Reception to welcome Richmond's LGBTQ+ Liaison

We recently hosted a reception and community conversation for newly appointed Richmond City Police LGBTQ Liaison, Captain Angela Greene. Capt. Greene and Chief Alfred Durham are ever-present within our community and are working to ensure that all citizens are treated fairly. ROSMY and Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities will soon begin cultural diversity training for Richmond Police, as already done for Henrico officers.

A big hug and thank you to Darren Schledt

Darren SchledtIf you have visited Diversity Thrift, then you probably know Darren Schledt. Little did Darren realize when he applied for a part-time position of clothing assistant in 2001 that he would eventually become the store's Senior Manager. Sadly, after fifteen years, Darren is leaving us and returning to his home state of Louisiana.

His journey with Diversity has been an interesting one. "In 2001, I was working at a childcare center near Diversity Thrift and went shopping there a lot. I thought that the store would be a really cool place to work so I applied. My first job was in clothing and then furniture."

Later Darren was asked if he would like to drive the truck, making pickups and deliveries. "I told him that I knew nothing about driving a big truck!" he laughed. The director had faith in Darren, and soon he was the lead driver. The customers loved him.

One difference between Darren and the other employees is that Darren is deaf. While that condition may have inhibited others, it has not deterred Darren from leading our growth into becoming one of the area's largest and most popular thrift stores. And the responsibilities of managing such a venture are enormous.

After attending Gallaudet University, a school for the deaf and hearing impaired in Washington, D.C., Darren moved to Richmond, as his parents lived here at the time. "I like working with the hearing staff and teaching them what deaf people can do," he shared. "We can do anything."  Darren finds communicating with people "through pen and paper," an easy means of messaging.  "It is also good for hearing people to know a few signs such as 'how are you.' Darren encourages everyone to "not be afraid to approach deaf people. "We are all the same."

"I feel very proud, as working here has helped me become the person I am. We welcome all communities here at Diversity and I am proud that we have built this place as somewhere that can be shared with everyone."

Darren's work has enabled Diversity Richmond to contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars back into the Richmond LGBT community. And exactly how do we appropriately say thank you for that?

Darren Schledt has definitely left his mark here at Diversity Thrift!

"I love coming to Diversity Thrift!"

Rebecca Wilson"I always leave the store with a smile on my face and a car full of amazing treasures!"

Diversity Thrift has lots of regular customers. Meet Rebecca Wilson, owner of The Runaway Dish. Her longtime love of vintage dinnerware turned a hobby into a lucrative business. Rebecca finds the treasures, old and new, at thrift stores, junk and consignment shops and then rents the wares to folks having wedding receptions, parties or business luncheons and dinners.

"I love to shop at Diversity because they have a fabulous collection of vintage housewares. I am always on the hunt, scouring the city for unique plates, glasses, silverware and other tableware. Diversity always has the best and no matter how often I come in, there is always something new."

"And the best part is, everyone that works there is so fun about my zany shopping sprees. I never feel like I am a burden when I score entire shopping carts full of goodies, everyone just pitches in. I always leave with a smile on my face and a car full of amazing treasures."

As her web site shares, she has rescued everything from plates that were "marketing come-ons for long gone detergents," to "leading China designers."

"I rescue them from oblivion and give them a new life," she added. "And it's also the greenest alternative available." Check out her site and while you're at it, check out the treasures at Diversity Thrift.

Rebecca Wilson is a treasured regular at Diversity Thrift

Personal journeys highlight Diversity Richmond's Black History Month celebration

Last month, Diversity Richmond presented "RVA LGBTQ Black History: The Old and The New." The event opened with a showing of vintage film footage featuring RVA drag luminary, Christmas Snow. The footage allowed attendees to have a brief glimpse into Richmond's drag history and for some, an inspired trip down memory lane.

Diversity Richmond Board Member, Rodney Loften shared some memories and spoke about his friendship with Christmas.

The second part of the event featured a panel discussion, moderated by Diversity Richmond Program Committee Member, E. Taylor Doctor. The panel guests were Christopher Murphey, owner of Digital Empire Graphics; Crystal Suber, Diversity Richmond Board Member; Micky Alexander Jordan, S.O.N.G.; and The Rev. Derek A. Terry, Pastor of St. Peter's United Church of Christ who was also featured on an episode of Iyanla Fix My Life.

Panelists shared stories from their personal journeys of coming out and living in their truth as out members of the black community. The discussion was lively with many audience members asking questions of the panelists and also sharing from their own personal journeys. It was obvious that this type of event could be a regular offering of Diversity Richmond, as guests were eager to continue discussion after the final question was taken for the night. Attendees enjoyed refreshments that were provided by AARP Pride.  

Musician's concert raises $1,100 for Diversity Richmond

Singer-songwriter Eileen Edmonds wanted to turn her coffeehouse concert into a fundraiser for Diversity Richmond. She enlisted Kathy Magee and Sierra Knight from The Richmond LGBT Meetup Group, and together they crafted a fun and well-attended "Mardi Gras Match Up" on Feb. 13. Single attendees were given green beaded necklaces, and those attached got red ones. Guests bought tickets for chances to win some great raffle items, the proceeds of which yielded more than $1,100 for Diversity Richmond. There were lots of introductions, conversations and future dates planned that night!

Eileen's smooth performance included a two sets of original music, along with a few deft covers. The event was held at Zata Cafe (formerly Taza Coffee and Creme) in Westover Hills.

Our heartfelt thanks go out to:

Event sponsors, KMI Insurance Solutions and Benson Wealth Management Group

Prize donors,

  • EQ Events Party Planning - Gift Certificate for 4 hrs of on-site party planning. Value $450.00
  • Diversity Richmond - Wine Basket including 2 antique wine glasses
  • Benson Wealth Management Group - Sailing trip with Eileen Edmonds
  • Frame Nation - Custom Frame & Art Shop - Custom framed print by C. D. Weldon
  • Graffiato Italian Restaurant - $50.00 Gift Card
  • Dr. Sarah Wilmer, DDS - Free dental examine, cleaning and digital X rays, and a $25.00 gift card to the Cheesecake Factory Restaurant
  • Wanda Fears, Best RVA Realtor - Wine Bag
  • KMI Insurance Solutions - Craft Beer Sampler Bag and a $25.00 Amex Card
  • Mongrel - Stationary and Gift Basket
  • Gail Nystrom Designer Jewelry - (2) $20.00 Gail Nystrom Designer Jewelry Gift Certificates

Meetup Organizers, Kate and Sierra Magee

Eileen Edmonds and Christie Wright

Finally, thank you to all of you who showed up, supported this event, and purchased prize tickets. It was a really fun night!

Diversity Richmond intern shares her first journey to the General Assembly of Virginia

Madison Equality Virginia Day of ActionEquality Virginia Day of Action

As a social worker-in-training and intern here at Diversity Richmond, I visited the General Assembly for the first time through Equality Virginia’s Day of Action. I was blessed enough to have more experienced policy advocates to guide me in the right direction and to also be visiting during a time for celebration, as I witnessed the killing of HB 781 (the bathroom bill) and HB 385 (the discrimination bill). Though I considered it a relatively exciting and educational day, I still left the day asking myself, “What kind of legislative hell did I just go through?”

If you’ve never experienced the General Assembly while it is in session, let me explain. Walking into the General Assembly building was like walking into a beehive. Assistants, interns, and groups of civilian activists were running around in every direction on every floor. Representatives are around there too, but you most likely won’t see them. They’re like magicians, except they’re only good at disappearing, and you have to entertain them. On this day, however, we were lucky because the first delegate that we met with face-to-face was Delegate Roxann Robinson (R). She welcomed in our group, listened to our stories, and pledged to vote against HB 781. A promise which she kept – Thanks Roxann! Feeling a small success, our group continued on to another representative. We did not have as much luck with this one, however their aide was nice enough to listen, or at least pretend to. As a side note, I later found out that the delegate of my own district, a Republican, pulled a Houdini at the last minute when Equality Virginia’s group arrived. He came back a few minutes later, skipped over Equality Virginia’s group, and saw a group of students from University of Richmond instead – Young Republicans, I’m assuming.

Our next stop was in the Capital building to watch the Virginia Senate congregate. If you’ve never been in the Capital, it is certainly a site to see, whether you’re lobbying or just looking for some history. The building is a gorgeous piece of architecture that has managed to maintain its colonial aesthetic throughout the years – rich, white, cisgender, heterosexual men included! Again, the hallways were filled with people wondering up and down the stairs. We reached the Senate Gallery and were required to follow a strict set of rules in order to get in. Once past security, we waited for the meeting to commence. If you didn’t know this, right off the bat the Senate opens with a prayer. I didn’t know this at the time, so I turned to the youth sitting next to me and whispered, “WHAT!?” So much for separation of church and state... As the opening procedures continued, all the activist groups there that day were introduced: first, a group of doctors; second, a Lime’s Disease awareness group; and finally, our group. And we were a big group. We took up about a quarter of the balcony seating. We were so big that the Republicans immediately called recess after we were introduced (yes, before anything was even discussed). I like to think our presence scared them.

After lunch, I teamed up with a classmate of mine, and we went back to the General Assembly building. It was about 1:30pm, and a House of Representatives General Laws Committee was scheduled to start at 2:00pm. We headed over a little early to grab seats. 2:00pm came, and so did 2:30pm, and then 3:00pm, and finally people were pouring into the committee room. Apparently time at the General Assembly doesn’t actually exist. Once things kicked off I don’t know how to describe what I watched because I have no clue what I watched. The voting went by so quickly and the jargon and rituals were lost on me.

Towards the end of the session, the bills that Equality Virginia were focusing on came up for debate. HB 385 was the first up. This debate was relatively painless. Once it was killed, everyone from Equality Virginia applauded and cheered. We were told not to applaud again because apparently celebrations, like time, also don’t exist at the General Assembly. Finally, the big catch of the day, HB 781, was on deck. As soon as deliberation started, Delegate Cole, the creator of the bill, and his band of merry followers opened with arguments in support of the bill. Cole’s main argument for attempting to strip transgender people of their privacy and humanity was, ironically, to protect the privacy of people – cisgender people. Once they made their arguments, representatives from Equality Virginia stepped up. One of those representatives was a youth. He shared his experiences as a transgender student and explained how the bill would affect him if passed. His story must have created a major impact on the committee because the next thing I knew we were all pouring out into the hallways of the General Assembly, hugging, crying, and celebrating the killing of HB 781.

Even though I call my experience “a day of legislative hell”, I do not want to discourage anyone from attending the General Assembly while it is in session because even in hell, pieces of heaven can be found. Delegate Roxann Robinson (and others) who listened to our stories, the Representatives on the Committee that killed HB 385 and HB 781, and especially, all the dedicated advocates who were there for a fight are those pieces of heaven. They are the ones to thank for protecting the LGBTQ+ community from being pushed backwards for at least one more day.

Madison Woodroof is a VCU graduate and social work student who is serving her internship at Diversity Richmond.

LGBT Tourism Task Force advises Va. Governor

This month, the Governor's LGBT Tourism Task Force presented recommendations to Gov. Terry McAuliffe regarding making Virginia a more welcoming and friendly destination for all travelers.

Over the next few years, Virginia Tourism Corporation will be taking the lead on rolling out a marketing plan that includes researching the LGBT traveler, sharing resources with destinations across the state utilizing Richmond's OutRVA campaign as a case study, and incorporating LGBT people into their advertising.

The Governor announced the formation of the group in 2014 to focus on showcasing Virginia as an LGBT-friendly destination and maximizing the opportunity for growth in this new tourism sector.

"We're unified by one common goal: to make Virginia a better place to live, work, play, and raise a family," said Governor McAuliffe upon creating the task force. "Tourism plays an important role in attaining that goal, building communities, and helping drive the new Virginia economy. We have an opportunity to build upon the progress Virginia made... in achieving marriage equality and ensure that visitors across the globe know that the Commonwealth is open and welcoming to all.

The task force, comprised of LGBT community leaders, destination marketers, and business owners, met throughout 2015 to compile recommendations in areas of tourism research, public relations, education, marketing and funding.

Virginia Tourism Corporation will continue leveraging members of the task force in addition to other LGBT Virginians as they begin executing the recommendations presented to Gov. McAuliffe.

Photo: Bob Witick, LGBT Task Force Chair, (center) and Micheal Thorne Begland (right) meet with Gov. Terry McAuliffe (left)

Kevin Clay

Beloved LGBT activist celebrates 98th birthday

Guy KinmanIt was a "Red Noses and Balloons Day" as friends gathered to celebrate the 98th birthday of Richmond icon, Guy Kinman, last month. Guy's long history of helping galvanize LGBT activism in Richmond, and his ability to bring divergent communities together, merits our thanks. We wish him the best of all possible new years.

VCIC's Jonathan Zur is "Person of the Year" finalist

Jonathan ZurJonathan Zur, executive director of Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities, was named one of thirty finalists in the Richmond Times Dispatch's "Person of the Year." The sold-out event recognized individuals for their contributions in building a stronger Greater Richmond. The newspaper management invited readers to nominate people "whose achievements help define why the capital region is an interesting, dynamic and great place to live, work and play."

The Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities fights prejudices by conducting intensive workshops and seminars with school systems and other community partners. Race, ethnicity, religion, and sexual orientation include a sampling of the issues addressed in VCIC's work. So far this year, VCIC has reached over 20,000 people.

Diversity Richmond has funded VCIC three times, with the most recent grant to support a stop-bullying project in Henrico County Schools.

Pictured at the awards luncheon is Diversity Richmond's Bill Harrison, Zur, and VCIC state board member, Charlie Boyd.

MCC Richmond orchestrates recognitions for World AIDS Day

Metropolitan Community Church coordinated several events in commemoration of WORLD AIDS DAY.

The award-winning documentary, "Common Threads," which tells the story of the Names Project: AIDS Memorial Quilt, was shown at the Byrd Theater. A portion of the quilt was on display at Saint Paul's Baptist
Church on Creighton Road from Nov. 28 thru Dec. 13, 2015.

The World AIDS DAY service was conducted on Dec. 1 at Church of the Holy Comforter on Monument Avenue. Monument City Music dedicated a concert prior to the service. The community owes MCC Richmond much gratitude for the months of planning to produce such a beautiful tribute to those who are living with HIV disease, as well as those who we remember. Thank you Metropolitan Community Church Richmond.

Diversity Richmond was proud to support the Quilt's visit to Richmond through a 2014 grant.

MCC quilt

Shown are a few of the Quilt panels that were on display recently at Saint Paul's Baptist Church. The panel for Billy Beazley (center square, lower right) is remembered by many Richmonders. After his diagnosis, Billy volunteered at the Fan Free Clinic as a public speaker who shared his story with many audiences. We remember.

VCU Gerontologist will be new Cultural Competency trainer at Diversity Richmond

Jay WhiteDiversity Richmond welcomes Jay White, MS, Gerontologist to our LGBT Cultural Competency Training program. Jay is the Director of Professional and Community Development for the VCU Department of Gerontology. He is a member of the Richmond Senior Network, the RVa Better Aging Forum, the Gerontological Society of America and the American Society on Aging. Jay has co-authored articles and given presentations on a variety of topics including: LGBT and Aging, Aging in Place, Nutritional Needs of Older Adults, Evaluating Depression and Dementia and Person-Centered Care and Culture Change.

LGBT elders are two thirds more likely to age alone than the general population.  Person-centered care is important to show that LGBT elders are welcomed in our long-term care communities.

Diversity Richmond's goal is to train as many caregivers as possible, and you can help. Please spread the word about our free training to your friends and family employed in assisted living facilities, nursing homes, and home healthcare and home service providers.

The free training sessions will be held quarterly in 2016.

Diversity Richmond welcomes new board member

E. Taylor DoctorReverend E. Taylor Doctor is a native of Charleston, South Carolina and relocated to Richmond in 2003. He completed undergraduate studies at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in Religious Studies and Music Education with a minor in Spanish. He completed graduate work at the Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC) in Atlanta, Georgia and plans to complete doctoral studies in Systematic Theology with a concentration in Queer Homiletics.

He has been recognized as one of the "100-To-Watch: Emerging Black LGBTQ Leaders" by the National Black Justice Coalition. He is employed at the Virginia Department of Health where he serves as the Senior Program Support Liaison in the Division of Disease Prevention.

Read more about E. Taylor and our other board members.