- Published: Thursday, May 25 2023
- Written by Robyn Bentley
“As you start to walk on the way, the way appears.” ~ Rumi
I started walking on the way as the Executive Director of Diversity Richmond on October 17th. From that day until now, I have remained committed to working with the board, staff and community stakeholders who are dedicated to the vision and mission of this organization. I am excited to share highlights from my first 100 days in the role!
In my first board meeting I laid out the top three goals for my first 100 days - People, Process, and Priorities.
The most common advice offered to new executive leaders is to listen, and that is exactly what I did. I met with..
Every conversation painted a picture of an organization beloved by board, staff and community stakeholders. I am energized by the deep commitment shared to move Diversity Richmond toward a bright future where all voices are heard and valued.
My first 100 days afforded me plenty of opportunity to reflect and respond. It was clear to me that…
There is no doubt in my mind that the work started in my first 100 days will position us for an impactful future.
I keep a (poorly drawn) graphical layout of the many parts of Diversity Richmond. Staring at it helps me set priorities to…
As time moves us all forward, we will mark the passing time with successes, challenges and celebrations that affirm our commitment to making Diversity Richmond the LGBTQ+ community center that centers the community through programs, resources and advocacy.
I am particularly fortunate to lead such a dynamic, community treasure that will only continue to improve as we collectively build upon the strong foundation laid out in my first 100 days.
As I settle in to my duties as Diversity Richmond’s Executive Director, I’m still riding the wave of excitement and possibility entering a new year brings.
To some of you, I will be a familiar face, having worked for over a decade in service to Richmond’s LGBTQ+ community. And yet, as Diversity’s Executive Director, I will be introducing myself in new ways that reflect Diversity’s renewed energy around our commitment to live into our mission.
In the months to come, you’ll be hearing more from me about both familiar and new opportunities to engage us in service to our community. It’s still early in my tenure (only 87 days), but I’m already thinking about the five Ps:
If that feels like a lot, it is! Our goals are ambitious because our community deserves the best partner and advocate possible. In my short time here, I am inspired by such an amazing staff and dedicated board committed to Diversity Richmond being a voice, a catalyst, a space and a resource for the LGBTQ+ community of greater Richmond.
I am proud to lead this organization, and I, we, all of us, are energized to answer this call.
So, I’ll say it again: Hello and Happy New Year from Diversity Richmond!
Fifteen-week course through a partnership with City of Richmond
Through a partnership with the city of Richmond, Diversity Richmond is hosting a 15-week course, helping local Hispanic people learn about business management from ideas to implementation. The academy classes will guide participants who are small business owners or who hope to open businesses.
Staff from the city’s Office of Immigrant and Refugee Engagement (OIRE) and the Office of Minority Business Development has been working for several months in planning the academy. “We are locating LGBTQ Latino business owners and financial experts to teach the classes,” shared Diversity Richmond board member, Fernando Rodriquez. “The courses filled quickly as there is such a need and we are very proud to lead these efforts.”
“This is just one more example of how Diversity Richmond has expanded our reach in the community,” stated Diversity Board Chair, Cheezi Farmer. “This is our first attempt at such a project, but we have full confidence that people will have a positive experience and gain new knowledge of how to build on their talents and make their dreams come true.”
“We are thrilled to receive the support from Diversity Richmond in the launch of the Academy and hope this is the beginning of a long-term partnership that will benefit both the Latino community and Diversity Richmond,” said, OIRE Manager Karla Almendarez-Ramos.
The academy is being funded through a grant from the Laughing Gull Foundation to support our outreach programs.
AARP has been a longtime supporter of Diversity Richmond. Over the years, AARP has made numerous projects possible such as funding the cost of the huge tent we have used at PrideFest to sell Diversity Thrift treasures.
AARP has a vested interest in our community and we are proud to dedicate the edition of this newsletter to such an outstanding organization.
Aging can be problematic and quite often LGBTQ people face obstacles that others don’t. Reach out to your local AARP chapter for more information. No need to go this alone.
We are most proud of Virginia Pride. Even with the unimaginable challenges that the pandemic produced, the Pride committee is implementing several exciting events. This newsletter features them.
It took our breath back in June when we watched the Dominion Energy headquarters be illuminated with our colors. Throughout the month, millions of interstate 95 travelers saw our colors, proudly welcoming them to our city. Our home.
This is but one example of the work of Virginia Pride. Having such a significant lighting installation was not done through a simple phone call. It required hours of work, brought about by a dedicated commitment to our community.
From coordinating the Pride flag being raised at city hall by our mayor, to gaining the attention of our governor, to developing media relationships, to recruiting drag queens to raise funds for our work, Virginia Pride sets a very high standard.
Sometimes words fail, but to you, we say, thank you.
Over the last few years, Diversity Richmond has made transgender and racial issues our two top priorities. We have covered much ground, but almost daily we are reminded of the work we must do.
Beginning next week, our board begins their equity and inclusion work. These discussions will be the major portion of our meetings for several months. Then we will decide how to further proceed. Staff trainings will also begin soon.
My eyes have been opened to much and not through reading articles, but by listening to people who have shared their stories. I work with some of those folks, a few serve on our board while others are people I have met through their association with Diversity.
Do I know it all? No, and I never will as I am a white man. And I am committed to learning more and challenging myself each day.
If anyone knows the pain of discrimination, it is LGBTQ people. Couple that with America’s history of how we have treated people of color… white people can only imagine…we, in no way, can begin to fully understand what it is like to be Black or Brown LGBTQ in America.
Diversity Richmond is dedicated to having difficult conversations about the issues. Through this, we will create a better organization that, in every move we make, we will strive to ensure that it successfully passes through the equity lens.
Are we perfect? Far from it? Have we made mistakes? Sure have. Are we working to be better? Indeed.
President and Executive Director
Us Giving Richmond Connections, the local nonprofit that encourages the well-being of Black LGBTQ people, is hosting an exciting weekend of educational seminars, entertainment and community building activities. Planners expect big crowds and have scheduled a variety of events that will offer a wide selection of activities for people to choose from.
The weekend begins tonight with the kick-off event, “Community Root Awards,” being held in the event hall of Diversity Richmond. Outstanding leaders in the Black LGBTQ community are being recognized. Tickets are $20.00 and can be purchased at blackpriderva.com
Saturday’s “Day of Purpose,” is a wellness event with health screenings, HIV/STI testing, and COVID-19 vaccinations, educational classes, entertainment, a variety of food trucks and over 100 vendors. The festival will take place at Trinity Family Life Center, 3601 Dill Road. Admission is free.
Saturday evening, the Black Pride Block Party will be held outside Richmond Triangle Players Theater, 1300 Altamont Avenue in Scott’s Addition from 7:30 till 11:00 P.M. The free event will include food, music and entertainment. A drag show will take place inside the theater. Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the door.
The weekend will conclude with a Pride in the Park community cookout in Bryan Park, 4308 Hermitage Road from 1:00 to 6:00 P.M. on Sunday.
For more information, visit blackpriderva.com/coming-soon
Within the last two weeks, we have spent over $2,000 helping six LGBTQ people facing homelessness by paying rent and also providing grocery gift certificates. The money for rent was made possible by you and the store cards were donated by Kroger.
Most every day, through Diversity Thrift, we help people who need clothing and shoes. Many are referred to us by social service mental health and recovery programs.
Over the last few months, we have provided a week’s supply of groceries to over 2,800 families.
With the pandemic ending, our building is once again in demand with play rehearsals, twelve-step programs and our transgender support groups returning.
Iridian Gallery volunteers brushed themselves off and had their first gallery opening in over a year last week. Iridian is one of the few galleries in the nation whose sole mission is to support LGBTQ artists. Diversity Richmond makes history again.
We could never do our work without your support. I hope you will donate today through the Give Out link below. When we help someone, you are helping them as well, by making the assistance possible.
Treehouse Realty RVA Makes $1,500 Give Out Day Match
Longtime supporters Wanda Fears and Brinlin Maki of Treehouse Realty RVA are making a $1,500 matching contribution to our Give Out Day campaign. This means that they will match donations up to $1,500!
She and her team have advertised on our web site for several years and every time they sell a home due to the ad, they have been most generous to Diversity.
Wanda is now retired, but remained active by acting as a consultant. “I still work closely with the LGBTQIA+ community” she shared. “My joy has always been helping folks plan to get their homes ready for market, or helping them figure out the cost of remodeling homes they buy. I love helping people get the equity out of their home and move up in the world of real estate.”
New president of Treehouse, Brinlin Maki, assumed the position with 14 years of mortgage business experience. “We love working with the LGBTQ community and also love giving back,” she said. Diversity Richmond is but one nonprofit that she supports.
Thank you to both Wanda and Brinlin. Our community is better because of you.
Give OUT Day is the only national day of giving for the LGBTQ community, raising $6+ million for 700+ LGBTQ organizations since 2013.
Here's how your monetary donation can help Diversity Richmond support the LGBTQ community:
$65 provides one night’s lodging for someone facing homelessness
$35 provides three meals
$75 covers the rental of a conference room for nonprofits to use
$1,500 allows a nonprofit to use our event hall for free
$200 provides a month of lawn care for Diversity Richmond
$50 purchases five much needed shopping baskets for Diversity Thrift
$50 allows us to donate 13 items of clothing to a person in need
$100 purchases a week’s supply of gloves and hand sanitizer for customers
$600 provides gas for the Diversity Thrift truck for one month
$60 sponsors our monthly WRIR radio segment “Diversity Richmond Speaks”
$95 funds our twice monthly newsletters
$250 sponsors two newsletters. Banner ad and two articles about your business
$8,758 pays our monthly mortgage
$5,800 pays a month of utilities
$25 provides six articles of clothing for someone in need
$10 provides two pair of shoes
$15 provides several toys for kids in need.
Any amount you can give is greatly appreciated!
Three times this past week we helped LGBTQ people in need. We paid the rent for two and provided food gift certificates for one.
Through Diversity Thrift we granted seven clothing vouchers for people participating in addiction recovery programs. We partner with several recovery programs who share that we are the only thrift store in town who will help.
We just conducted our first COVID vaccination clinic, once again donating our event hall to the Virginia Department of Health in an effort to save lives.
Our monthly WRIR FM program is now back on the air. For our next show, we interviewed a couple who is adopting a transgender daughter, working with enCircle. Please see the full article below.
These are but a few examples of the good work that your support makes possible. Diversity Richmond leads. We strive to every day to help build a more just community.
Please consider a donation to help us continue the good work.