?
I first became aware of Diversity by seeing the building from the interstate as I drove by. The brightly colored façade was very visible and eye catching from the highway. I then attending a Richmond History Maker’s Event where former Asst. Director, Rodney Lofton was being honored. He and I met and connected and after some conversations, he asked if I’d be interested in becoming a board member. After further conversations with Rodney and Bill Harrison, I agreed and was elected to the board.

2. What responsibilities do you have on the board, and what contributions have you made?
Because of my background in event production and management, I serve as the chair of the Events Committee. This committee oversees Diversity’s key annual events which include All Americans, Scary-Okey and Drag Bingo. I’ve also participated in the annual Black and Bold Awards and the annual Scholarship awards event. All of this in addition to contributing to Diversity as a donor and attending monthly board meetings.

3. How many years have you served on the board?
I’ve served on the board of Diversity for 2 years.

4. What is your favorite thing about Diversity Richmond and the greater LGBTQ+ community as a whole?
My favorite thing about the Diversity is the community of acceptance. Diversity works hard to ensure that the space is inclusive and inviting. While it is not perfect in reaching all people, the team is willing to look at itself and it’s faults and seeks ways to improve. In addition, it is an organization that doesn’t sit on the sideline when there is a need. Diversity’s leadership is always anxious and ready to give when a need arises. There is little bureaucracy which allows the organization to react with immediacy to help those within the community in ways that is both tangible and meaningful.

5. What do you like most about volunteering and why do you do it?
I volunteer because I enjoy giving back. I’m passionate about helping people find purpose in their lives as well as helping them take small steps in self-discovering that leads them to a better existence built on better relationships. I find that volunteering and connecting myself to larger communities helps me to put my own life, gifts and purpose into perspective. It’s self-discovery for me as well.

6. What’s something or a fun fact about you that not many people know?
Many people don’t know that I am a former, State Champion gymnast. I did gymnastics all through high school, coached gymnastics in college. I still tumble here and there 😊

7. What are some things you are doing for self-care right now?
I’m typically a weightlifter. I love to go to the gym as a way of staying in shape. Unfortunately, the gyms are closed as result of the COVID Pandemic. Therefore, I’ve taken up running. I hate running, but it’s a way to get out and maintain my physical health in these unusual times. I’m grateful for the opportunity to run, but I’ll be glad when the gym reopens.

8. What’s the best advice you have received and who gave it to you?
As a high school student, I was pretty clear on the fact that I wanted to go to college. As a first-generation college student, I wasn’t clear on what I would do when I got there or what I would do when I got out. I had a friend in college with whom I was discussing my post college plans, or lack thereof. I was a bit distressed about what I wanted to do and she asked “What would you do if you knew you would not fail?” Once I gave her a sincere answer, she then stated, “Great, then go after it as if you’re going to be successful, because the only way to fail at it is not to try.” This advice changed my entire perspective on life and my future. I was afraid to try many things simply for fear of failure, thus limiting my entire future. From that point forward, I tried everything I was interested in. Some things I found out I didn’t like and quit, other things I discovered I loved and was good at and continued to pursue. From that advice, I can honestly look back at my life without saying “I wish I had…” I live with no regrets and unfulfilled wishes.