Board of Directors

Art Toth, Chair

Owner, La Grande Dame

Local businessman, Art Toth, was looking for ways to give back to the community when he researched the Gay Community Center of Richmond. His extensive career in retail was a perfect match with some of the needs of the GCCR board. “We were elated to learn that Art was interested in being on board. We’ve only had one meeting, but it’s already clear what an asset he will be,” said board chair, Beth Marshak.

After graduating from Michigan State University with a degree in Mathematics and Science, Art was associated with J.L. Hudson Department Store. He then moved to Richmond, becoming a Miller and Rhoads associate, with his final position there being a Vice President. He later joined Thalhimers as a Vice President. When May Company bought Thalhimers, he was offered positions, but would have to leave Richmond which he did not want to do.

After considerable thought he took a leap of faith and opened la Grand Dame. That was 21 years ago with his long list of clientele reaching miles outside of the Capital City. “I wanted to give back in some way and my experience in retail, finance, marketing….it’s what I do every day,” he shared. “There are energetic, talented people on the board and I look forward to working with all of them. The Center has a bright future and we will work together so it can achieve its fullest potential.”

Art serves on the Richmond Business Alliance Leadership Committee.

Keri Abrams, Program Committee

KeriOriginally from Akron Ohio, Keri’s family moved to Richmond when she was very young. Life in her early days seemed fairly normal except with constant feelings of confusion on her gender. Keri graduated from Hermitage High School and attended Virginia Tech where she majored in architecture.

After leaving college, amongst a major economic downturn, she decided to forgo her career in architecture and instead pursued a career as a motorcycle mechanic. Motorcycles had been a passion for a very long time.

In the spring of 2010, she came out to herself and the world as a transgender female and started her transition to the woman she is today. Keri quickly became involved in the transgender community and has had the opportunity to run  transgender specific programing at a local non-profit. She has been a youth facilitator at ROSMY and a lead facilitator in James River Transgender Society, a local support group.

She has also participated on many LGBT discussion panels, college classes, and has given educational presentations to area businesses. In 2015 Keri was named one of Equality Virginia's OutStanding Virginians.  She has continued working with EV where she is currently a member of the Equality Virginia Transgender Speakers Bureau.

Keri is very honored to be named to the Board of Diversity Richmond, where she hopes to continue, and further the work that has already been started to be more inclusive to hers and many other minority communities.

Robyn Bentley

Owner, Feng Shui Diva

Robyn was a teenage DJ and one of the first females on the air in Virginia. In 1979 she put the needle on the record and began a 20 year radio career in her senior year of high school. Robyn graduated from VCU with a BS in Mass Communications / Advertising. She spent her days as an announcer and promotions director, creating contests for you to “listen and win!” You may remember hearing her locally in Richmond on Q94, Power93, 93Lazer, or EZ104. Robyn also worked in Greensboro where she volunteered with the Triad Health Project on the AIDS Memorial Quilt display at the Greensboro Coliseum in ‘94. In Philadelphia she served on the board of directors for PrideFest America and volunteered for the Philadelphia AIDS Fund as the “Ball Girl” at its GayBingo! monthly fundraiser.

In 1999 Robyn hung up her headphones, got certified in feng shui, and launched her new career as Feng Shui Diva®. In 2004 she published her first book Creating A Haven: Simple Steps For A Healthy and Nurturing Home and launched her YouTube channel which has over 300,000 views to date. When she’s not working to help folks get the balance right, she spends her time volunteering for her favorite organizations: The Baby Girl Project, Election Protection, Equality Virginia, and Planned Parenthood. Robyn is the past chair of Central Virginia SAGE and an AARP Diversity Team Advisor representing Diversity Richmond.

Michael Birch-Pierce, Iridian Gallery Vice-chair

Michael-BirchOur newest board member is Michael Birch-Pierce. Michael is a fiber artist and assistant professor of Fashion Design at Virginia Commonwealth University. He received a BFA in Fashion Design from VCU and studied at the Savannah College of Art and Design for an MFA in Fibers. He has designed embellishment for Diane von Furstenburg and was lead stylist on André Leon Talley's Little Black Dress costume exhibition in Savannah and Paris. Michael has completed artist residencies in Hong Kong and Lacoste, France and his work has been exhibited in numerous galleries and museums, including the White House, Design/Miami, and Quirk Gallery.

He is the recipient of the 2016 Pollak Prize in Applied Arts. The newly elected Vice Chair of the Iridian Gallery at Diversity Richmond steering Committee, Michael has been an active member since its inception. He curated the exhibition, "Manufactured Faces, Performative Spaces" in 2015 and emceed the successful 2016 Bling it Out silent auction.

Domenick Casuccio

CasuccioOne of our newest board members is Domenick Casuccio. A Marketing Communications Director with more than 15 years’ experience, a few of his many talents include expertise in developing and implementing strategic marketing and branding efforts, managing public relations efforts and handling media relations in the non-profit healthcare industry and the arts and cultural community.

In May 2017, Domenick accepted his new role as the Director of Communications for the American Cancer Society focused on the Richmond and Virginia Beach markets. Prior to this role, Domenick was the Director of Public Relations and Marketing at The Valentine in Richmond, Va. In his first year at The Valentine, Domenick led a comprehensive social media and marketing effort that increased visitation, visibility, and memberships for the museum and its programs and tours. In addition to marketing, he facilitated and planned successful events like Richmond History Makers, Community Conversations, Secret Garden Party and numerous exhibition openings that have had record-breaking attendance for the museum. Recently, Domenick led the staff at The Valentine in completing a major renovation of their main galleries and the campaign for the opening of the newly remodeled space. He also collaboratively worked with VCU Brandcenter, Altria Group, and Elevation Advertising to lead The Valentine through a name change and re-branding.

Prior to The Valentine, Domenick served as the Regional Communications and Marketing Director for the American Cancer Society - South Atlantic Division, overseeing public relations strategies, marketing campaigns, social media initiatives and media partnerships for Virginia and West Virginia.

He received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism specializing in Public Relations from West Virginia University. Domenick completed the Leadership Metro Richmond Quest Program and graduated in June 2016.

Obviously Domenick is a welcomed addition to our Diversity team and we know we will benefit from his leadership.

Robyn Deane, Finance Committee

The Home Depot

Robyn Deane’s professional experience includes a 4-Year degree from Penn State, many years of professional selling, some medical practice consulting, management, and even some administration. Underpinning Robyn’s work has been a desire to be of value facilitated by a passion for communication. In Robyn’s own words:

“Who am I and why am I here? That has been a lifelong question and, interestingly enough, within that question you’ll also find the answer. I am a person that has lived most of her life as a ‘him’ behaving in way and living my life as the perceived consensus of the rest of the world would suggest I should have so done. From that experience has come one of the values that I cherish most and one that hopefully is rumbling around within the lives of three fantastic children, my own, that I’ve been a party to raising and, as well, the lives of as many people as I can corner into a conversation: “Question everything; make a wake!” Restated in stuffier terms, it would be to challenge the status quo and then make a difference. To that end, I am a person that has found her voice and is now continually searching for the next forum.

The basics of my personal experience are not all that different with the probable exception that over a period of many years, I have developed a set of skills and evolved as a person in a social environment far more hostile than most people would dare imagine. As I said in April of 2010 at a VCU rally, when I came out as not only a heterosexual male-to-female transsexual in transition, but as the former brother-in-law to the Commonwealth of Virginia’s present governor: I don’t wake up in the morning worried about who I am; rather, I worry more about the angst felt by those that are bothered by my presence in their world. I’ve learned to pray for those that bring me the greatest angst and to love them unconditionally.

I try to make at least one person’s life better for having been touched by me. I don’t know who it will be or need to know that I’ve done it; I need only treat each person as if they are the one!”

Luise Farmer, Secretary

LuiseLuise Farmer joined our board in 2016. Better known as “Cheezi,” she has been an active member of the Richmond LGBT community for years. Cheezi is very active with Metropolitan Community Church Richmond and serves as the congregation’s vice moderator. She is also a leader in “Women of Essence,” an organization dedicated to bringing attention to the impact that breast cancer has on the African American community.

Brian Harrison, Special Events and Fundraising Committee

Brian Harrison

A Richmond native, Brian Harrison left RVA as a young adult and recently returned with a new vigor to assume leadership positions in the LGBT community. He is in the Business Analyst/Project Manager profession with Suntrust Mortgage after spending more than 20 years in the financial industry at both large and small firms. He is a major player in the Suntrust LGBTA Teammate Network and has already scheduled a Diversity Richmond presentation for its members.

Brian has spent the last fifteen years doing grassroots fundraising in Richmond and the Washington, D.C. area, where he served on the board of Brother, Help Thyself. We are very excited about the leadership that Brian brings to our board.

Odetta Johnson

OdettaFormer Chief of Police for North Carolina Central University (NCCU) where she was in charge of campus safety and emergency management for a student population of over 8,500 and a Campus Police Staff of 54 employees. Prior to her appointment at NCCU, Johnson served on administrative leave from Richmond Police at Virginia Union University, as the Interim Chief of Police in charge of campus police for the private, historically black university with a student population of about 1,900 students and directed a Campus Police staff of 16 sworn and civilian employees.

In her Richmond Police capacity, Chief Johnson held the rank of Police Major where she served the department as the Chief of Staff and LGBTQ Liaison. She retired from the Richmond (VA) Police Department on December 1, 2015. Johnson also held the rank of captain and was the commander of the Department’s First Police Precinct. She led a staff of more than 120 employees while serving the public safety concerns for approximately 30,000 citizens. She served 25 years with the Richmond Police Department prior to her retirement.

As a retired United States Army Reservist, Chief Johnson served our country for more than 24 years. She was assigned as a non-commissioned officer to the 80th Training Command (TASS) as the Equal Opportunity Advisor. She served with the 80th Division in support of the Operation Iraqi Freedom Mission and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for completion of an exceptional meritorious tour in a combat zone in Iraq.

Chief Johnson is a proven leader with a demonstrated ability to excel in diverse environments through partnership building, extensive experience and quality communication skills. She has attended and graduated from numerous police academies, including the Virginia Forensic Science Academy. She has served as an assessment panelist in addition to serving on numerous committees and boards. Johnson has taught and evaluated several Police Science disciplines at several academies including, but not limited to, the Virginia Forensic Science Academy, the Richmond Police Training Academy, the Richmond Police Youth and Senior Academy and a host of other outside law enforcement agencies. She has graduated from several leadership trainings to include the Senior Management Institute for Police.

Johnson attends Mount Olivet Baptist Church in Petersburg, Virginia; under the spiritual direction of Dr. Reverend Wesley McLaughlin. She has been a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. for over two decades. She is the proud mother of two college students.

Beth Marschak, Program Committee Co-chair

Virginia Department of Health

Beth Marschak grew up in Richmond and was actively engaged in the social change movements of the 1960’s and 1970’s- Civil Rights, the Women’s Liberation Movement, the Ecology Movement, the Peace Movement, and Lesbian and Gay Liberation. She came out as a lesbian in the early 1970’s, and openly identified as a lesbian in her civil rights and human rights activism.

By the time she graduated from Westhampton College, University of Richmond, with a BA in political science in 1972, Beth had already helped to start a women’s group on campus, and a local chapter of the National Women’s Political Caucus. She was actively engaged with SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference) for many marches and other actions and was an active member of the Woody Guthrie Community Center. She participated in Gay Awareness in Perspective and helped to start Richmond-Lesbian Feminists in 1975. Beth was instrumental in starting a number of coalition efforts including the Virginia Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Rights (VCLGR) and the Richmond Lesbian and Gay Pride Coalition.

Starting as a representative of the Lesbian Caucus, Beth served on the National Steering Committee of the National Women’s Political Caucus for 16 years. Here in Richmond, she served on the Board of the Richmond YWCA for 8 years. In 1978, she was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to the International Women’s Year Continuing Committee. And, in 1988, as a Jesse Jackson Delegate, she served as the first “out” Virginia delegate to a national presidential convention.

Beth Marschak’s work and advocacy garnered the Richmond Human Rights Coalition Human Rights Award in 1983, and the Richmond YWCA Outstanding Woman of the Year Award in Human Relations in 1990. The Richmond Lesbian and Gay Pride Coalition recognized Beth with awards in 1990, 1993 and 1999. In 2008, Beth co-authored the book Lesbian and Gay Richmond. On November 1, 2008, she conducted the first bus tour featuring the history of the LGBT community for the Valentine Richmond History Center, where she is a master tour guide. In 2009 she was recognized by Equality Virginia as one of 20 Outstanding Virginians. She continues to be an activist for civil rights and human rights.

Ayana Obika-Clayborne, Program Committee Co-chair

Owner, Gratitude Rising Events

A lifelong Richmond resident, Ayana Obika is an experienced creative project manager, with a focus in networking, fundraising, event planning and community engagement. In 2011, she founded Gratitude Rising Events, creating and managing outstanding events that seek to entertain, educate and engage. She also serves as a non-profit and for-profit consultant in development and fundraising. Ayana currently serves as a board member of Project Yoga Richmond and the Richmond Business Alliance.

Ayana is a proud veteran of the U.S. Army, and served as a Flight Ops Specialist. She was voted as one of the Best of Gay Richmond in 2012 by the staff of GayRVA.com. She is the mother of four beautiful and smart grown-ups and the “Yaya” of four beautiful and smart grand-darlings, as well as “pet parent” of a very affectionate teenager cat and the cutest Chihuahua in the world. She is passionate about hiking, running and dancing, especially salsa, hoop and Zumba. Ayana loves vegan cooking and her kale salad is legendary. When not spending her time on any of those things or planning an event, she’s probably hanging out in her meditation space.

Dr. Ravi K. Perry

Ravi PerryA native of Toledo, Ohio, Dr. Ravi K. Perry holds a B.A. from the University of Michigan and a M.A. and Ph.D. from Brown University, each in political science. Dr. Perry is Associate Professor of Political Science at Virginia Commonwealth University.

An expert on Black politics, minority representation, urban politics, American public policy, and LGBT candidates of color, Dr. Perry is the editor of 21st Century Urban Race Politics: Representing Minorities as Universal Interests, a book that discusses the efforts of African American, Latino and Asian mayors to represent the interests of minorities in historically White cities in the United States. His second book, entitled Black Mayors, White Majorities: The Balancing Act of Racial Politics, focuses on the challenges Black mayors face in representing Black interests in majority White, medium‐sized cities in the state of Ohio. His third book, The Little Rock Crisis: What Desegregation Politics Says About Us, examines the impact that being raised in desegregation cities has on minority political participation and protest politics.

Currently, Dr. Perry is writing a book that introduces the lives and campaigns of Black, and openly lesbian and gay elected officials in the United States.

A member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., Perry is President of the National Association for Ethnic Studies, and a member of the Executive Council for the Urban Politics Organized Section and the Sexuality and Politics Organized Section of the American Political Science Association. Perry is also a member of the Executive Council with the National Conference of Black Political Scientists.

Previously, Perry was a member of the Board of Directors and Affiliate Equity Officer for the ACLU of Mississippi, and Dr. Perry was also one of the first openly gay branch presidents of color in the history of the NAACP in (Worcester, [pronounced “Woosta,”] Massachusetts).

A blogger at Huffington Post and a proud  feminist, Perry is a life‐long advocate for and with the LGBTQIA, the globally oppressed and marginalized, and HIV and/or AIDS communities everywhere.

Dr. Perry is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including being recognized as one of the Andrew Goodman Foundation’s 50 “Hero Citizens;” Out Magazine’s “Hidden 105” and The Advocate’s “193 Reasons to Have Pride,” and “40 under 40.”

Jean Segner, Treasurer

Jean Segner

With a passion for fairness, equality and justice, Jean has been a volunteer and leader in a number of LGBTQ advocacy efforts beginning in 1997, as member and later president of the Central Virginia Business and Professional Guild, the area’s first LGBT Chamber of Commerce. She served as director of Equality Virginia, from 2002 until 2012. She served as interim Executive Director of EV in 2010-11. During her Board tenure she chaired the EV Commonwealth Dinner for three years from 2009-2011, and was engaged in the 2006 legislative fight for marriage equality in Virginia. Her legislative work for EV led her to become more active as a fund-raiser and host for LGBTQ allied candidates for local and statewide office in Virginia. Jean was named an OUTStanding Virginian in 2014 for her advocacy work. She has been a member of the Board of Directors of Richmond Triangle Players since 2012.

Jean manages Communications and Community Engagement for Richmond-based SunTrust Mortgage. Prior to joining SunTrust, she held leadership roles in marketing, corporate communications and investor relations at several financial services companies including Wells Fargo predecessors Central Fidelity and Wachovia; Genworth Financial and its predecessor, GE Financial.

In addition to her LGBT advocacy Jean volunteers for the Junior Achievement, Making Strides, the United Way and in 2016 co-chaired the Open Your Heart campaign of the American Heart Association Go Red for Women. She is in the 2016-7 class of Leadership Metro Richmond.

Crystal Suber, Vice Chair

Transamerica Agency Network

Crystal Suber is a career agent with Transamerica Agency Network. She has over 10 years of experience helping individuals and business owners throughout Virginia to better manage resources and improve their financial picture. In 2001, Crystal graduated cum laude with a BS Economics from Virginia State University. In 2014, she completed her MBA at Grand Canyon University. Crystal uses her experience and education to further financial literacy in her community.

Crystal serves on the finance and audit committees with the Richmond Gay Community Foundation. She has actively supported the foundation as well as its affiliates: the Richmond Business Alliance (RBA) and SAGE. Crystal is a member of the Greek, LGBTQIA non-profit organization, Alpha Psi Kappa, Inc. A member since 2005, Crystal has held national offices of secretary and treasurer. This organization donates thousands of hours of service each year.

Crystal chooses to spend her spare time giving back to the community. Her passion is helping others. She has regularly volunteered with such organizations as Petersburg High School, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Hands On Greater Richmond, Community Memorial Hospital, March of Dimes, Light The Night Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and Relay for Life. Crystal also spent a year serving on the board for Rebuilding Together Tri-cities, a local organization dedicated to helping elderly and disabled to maintain their homes and keep them safe.