Diversity Richmond continues to meet community challenges

Diversity Richmond continues to meet community challenges

Over the last few months our board of directors (and staff) has been reexamining our mission and the challenges that we face as Central Virginia’s LGBTQ community center.

Any nonprofit worth its salt must continually look at how community expectations change and new needs that the community may have.

We stay busy. Last year over 8,000 people used our building for free. This included committee and board meetings, play rehearsals, fundraisers, support groups and community of faith services. We donate storage space to eight LGBT groups, saving them thousands of dollars each year.

We donate clothing and shoes to those in need. Last year we spent $5,000 helping local LGBT people who were homeless or almost homeless. Thus far this year we have spent about $3,000 doing the same. Since 1999 we have contributed almost $1Million in support of LGBT and LGBT-friendly nonprofits.
A lesson that we have learned is that we need to do a better job of telling our stories. Nonprofits sharing what they do is an on-going job. We cannot depend on the annual report to get the word out.

Above: Diversity Richmond, in partnership with other community organizations,
hosted a vigil for victims of the Orlando shooting in 2016

So as we strategize, please let us hear from you. We are most proud of our accomplishments and we stand on those successes to help us see the future. I look forward to hearing from you.

Bill Harrison
President and Executive Director

Dr. King and Roseanne Barr

ABC restored my faith by firing Roseanne Barr. Her twitter escapade about Valarie Jarrett, former advisor to President Obama, “Muslim brotherhood and Planet of the Apes had a baby=vj,” was more than offensive. ABC called the comments repugnant and abhorrent.

Longtime Roseanne co-star and lesbian, Sara Gilbert referred to the episode as “incredibly sad.” Roseanne consulting producer, lesbian comedienne and activist, Wanda Sykes, resigned when she heard the news.

While the voices of the famous carry significant weight, so does everyone else’s. The public outcry was loud and did not fall on a network that was not paying attention. As Dr. King said, “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty of the bad people, but the silence over that by the good people.”

If the last year has not awakened our moral compasses, there is something wrong with us. We must speak often and louder than ever before. Hate and prejudice has national support as we have never seen in our lifetimes.

Grab every opportunity to speak out. Turn insults into victories. All we have to do is tell the truth and tell it loudly.

Contact ABC and acknowledge that they did the right thing.

Bill Harrison
President and Executive Director


Family means different things to people. Some grow up in nurturing, loving environments. Others don’t.

Several years ago a woman told me that mothers of gay men were lucky. She viewed the gay men in her life as good sons to their mothers; never forgetting birthdays, anniversaries, much less Mother’s Day. Always thoughtful and considerate, she saw us. I had to laugh as I knew that gay men crossed the gambit, a real mix we are.

Mothers of LGBTQ people also run the gambit. While we are surrounded by moms who adore their LGBTQ children, we are all too frequently reminded of those who do not.

Lesbian mothers have faced more than their share of injustice, discrimination and bias, often from their own children. Angry former husbands have tossed gas on the fires. Emotions run high. Life-long pain is often the result.

And then there are the others of our community. Women who marry women and who have children. Women who remain single, but are mothers to kids.

For generations women have played major roles in the fight for LGBTQ civil rights and often those sacrifices and victories have gone unacknowledged. Giving the world our children is but only one thing they do for us, albeit a life force that can be brought about by no other.

If your own mother, for whatever reason, cannot or will not hear your voice, find one who will. Celebrate life.

Bill Harrison
President and Executive Director

Richmond LGBT community always rises to the occasion

Give Out Day

Our community never ceases to amaze me. Always present. Always there.

No better example than the recent “Give Out Day.” If you were one of those folks who, by day’s end, felt a bit overwhelmed you received one more email or Facebook post from a local LGBT organization asking you to donate, we know how you felt.

Whether it be supporting youth, providing free healthcare, battling LGBT violence, or entertaining us on stage, you answered the call with your financial support. On behalf of all our wonderful organizations, we say thank you!

Every day at Diversity Richmond, we help members of our community. Through our support groups, free meeting rooms, storage spaces for LGBT nonprofits, helping to fight homelessness in our community or the promotion of LGBT artists, we are ever-present. And we cannot do what we do without you.

The challenges keep coming. Help is needed. And we need you. Thank you for your ongoing support.

Bill Harrison
President and Executive Director

"I was so glad I found Diversity"

Side By Side

I recently spoke at a monthly church program about the work of Diversity Richmond. It was a very supportive group and we had a great 90 minute conversation that later turned toward religion and politics, two issues strongly facing the LGBT movement.

After the program, a gentleman shared that several years ago he moved to Richmond from New York to attend seminary. While riding down I-95, he spotted a building with a huge rainbow painted on the walls. He investigated and fell in love with the thrift store and our mission.

While in seminary he also had a private counseling service. One of his clients was a young woman struggling with her sexual orientation. He visited Diversity Richmond and located Side By Side (at that time the organization was ROSMY) and referred his client there. Since that time he has led several young people to Side By Side.

Connecting people with resources is something we do often. And how good it is to have such a strong community filled with good people and solid organizations that address our needs.

We can only do the good work we do every day with community support. Can you help us? To make a donation on line go to www.DiversityRichmond.org or mail donations to 1407 Sherwood Avenue, Richmond, 23220.

Bill Harrison

What does Diversity Richmond do?

A board member shared with me that when he asked an organization about doing a fundraiser for Diversity Richmond, the response was, “Diversity Thrift supports the organization. They don’t need our help.”

Raising the community’s awareness of what we do has always been an ongoing challenge. Many nonprofits serve a much more narrow population than we do…the elderly, the homeless, the blind, and the homebound. Our services encompass lots of different kinds of people.

We provide free clothing to school kids on public assistance. We host organizations such as Richmond Triangle Players for rehearsals; Side-By-Side, PFLG and Virginia Pride meetings; several twelve-step programs and countless other groups whose missions we endorse. Seldom is this building not filled to capacity after the thrift store closes.

We house the only art gallery in the south whose sole mission is to support LGBTQ art and artists. We donate household goods that are not sold in the store to CARITAS, helping people get back on their feet. Last year we invested $5,000 in helping LGBT people fight homelessness, paying rent, car or utility bills.

Since 1999 we have invested almost $1Million back into the community, helping other nonprofits do their good work. Organizations such as Side By Side, Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities, the Peace Education Center, Health Brigade, Planned Parenthood, Jewish Family Services and the Alzheimer’s Association, to name a few.

So the answer to the question, “Does Diversity Richmond need money?” is yes. Maintaining an aging building is costly. We have big expenses in providing the water, heat and air conditioning that groups use for free. Insurance coverage on the building is increasing every year.

Like any nonprofit worth its salt, much of what we gain, we give away, but we need your support in doing that. If you can make a donation to our causes, that will be much appreciated.

Bill Harrison
President and Executive Director


or mail a check to 1407 Sherwood Avenue, 23220

Sometime watching the legislative process can make you feel sick

Republicans shoot down LGBT employment and housing protections

Through the leadership of Equality Virginia, lots of us gathered at the Capital last week to encourage the passing of legislation that would protect LGBT people from discrimination in employment and housing. As difficult as it is to believe, it is legal in Virginia to deny employment, fire someone and also refuse to rent or sell a home to someone if they are even perceived to be LGBT.

We went there with hopes that this year would be different. And actually it was as the Republicans who tabled the bills heard more than they probably expected. After about twenty people and organizations spoke in favor of the bills, the Family Foundation, the Catholic Church and the Baptists did their usual “Chicken Little” dance that if the bills were passed the world would come to an end. These are the exact scare tactics they have used for years and the last time we checked the sun still rises.

After the votes were cast, Delegate Delores McQuinn delivered the most powerful response calling out people by name … white men who have no understanding at all of discrimination. As the legislators filed out they were greeted by chants of, “shame, shame, shame.”

While justice was tabled for another year, that afternoon built community and solidarity. We were there and will continue to be until justice is served.

Bill Harrison

Sadly I must remain in the closet

I have shared before that Diversity Richmond can be one hectic, chaotic, stressful, wonderful place. Sometimes we find ourselves feeling overwhelmed and frustrated and feel “we can’t keep up!” Then something happens to put everything in its proper perspective and reminds us why we are here.

A note along with a cash donation recently came in the mail from someone who shared, “Sorry, but can’t reveal a return address because sadly I must remain in the closet. Wish I could be active in Diversity Richmond. Seems like an outstanding organization.”

While we celebrate marriage equality, election victories and other progress, we must remember that many of our brothers and sisters still remain closeted. The reasons vary. It may be that they are in “heterosexual” marriages, possibly face family rejection or being fired from their jobs. Whatever the reason, we must continue our fight for acceptance for all our community.

Our “sender” shared that they do receive our newsletter. To them and all folks who are struggling with acceptance, please know you are far from forgotten. Thank you for reaching out. You have reminded us that you are there. And please remember we are here with open arms if there is any way we can help bring down those walls.

May we all pledge that this year we will speak louder than ever before.

Bill Harrison

It’s been a busy year – with much thanks to YOU

Diversity Richmond Celebrates 2017

As we close 2017, we look back with pride and gratitude.

We brought the community several outstanding exhibits through Iridian Gallery, the only gallery in the south dedicated to the work of LGBT artists. We now host three LGBT twelve-step programs; a women’s coming out group, three transgender support groups, a gay men’s support group and the only bisexual support group in the area.

We donated thousands of dollars in meeting and storage space to countless LGBT organizations as well as free rooms for fundraisers. We spent over $5,000 helping homeless and near-homeless people in our community. We awarded $15,000 to ten LGBT nonprofits in support of their work.

Diversity Richmond coordinated two buses that traveled to Washington for the LGBTQ March, allowing folks to participate in a history-making event that created lifelong memories. In February we celebrated Black LGBTQ History Month, partnering with the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia. We supported the annual Pride Festival, held several special events including “All Americans,” in collaboration with the popular Fourth Fridays crowd. We celebrated “Scary-okey” bringing community together as we did with two editions of Drag Bingo.

A few weeks ago we recognized several history makers and awarded our annual grants. The Governor, the Mayor, the VCU President and many of you were there that night. It was a night to be proud.

If you like what we do, please help us continue the good work. We will make a few big announcements in early 2018 and as our workload grows, so does the need for your support. If you can help, please use this link to make a donation.

We wish you a great holiday and a very successful and happy 2018.

Bill Harrison
President and Executive Director

Virginia Pridefest 2017 huge success!

VA Pride 2017

The annual Richmond area celebration of LGBTQ pride has grown in epic proportions. Brown’s Island was filled with the young and old, information booths, food venders, entertainers, folks who want us to vote for them, kids, parents of kids, pets …. you name it and they were there by the thousands.

Through the generous support of AARP, Diversity Thrift was afforded a large tent to sell our wares and just about everything that was for sale was sold. Diversity Richmond and Iridian Gallery volunteers also staffed tents and were kept busy throughout the day and into the night.

Kudos to the VaPride board of directors for yet another hugely successful event. We can only imagine the amount of work that goes into such a celebratory festival. Bravo!

View photos

Diversity Richmond partners with local organizations to address Charlottesville

Through the coordination of the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities, Diversity Richmond is one of about 35 local organizations that are discussing ways to address racism in our communities. The meetings were called as a result of the recent violence in Charlottesville.

Participants include Virginia Council of Churches, St. Paul’s Baptist, Bon Secours Richmond Health System, Jewish Community Foundation, YWCA, YMCA and the American Civil War Museum. The most recent meeting where a myriad of ideas were discussed was hosted by Diversity Richmond.

The group is planning an event to be held in Richmond on or around September 16. While it is suspected that some people may be planning direct action on Monument Avenue, it was the consensus of the group that our event would be located elsewhere.

It was also hoped that September 16 would be a catalyst to engage people in much broader roles of programs focused on community, equality and justice.

“While the LGBT community was not directly targeted in Charlottesville, injustice is injustice,” stated Bill Harrison of Diversity Richmond. “We must unite to send unified messages and to take action to ensure that hate has no place in our society. I am very pleased that we were one of several LGBT organizations involved in these local actions. I think there will be many teachable moments for all of us.”

To make a tax deductible contribution, visit our donation page or mail checks to 1407 Sherwood Avenue, Richmond, Virginia 23220. Since 1999, Diversity Richmond has contributed more than $955,000 to the local LGBTQ community. The organization also provides free meeting spaces for LGBTQ groups. Last year over 8,000 people used the facility for free.

Yall Means AllCharlottesville celebrates Pride

Charlottesville organizers are so excited about their upcoming Pride Festival on Sept. 16, and welcomes folks from the surrounding areas to join locals for an uplifting celebration. Get the schedule here.

Thank you, Donald Trump

So often the enemy works on our behalf. We’ve seen it lots of times. For those of us who remember Anita Bryant, we know that few in our community could have united us the way she did when she launched her anti-gay campaign in Dade County, Florida in 1977. Anita raised the country’s awareness of our plights and caused our movement to realize unprecedented growth and support.

Donald Trump is doing the same thing. His recent tweet in an attempt to change procedures regarding transgender military service somewhat backfired. Support seems limited.

The enemy keeps the fires burning in our bellies. They remind us that it is dangerous to take rights and progress for granted. While they attempt to degrade us, they actually strengthen our forces as they anger people enough to take stands, donate money and raise voices.

We have come so very far and that progress will not be overturned, but we must be vigilant and not lose sight of the efforts that got us this far.

Your financial contributions to Diversity Richmond allow us to fight every day for justice.

Thank you for being there.

Bill Harrison
President and Executive Director

To make a tax deductible contribution, visit our donation page or mail checks to 1407 Sherwood Avenue, Richmond, Virginia 23220. Since 1999, Diversity Richmond has contributed more than $955,000 to the local LGBTQ community. The organization also provides free meeting spaces for LGBTQ groups. Last year over 8,000 people used the facility for free.

Anita Bryant pie in face

Remembering Anita Bryant

We mentioned Anita Bryant in our lead article so for those of you who are not familiar with her, click on the Wikipedia link below to read her story. The photograph was taken following Ms. Bryant being hit in the face with a fruit pie that was tossed by a gay man. We don’t endorse such actions, but could not help but include the picture.

About Anita Bryant