We never know when we'll never see each other again

Last Saturday I was at the car wash when I received a phone call that one of my best friends had died in his sleep the night before. We had been friends a long time, both coming from the same small hometown. Later in our lives, we learned we were both gay. Our friendship grew and although for the past few years, we did not see each other as often, when we did meet, it was like we had never parted.

I share this story as it was once again a lesson that life is brief, but more than that, we never ever know when we are seeing people for the last time. As LGBT folks, many of us know what being alone is all about. Sometimes our friends are much more connected to us than our blood kin. That is nothing unique to LGBT people, but I think we may possibly create our own families more than our straight counterparts.

I also share this as my temperament, my patience, my disposition is not always, shall we say, as pleasant as it should be. I could blame it on age or the pressures of life, but I recall years ago a friend gave me a door mat as a gift that stated, "Go Away." I need to do better. And maybe some of the folks reading this letter could take a look in the mirror, too.

There is more than enough bad stuff aimed at us from our enemies. We don't need to hurl any from inside our community. So, I am going to try and remember that every time I speak to someone, do I want that to be the impression that I leave them with...forever.

How about if we find ourselves ready to snap at somebody, that we close our mouths and take deep breaths? I'll let you know how that goes. It's new for me, too.


Bill Harrison

Your support means everything. Donate online or mail a check to 1407 Sherwood Avenue, Richmond, Va. 23220. Thank you, thank you!

Mapping the future in the here-and-now

Our new board chair, Art Toth, and I recently met to discuss Diversity Richmond's future. Our latest strategic plan objectives have been accomplished so it's time to map out what we hope to accomplish in the next few years.

Much has been realized within the last four years. We first conducted a needs assessment to learn what our community liked and also where we needed to improve. We rebranded, changed our name and made major alterations to our building, inside and out.

We enlarged the thrift store, reinvigorated our grants program, bought a new thrift store truck, and had a record number of folks use our free meeting rooms for committees, rehearsals, prayers and fundraisers.

We are very proud of our art gallery, The Iridian Gallery at Diversity Richmond, one of the few in the nation solely dedicated to LGBT artists. Our event hall was the place where 2,000 of our community gathered for strength as we remembered our brothers and sisters who were murdered in Orlando.

Because of our grants and other means of working towards a stronger community, we were honored by the Richmond Chapter of the Association of Professional Fundraisers with the "Foundation Philanthropist of the Year Award," the first time an LGBT organization had been recognized.

We continue to share free clothing with those in need and every Monday we work with kids living with disabilities as they volunteer in our store. More recently we've celebrated with two beer/food truck events, bringing lots of new folks into the Diversity family.

We have big plans and announcements that we will share soon. We are very excited and just wanted you to know that all this is made possible by you ... our community. Thank you.


Bill Harrison

If you would like to help support the work we do at Diversity Richmond, please consider volunteering or making a cash donation -- mail a check to 1407 Sherwood Avenue, Richmond, Va. 23220, or donate online. Every little bit helps!

Without you, we're nothing

Ask any nonprofit executive director what makes a charity or foundation successful and the word volunteer will immediately surface. Where would we be without our volunteers? From board members to the good people who process clothes donated to Diversity Thrift, our mere existence depends on those who are generous with their time for the greater good.

No better example of a successful volunteer effort than our recent food and beer truck events. Volunteers planned everything from booking the vendors to selling beer tickets to sweeping the floors after everyone left. One great example of "community unity" was when volunteers from Metropolitan Community Church, Prime Timers, RVA Bears and Richmond Business Alliance all lined up to help.

Our beautiful newsletters are produced by volunteers. Photos taken at our events, the art exhibits developed and curated for our Iridian Gallery, managing bingo, planning programs such as our recent Black LGBT History Community Conversation and much of the work on our community's hugely attended Orlando vigil ... done by volunteers.

I have said many times, we are a powerful, resilient, loving people. We can accomplish whatever we put our minds too. We have proven that time and time again.

So if you are one of "ours" or if you volunteer elsewhere, please know that you are a major reason that life is improving, that stronger communities are being built, that damage is being repaired and injustices are being addressed. And for that, we say, thank you.


Bill Harrison

If you would like to help support the work we do at Diversity Richmond, please consider volunteering or making a cash donation -- mail a check to 1407 Sherwood Avenue, Richmond, Va. 23220, or donate online. Every little bit helps!

You Called. We Answered.

Several years ago, to address issues that the local LGBT community had raised about their "Gay Community Foundation," a needs assessment was conducted to find out what was good and areas where we needed to improve. The community responded with vigor and then we began to map out the best ways to meet the needs. Much has happened since.

Our rebranding campaign, new name, marked improvements to the building, expanding Diversity Thrift, reinstatement of our grants program and our extended outreach efforts have dramatically raised the community's awareness of us and our work.

No better example than last week when hundreds of folks gathered to celebrate, "All Americans - A Summer Block Party Celebrating Community Unity." Lots of new faces, parents and kids, lively karaoke singing, music, photos....it was a fun few hours.

As I walked through the crowds I just felt so at peace. Nothing means more to us than to see people claiming 1407 Sherwood Avenue as "theirs." As our board chair, Art Toth shared, "People said that we finally were a real community center."

We will soon begin our next step in long- range strategic planning. We are very proud of how far we have come the last few years and are very excited about new ideas that are being considered.

Please join us in making those aspirations realities. If you have suggestions as to what you would like to see us do, please contact me soon.


Bill Harrison

If you would like to help support the work we do at Diversity Richmond, please attend or sponsor our events, and consider making a cash donation -- mail a check to 1407 Sherwood Avenue, Richmond, Va. 23220, or donate online. Every little bit helps!

Thank You New Beginnings Christian Church

The last month has been devastating for humankind. The Orlando, Florida massacre of 49 LGBT people, the deaths of two African-American men killed by law enforcement and the slaughter of five Dallas police officers rattled us all.

On Sunday, July 10th, New Beginnings Christian Church conducted "Prayer Vigil Against Violence" here at Diversity Richmond. It was a powerful hour as people shared their thoughts and feelings about our recent past.

One African-American mother spoke about her deep concern in raising her two boys in today's world. She has had conversations with her children that white parents see no need to have.

Much of the fear and anger expressed by some LGBT people of color in regards to law enforcement and feeling isolated within our own LGBT community may be difficult for white people (such as me) to understand. But we must try. Actually, we must do more than just try.

I do not know all the answers, but I do know that the first place I have to start is with me. If we are going to have conversations about race, we must be able to be honest and transparent without fear of being attacked by opposing views. We must create safe spaces where we can learn from each other. That is the only way we can change anything.

Our community, our entire society actually, is filled with good people. The vast majority of us want justice and fairness. Getting there is the tough part.

New Beginnings set an excellent example of how to build community. I say thank you to Pastor Lacette Cross and her congregation. They helped the healing begin.

Bill Harrison

Pictured left to right are are Evangelist and Diversity Richmond board member, Luise Farmer of MCC; Pastor Lacette Cross of New Beginnings; Pastor Kenny Callaghan of MCC; Pastor Michael Moore of Mt. Vernon Baptist; and the Rev. E. Taylor Doctor, Diversity Richmond board member.

If you would like to help support the work we do at Diversity Richmond, please mail a check to 1407 Sherwood Avenue, Richmond, Va. 23220, or donate online. We can't do any of this without your support.

As We Celebrate America

rainbow candle

Yesterday was July 4th, the official day of celebrating our nation. Last year at this time we were still joyfully reeling because of the Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality. This year we find ourselves mourning the deaths of 49 of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters who were killed in the Orlando massacre. The vast majority were people of color who were celebrating "Latin Night" at the club.

Life is a mixed bag. So is our country. Violence has become so commonplace that we are sometimes numb to the news.

Through the horrors, we cannot forget the good. We have a president who fully supports us and has taken political risks to ensure our rights. In Virginia, we have a governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general who have proven they are our allies. Locally we have senior law enforcement who is working with LGBT organizations to better understand our issues and who have demonstrated their commitment.

This does not mean that there is still not work to do. Dialogue needs to occur within our own communities to ensure that we too are working to ensure that justice prevails. It is very easy to complain. Anyone can do that. Being involved is what brings about change.

In this newsletter, you will find a story about Petty Officer First Class Zachary Corallo who recently addressed other military personnel about serving in the military as an openly gay man. Just one more example of how far we have come.

Meeting people "where they are" and having adult conversations where everyone not only talks, but listens, is key in building community. We have been doing that for years and if we want to maintain our progress, we must continue to educate society, our own community members included.

Diversity Richmond is committed to building an even stronger LGBT community. I invite you to join us.

Bill Harrison

If you would like to help us continue our good work, please mail a check to 1407 Sherwood Avenue, Richmond, Va. 23220, or donate online. We can't do any of this without your support.

There Will Always Be More Love Than Hate

The absolute unimaginable happened on June 12th, when 49 of our brothers and sisters, mostly members of the Orlando, Florida Latin LGBT community, were gunned down by a madman. Theories of his motive abound, with one being that he was a homosexual, fighting inward demons.

About 2,000 people gathered at Diversity Richmond in attendance of a candlelight vigil to recognize the people who were murdered and to begin the process of healing. Words of comfort, encouragement, anger and hope were shared. Candles were lit as names of the dead were read.

The international community responded overwhelmingly. The Eiffel Tower was illuminated in the rainbow colors, as just one example. President Obama ordered flags to fly at half-mast to recognize the victims of the largest mass murder in our nation's history. Hundreds of vigils were held around the country.

None of us can even begin to imagine being in that Orlando nightclub that night, but we all are feeling pain and sadness. We cannot allow people to forget. We have that responsibility, but maybe the best thing to do now is to begin our own healing.

Life can change in a moment's notice. If we heard one common message from most of the vigil speakers, it was that we must love one another. As one person who attended the vigil wrote on a card, "There will always be more love than hate."


Bill Harrison

If you would like to help us continue our good work, please mail a check to 1407 Sherwood Avenue, Richmond, Va. 23220, or donate online at www.DiversityRichmond.org. We can't do any of this without your support.

Another "Diversity Moment"

I have often shared that, in the midst of working at this hectic place, every once in a while something happens to remind us why we are here. We recently had another "Diversity Moment."

One of our programs that is making a definite difference is one that welcomes school kids on public assistance to shop for free clothing at Diversity Thrift. Last week, several young people from St. Joseph's Villa came to Diversity to shop for prom clothes.

St. Joseph Villa has served the community for more than 180 years. A sampling of their many programs includes assisting homeless mothers and their children, autistic youth and young people who need specialized teaching environments. Every spring, Villa kids are treated to their high school prom. We were delighted to lend a hand in making it a memorable experience.

When trying on her dress, one young woman twirled around with glee. Her joy was contagious as the other girls joined in with laughter and excitement. The young men were a bit more reserved, not allowing anyone to think that they were actually looking forward to a prom!

The staff that was present during the kids' shopping spree looked at each other and smiled. We did not need to speak. We knew what we were feeling. It was once again, yet another reminder of how fortunate we are to be a part of this wonderful place we call Diversity.


Bill Harrison

Services such as our free clothing program are made possible by the generosity of our supporters. To help, visit www.DiversityRichmond.org or mail a financial contribution to 1407 Sherwood Avenue, 23220.

We have no fear, as we have ROSMY


Diversity Richmond serves many purposes, with one being a resource for referrals. People call us every day looking for help. We hate it when there is a need that cannot be met. One area that we never fear making a referral is when a young person or a parent is seeking guidance in regards to sexual orientation or gender identity. We have no fear, as we have ROSMY.

ROSMY is celebrating 25 years in service to our community's youth and their families. Be it a 24-hour telephone information line, support groups or outreach and trainings for schools, ROSMY has been on the forefront for a quarter of a century in being there when no one else was. There is no way to even begin to estimate how many lives ROSMY has saved. Twenty-five years of youth testimonies can attest to that fact.

Many of us have often lamented the circumstance that there was no ROSMY for us when we were growing up. But, we have a ROSMY now and for that we can be thankful. ROSMY has allowed many adults the opportunities to give back and make a difference.

Thank you to all the good folks who made that courageous commitment years ago to be there for our young people. Thank you to everyone who supported this phenomenal organization over the years and to those who are there today, ensuring a safe and welcoming place for young people, many who have been disowned by their parents.

We are a good people. Our enemies will not defeat us and no better proof of our strength, our goodness and our fortitude than ROSMY.


Bill Harrison
President and Executive Director

Diversity Richmond continues to strengthen communities

Several years ago when we conducted our needs assessment, a study that helped us look at our strengths and weaknesses, one area was made clear by the participants' responses. People looked to us as a "unifier." We took that charge seriously and vowed to become an even stronger catalyst to get things done ... to bring positive change ... to promote justice and to advocate for fairness.

No better example of our good work than the recent meeting we hosted to address the needs of LGBT refugees. Several weeks ago we were contacted by Beni Dedieu Luzau, of the LGBTI Caucus of the Refugee Congress, as he needed an organization to host a community conversation about the atrocities that are committed against LGBTI people in other nations and their plights as they seek safety in places such as the United States. LGBT refugees are already trying to call the Richmond area their home and they need our help.

About 40 people attended, representing school systems, civic and social service agencies, communities of faith and immigration programs. Mr. Luzau gave vivid accounts of the violence committed against our sisters and brothers in other nations. For those fortunate enough to escape and make it to the United States, their needs are still overwhelming. Language and cultural barriers and lack of financial assets are but a few of the challenges they face. He shared that their biggest concerns were "something to eat, a place to sleep and clothes to wear."

While our community still faces challenges, none of us can even begin to imagine being jailed for life or even put to death for being LGBT. The program was an eye-opener for us. The meeting was the first step in bridging our community as we face yet another challenge.

"Being a catalyst to get things done" is what we do every day. We can only continue that charge with the community's support." Please consider donating online or by mailing a check to 1407 Sherwood Avenue, Richmond, Va. 23220. All donations are tax deductible.


Bill Harrison
President and Executive Director

Photo courtesy GAYRVA.com

Making history right here on Sherwood Avenue

A year ago we launched our rebranding campaign, with a new name being a central focus. Much has happened since. The exterior of our building is undergoing a make-over, we expanded our thrift store, enhanced our event hall and reached more people through our programs than ever before.

We relaunched our art space, giving it the new name of Iridian Gallery at Diversity Richmond. The gallery made history, being the first in the south to feature only LGBT artists and LGBT focused work. Our exhibits have garnered rave reviews.

We have made great progress in addressing homelessness among LGBT people. We are training CARITAS volunteers on transgender inclusive policies and are developing two of the first statewide webinars to eliminate barriers for transgender people accessing homeless services. This is being done through collaboration with the Fan Free Clinic, the Department of Housing and Community Development, VCU and Equality Virginia. Again, making history.

Our monthly radio program on WRIR 97.3 FM has reached a huge audience in discussing issues that face our community.

Having every meeting room in our building nightly booked is almost a regular occurrence. We are very proud that an LGBT Alcoholic Anonymous and a Narcotics Anonymous group now meet here weekly. One more indication that we are on the right track as a community center.

None of this work could be done without the support of our financial contributors, thrift store shoppers and donors, bingo players, dedicated board members, committee volunteers and a phenomenal staff. Thank you for supporting us and I hope you celebrate the roles you have made in "making history."

Bill Harrison
President and Executive Director

Diversity Richmond could use your support. Make a donation online or mail a check to 1407 Sherwood Avenue, Richmond, Va. 23220. All contributions are tax deductible.