AARP VA support of Diversity Richmond makes much happen

AARP of VirginiaSeveral years ago when Diversity board member, Robyn Bentley was coordinating our SAGE program and reaching out to seniors, she forged a relationship with AARP. That friendship has continually grown and has benefited everyone. For the second year, AARP sponsored the huge tent that Diversity Thrift used at the recent pride festival on Brown’s Island. That $1,000 donation enabled us to have a much larger space and sell a record number of items.

AARP has also supported several special events and fundraisers. Actually, the organization is a sponsor of this year’s Scarey-Okey.

According to the AARP’s Genea Luck, the partnership has also benefited AARP by reaching a large number of people that may have otherwise never have become connected with her organization. “We love working with Diversity and look forward to future events. It is a great means to ensure that everyone knows that AARP has benefits for everyone, that we are an inclusive organization.”

AARP is a great example of responsible corporate leadership and a wonderful example of what’s good about America.

Black History Museum and Cultural Centermaking history on its own

Anna Pauli Murray Now Featured at Museum

By Rodney Lofton

Black History Museum of VirginiaThis past February, Diversity Richmond reached out to the Black History Museum & Cultural Center of Virginia to host a number of events in recognition of Black LGBTQ History Month. The month- long recognition celebrated the contributions of Richmond’s Black LGBTQ Community.

That partnership continues to flourish, as Diversity Richmond prepares for the 2nd Annual Black LGBTQ History recognition this coming February 2018.

I recently received an email from interim executive director Adele Johnson, stating, “I hope you can stop by, I have something to share with you.”

Without hesitation, I responded. I have to say when Adele reaches out to you, you can be assured that it is something exciting. On a recent visit/meeting with Adele, she shared with me original printing of the black LGBTQ publication BLK. With the magazine folding, they elected to share their collection with the Black History Museum & Cultural Center of Virginia. What a treasure of Black LGBTQ history and stories, reflecting our experiences, now housed at BHMVA.

As always, I was greeted by Heather and Ms. Mary, staff members of BHMVA as they initiated a call to Adele that I had arrived. The always elegant and stunning Adele greeted me with a warm and friendly hug and that smile, what a smile.

She thanked me as we headed out the door to the surprise that awaited me. She shared a previous conversation she and I had a while back, about the possibilities of BHMVA including the work and history of the Black LGBTQ community. As we headed around the corner to the Leigh Street view of the building, she shared, “I took your advice.” And there it was.

A prominent banner, displaying African-American history makers, some not known to the general public but history makers in our community. There atop one of the prominent banners, was a photo of Anna Pauline “Pauli” Murray, the 1st African-American woman ordained as an Episcopal Priest.

“Pauli” Murray, struggled with her gender and sexual orientation, although her long term relationships were with women. She shared that she sometimes felt like a man, trapped in a woman’s body.

But she has made history yet again and the Black History Museum & Cultural Center has made history here in Richmond. Kudos to Adele Johnson and the incredible staff of the Black History Museum.

To learn more about Anna Pauline ”Pauli” Murray, visit the Black History Museum, located at 122 West Leigh Street, Richmond, VA 23220 or call (804) 780-9093.

Rodney Lofton named Diversity Richmond Deputy Director

“A true history maker in his own right”

Lofton at Diversity RichmondLittle did Rodney Lofton know when he joined the Diversity Richmond Board of Directors a few years ago where that move would take him. At that time Rodney was executive director of The Renewal Projects, an organization that conducted retreats for people living with HIV/AIDS. Due to a decrease in funding, the organization closed its doors.

During that same time, the program coordinator for Diversity Richmond moved out of state. Diversity’s Bill Harrison asked Rodney if he would fill in until a permanent replacement had been found. “Well, that was one of the best decisions I have made since I came here,” laughed Bill. “I knew Rodney was a good catch and was so taken with his vision of what this place could become. So I asked him if he’d take the job. Thankfully the answer was yes.”

Since that time Rodney has accomplished much. So much, in fact, that he was recently named deputy director. Rodney is the first African American to be hired to a senior level position at Diversity Richmond, a history- maker in his own right.

One of his accomplishments that Diversity is quite proud of is the concept of and the orchestration of Black LGBT History Month last February. The recognitions included a gala where African American LGBT leaders were recognized for their contributions; a series of community conversations at the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia as well as forums held at Diversity Richmond. The partnership with the Black History Museum is believed to be the first such in the nation.

“We had hoped to have at least 50 people attend the gala,” said Bill. “We had over 200. It was one of the most powerful evenings I have seen at Diversity. We had so many people here who had never been to Diversity before.”

“Rodney is one of the best things that has ever happened to Diversity,” shared Board Chair, Art Toth. “In such a short period of time, he has tremendously grown our outreach. His vision enhances ours. He is a true team player and a leader.”

Rodney has a national reputation as an HIV/AIDS educator and has authored two books. He is a prolific speaker and can address most any LGBT issue. Rodney and his husband, Faron, live in Richmond’s Northside. He may be contacted at or 622-4646, ext. 203.

Community Supported Prints benefits Diversity Richmond

Community Supported PrintsCommunity Supported Prints produces limited edition works for the express purpose of benefitting non-profits that fight the good fight -- and sometimes lose -- on a daily basis. Their current offering benefits Diversity Richmond, and is available until Sept. 13.

Created and designed by Richmond based artist, Brooke Inman, this etching is hand-printed on Hahnemühle Copperplate paper. Entitled "Celebrate Diversity," each print is signed and numbered by the artist. JUST $35! Would make a great gift.

Get it here.

One way to help LGBTQ Texans

LGBTQ Hurricane Harvey Disaster Relief Fund

The catastrophic and historic impact of Hurricane Harvey will be felt by the LGBTQ community of Houston, Texas for a long time to come. You can help LGBTQ community members displaced by the storm today by giving to the LGBTQ Disaster Relief Fund, managed by the Montrose Center - Houston's LGBTQ counseling and community center serving Houston for 39 years. With more than 35,000 clients in core programs, they are already learning of staff and community members who have lost everything.

The LGBTQ Disaster Relief Fund will be used to help individuals and families begin to rebuild their lives through counseling, case management, direct assistance with shelf stable food, furniture, housing and more. The Center's dedicated case management team is on call to help homeless youth, seniors, people living with HIV, hate crime survivors, and those devastated by the storm.

Diversity Richmond welcomes two dynamic board members

Former Richmond Police LGBT Liaison Odetta Johnson and Local Communication Director, Domenick Casuccio

We are proud to announce two new Diversity Richmond Board members, Odetta Johnson and Domenick Casuccio. Both are well known respected leaders and we look forward to working with them as the community benefits through their leadership.

Odetta is a former Chief of Police for North Carolina University where she was in charge of campus safety and emergency management for a student body of over 8,500. Prior to serving at NCCU, she served on administrative leave from Richmond Police at Virginia Union University as the Interim Chief of Police. During her service with Richmond she also was the first LGBT Police Liaison in the Richmond Metropolitan Area. She retired with the rank of Major. Odetta also held the rank of Captain, leading a staff of more than 120 employees. She served the Richmond Police for 25 years.

Domenick has served on our programs committee and brings much experience in the areas of marketing, communications and media. He has already been instrumental in fundraising for Diversity, serving as a consultant for our recent Day of Giving. Domenick is a Director of Communications for the American Cancer Society.

Prior, he was the Director of Public Relations and Marketing at The Valentine. One of his many accomplishments while there was leading The Valentine in a comprehensive social media and marketing effort that significantly increased visibility and memberships. He also led the museum in completing a major renovation of their main galleries and the campaign for the opening of the newly remodeled space.

It is easy to see why we are so excited to have both Odetta and Domenick as a part of the Diversity Richmond family.

Richmond task force to establish a Human Rights Commission

Richmond City Council established a Task Force on the Establishment of a Human Rights Commission to evaluate the need for and scope of a Human Rights Commission. Please use the survey below to indicate your experiences in the City of Richmond within the past five years. The survey will be open for through September 21, 2017. Your responses are appreciated and will assist the Commission in their efforts. Any questions, please contact .

Take the survey

VA Pride is more than just Pridefest

Every September, VA Pride hosts a massive outdoor festival called Pridefest that features entertainment, activities, vendors, speakers and Youth Pride Village. Last year, Pridefest was attended by an estimated 30,000 people, making it one of the largest one-day events in our region. And we are hard at work to ensure that this year’s festival will be bigger and better than ever.

But, VA Pride, the organization, has made a concerted effort to expand its role in the community beyond a one-day event. Our board has adopted the philosophy that Pride should be more than just a festival. It should be a feeling that our LGBTQ community should have all year long. Our community should be proud of who they are, where they live and what they contribute to our society.

This year, we embarked on an ambitious campaign to host more events, to increase our visibility and to support the work of our community partners in new and exciting ways. Between April and the festival in September, VA Pride will have hosted or supported more than two-dozen LGBTQ community events. We partnered with Richmond Triangle Players to bring Coco Peru to town who performed her act to a sold-out house. We hosted a Memorial Day cookout at Babes. We’ve partned with Quirk Rooftop to host a bi-weekly happy hour to bring people together. We’ve worked with our friends at Hardywood, Ardent and Center of the Universe to create fun and unique events at their facilities and will sponsor events at Barcode, Godfrey’s and Babes leading up to the festival. Information on upcoming events can be found at

We sponsored “Nerve-Stories of Queer Resilience” with the Virginia Anti-Violence Project and helped fund transportation to the March for Equality in Washington with Diversity Richmond.

VA Pride has also stepped up to be a voice for the LGBTQ community in the media, offering perspective, balance and accurate information in the ever-changing landscape of the fight for equality. We’ve been featured in local news broadcasts and in multiple features in the Richmond Times Dispatch. For the first time ever, we worked with GayRVA to produce a summer edition of the Pride Guide that contained features on members of our community, news about events and explored issues of race, gender and sexual orientation. We also maintain an active social media presence with some 10,000 followers to stay connected to our community to help those in our community stay connected to each other.

As VA Pride grows, both as a festival and an organization, there are more opportunities — and a greater need — for our community to get involved in what we do. We welcome volunteers to serve on committees to help plan Pridefest, support events and to help with marketing and community outreach. And, of course, we need hundreds of volunteers to help make Pridefest a success on September 23. IF you’d like to get involved, please visit

VA Pride is of our community, for our community. Live Free. Live Proud. And we’ll see you on Saturday, September 23!

PRIDE Scholarship applications due Sept. 8

VA PrideVirginia Pride’s Board of Directors is proud to assist members of the LGBTQ community and their friends, family and supporters with the expenses of post-high school education. Since 2013, their total scholarship allotment has grown from $1,000 to $8,000, thanks to the generosity of their Scholarship Sponsor! Scholarships will be awarded to the recipients onstage at VA PrideFest 2017 on Sept. 23, to be used as reimbursement for educational expenditures incurred during the 2017-2018 school year.

Get the application here

Governor McAuliffe recognizes Pride month for last time

Governor McAuliffe recognizes Pride

Once again, Governor Terry McAuliffe, in recognition of Pride Month, hosted the LGBT community at the Executive Mansion. McAuliffe is the first Virginia governor to hold recognitions in honor of the annual celebration.

Attendees from across the commonwealth were greeted by the Governor who thanked everyone for their support over the last four years. The Governor has been a staunch supporter of marriage equality and nondiscrimination measures that protect LGBT people.

Governor McAuliffe also recognized Equality Virginia and their executive director, James Parrish for the outstanding leadership that has been a major force in legislative progress as well as helping stop bad bills from becoming law. Virginia Pride president James Milner presented a gift on behalf of all Virginia pride festival organizers to Governor and Mrs. McAuliffe.

About 150 people attended the reception.

Pictured above: (L-R) Side By Side Director, Ted Lewis; Diversity Board Chair, Art Toth; Governor McAuliffe; Diversity Richmond Director, Bill Harrison and Nationz Executive Director, Zakia McKensey

Governor McAuliffe recogizes Pride month for last time

Left: Gov. McAuliffe and Equality Virginia Director, James Parrish. Right: Virginia Pride President James Millner (far right) and other festival organizers from across the commonwealth recognized Gov. and Mrs. McAuliffe for their on-going support.

Diversity Richmond launches five year strategic plan

Responsible nonprofits stay in touch with their communities. The needs and expectations of the public change and nonprofits must keep up or will become obsolete.

As busy as this place is, it’s difficult to imagine Diversity Richmond becoming outdated, but we take our responsibilities seriously. For the past several months we have been laying the groundwork, setting priorities for our next five years and are now mapping the next steps.

Over the last few years our workload has grown tremendously. For example, through a grant from Altria, we are battling homelessness in the LGBTQ community. Through referrals of partner agencies we are helping people who are facing dire circumstances, only because they are LGBTQ.

We continually look for ways to help. None of this work could be done without community support. Thank you for your ongoing allegiance to bringing about a fuller community of justice.

DR Board of Directors

Diversity Richmond Board of Directors (L-R) Jean Segner, treasurer; Beth Marschak, past chair; Crystal Suber, vice chair; Art Toth, chair; Cheezi Farmer, secretary. (Back L-R) Michael-Birch Pierce, Ayana Obika, Keri Abrams, Robyn Deane, Ray Green*, Brian Harrison and Robyn Bentley.
*After several years of service, Ray Green recently retired from the board.

Diversity Richmond partners with University of Richmond and The Valentine

DR partners UR Valentine

Recording HIV/AIDS Richmond history

For several months, The Valentine has been working on an upcoming exhibit, Pandemic, addressing epidemics that have affected Richmonders. The project will include the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the impact that the disease had on our city. The HIV companion piece, HIV@RVA is being produced by the University of Richmond, through the leadership of Professor Laura Browder. The main voices of HIV/AIDS prevention campaigns during the height of the epidemic were of white gay men. People of color rarely saw their faces on posters and public service announcements or in any media form. As an end result, many people became infected because the lack of effective outreach. HIV@RVA will address the fact that the stories of people of color living with HIV-disease have gone untold, unnoticed and unappreciated. While much of the project work is being donated, Diversity Richmond donated $1,500 as start-up funds. “This is an incredibly important project,” stated Diversity Director, Bill Harrison. “We have a moral obligation to have a fuller story told and we are honored to play a role in this.”

Pictured: Diversity Richmond Deputy Director, Rodney Lofton presents a $1,500 check to University of Richmond professor and curator of HIV@RVA, Laura Browder for HIV/AIDS history project