Candidate forums scheduled at Diversity Richmond

meet the candidatesThis is an election year of great importance. While we don't have Hillary or Donald joining us, through the leadership of local activist, Roland Winston, we do have the majority of candidates running for local offices coming to our candidate forums.

While marriage equality is now the norm, that does not mean that our work is done. Far from it. We must hold all elected officials accountable for their votes that affect our community. And we must work to elect people who stand with us.

A major issue that all candidates need to address is the treatment of transgender students. Attorney General Mark Herring has told localities that they have the authority to protect transgender students, but Richmond has not revised their policies. Plus, we are a community with concerns that are not specifically LGBT. As they say, "All politics is local."

Richmond City Council
September 20, Richmond City Council candidates will discuss the issues;

September 27, candidates for Congress will talk politics;

Richmond Mayor
October 4, all eight mayoral aspirants will be here

Richmond City School Board
October 11, Richmond City School Board hopefuls will discuss local education challenges.

The forums will run each night from 6:00 P.M.

Thank you to the following organizations for making the forums possible: A Philip Randolph Institute, Advocates for Equality in Schools, Alliance for A Progressive Virginia, Brown Virginia, Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, Latinos and Amigos, Mothers and Others of Va., Senior Center of Greater Richmond, Sierra Club-Fall of the James, Virginia Organizing and

The meetings are free and open to the public. More information will follow soon.

Governor Salutes LGBT Pride Month In Virginia

Gov McAuliffeGovernor Terry McAuliffe welcomed us into the Executive Mansion again this year in recognition of Pride Month.

Among those attending were (left to right) Diversity Board Chair, Art Toth; Diversity Board Member,  Ayana Obika-Clayborne and Richmond Business Alliance Chair, Bary Hausrath.

Darryl "DJ" Roman Burt II laid to rest in Amelia

Darryl "DJ" Roman Burt IIA funeral is a difficult but important community ritual. We come together to honor, to mourn, to celebrate a life and a presence of which we have now been deprived.

Darryl "DJ" Roman Burt II died in the Orlando massacre in the Pulse nightclub, celebrating achievement of a master's degree just two days before. His family hosted a celebration of life for DJ before laying him down in his final resting place on Saturday June 25, 2016.

It was an honor to attend his funeral, along with Diversity Richmond Program Committee member Janet Avery. The event to honor Darryl Burt was well attended, filling the available space in the Amelia County High School auditorium.

It was solemn, heartbreaking, tear-filled but also joyful in the remembrance of a young and meaningful life. Gathered to celebrate his life and early passing were family, black churches, his Claflin University Concert Choir, friends and even strangers.

In the wake of such tragedy experienced in the Orlando massacre, it is important to publicly and communally mourn the loss of our dear departed. I wish that the necessity had never come about, but I am so grateful that Janet and I could be there to honor the life and mourn the death of this talented, vibrant and beloved young man. Rest in peace, DJ.

Ray Green is a Diversity Richmond Board Member and Program Committee Chair.

Photo: Darryl "DJ" Roman Burt II. Photo courtesy his family.

Making us proud

Zachary CoralloThere have been few issues that garnered as much national attention in regards to LGBT rights as us serving in the military. And as with all of our civil rights debates, after serving openly in the military was legalized, the horror stories and scenarios that some predicted, have not come true.

We recently received a call from the Navy Recruiting District Richmond Headquarters in search of a speaker to address LGBT issues from the viewpoint of military personnel. We recruited QM1 (SW) Zachary Corallo to address the audience. Below are a few of his thoughts.

"The reason I stepped up and started speaking for the LGBT community in the military is to create awareness and educate people about the reasons behind why we celebrate LGBT Pride month. I believe it's a celebration to recognize the sacrifices and adversity the LGBT community has endured over recent decades. I also think that part of educating is to give people a glimpse and share firsthand what it was like, specifically for service members, to live under the umbrella of the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy, and how much of a difference it makes now that the policy has been repealed."

"These experiences with speaking have been a little nerve racking because I've never spoken publicly to Military and DoD personnel about my personal life and how living under the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy has affected me; however, each time I've done it, I am completely surprised at the level of support I get and am heart-warmed with how far we have come in recent years in these issues. I am truly blessed to be part of such an incredible organization like the Department of Defense and the Navy."

Very Respectfully,
QM1(SW) Zachary Corallo
Petty Officer First Class (USN)

Petty Officer First Class Corallo is a wonderful example of who we are. We take this opportunity to thank him, and all our community members who have and who are presently serving in the military.

Dixon Hughes Goodman, great example of corporate leadership

DHG interns and staff

When Diversity Richmond board member, Lori Cochran, recently met her company's interns, she instantly thought of Diversity as a place for community involvement. "DHG hires college students each summer to gain exposure to public accounting and the unique culture of our firm. A large part of that culture involves relationships, not just internally and with clients, but also with the broader community."

"To that end, our interns spend part of their time involved in community service. Because I am active in our recruiting efforts, I was asked to find opportunities for them and I immediately thought of Diversity Richmond. As both a Diversity Richmond board member and a DHG Inclusion and Diversity Council member, it seemed a perfect fit."

And perfect it was. The students and a couple of DHG employees made a huge difference in just their two short days with us. Our store entrance experienced a much needed facelift. The customers love it and have shared many positive comments.

Thank you Lori Cochran, Dixon Hughes Goodman and the students and staff who made such a transformation in the appearance of Diversity Thrift.

Beth Marschak receives Schall-Townley Award

Beth Marschak receives Schall-Townley Award

A highlight of Diversity Richmond's event, The Big OH!, last Friday was a tribute to longtime activist, Beth Marschak. A large crowd gathered in The Iridian Gallery, which currently features Truthful History Heals, a show curated by Beth.

Excerpt from Ray Green's remarks:

Beth Marschak, as Board Chair, has led, encouraged, advocated, and presided over this wonderful transformation of the community center and the growth of the Board as well. Beth will be stepping down from the Chair position in the near future and we would like to take a moment to pause and publicly thank Beth for her steadfast service to the Board, to Diversity Richmond and to the LGBT Community.
Beth's lifetime body of work and advocacy for causes that are dear to her and benefit so many of us has garnered her many awards and recognition. Tonight we are pleased to add an award from Diversity Richmond as well - the Schall-Townley Recognition for Extraordinary Personal Action, named for Carol Schall and Mary Townley, the couple whose lawsuit made it all the way to the Supreme Court and brought marriage equality to Virginia and the nation. This recognition is for extraordinary personal action and is presented only when truly warranted.

Pope Gregory Knew All About Connecting Communities

by Fred Wayne
Pope GregoryThe overwhelming awareness of a community that came together last Tuesday at Diversity's Orlando memorial service took me back to my teen years when I first met an Episcopal priest named Edward Meeks Gregory. Fast forward 40 years to his grave in Hollywood Cemetery. Two features jump out at the viewer: the carved gravestone with the image of a bridge, and a Latin word that translates into Let us build bridges.  
During those intervening years from first introduction until his death in 1995, there were many opportunities to see first-hand the significance of how one ordinary man built so many important bridges.  
Born into white privilege, Pope (as he was affectionately called by his UVa fraternity) was not blind to injustices in the world around him. After being ordained an Episcopal priest, he used his preaching and teaching positions to focus on a perspective that ran counter to the segregated world of the American South in the mid-20th century. When Virginia's Prince Edward County closed its public schools rather than integrate, Pope raised money to help black children attend private schools. He also served as president of the Richmond-Petersburg Council on Human Relations as well as the Richmond Area Council on Human Relations.  
Following his appointment to the City of Richmond's Human Relations Commission, he repeatedly (but unsuccessfully) pushed to add sexual orientation to the city code's nondiscrimination policies. Pope also served as the Episcopal adviser to Richmond's Dignity/Integrity chapter for addressing the LGBT caucuses of the Roman Catholic and Episcopal churches in the US. Long before last year's legalization of same-sex marriage, Pope presided over the first same-sex 'marriage' in Virginia at St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Richmond in 1978. While lacking in legality, this milestone union of two men was publicly affirmed with the full support of the then Episcopal bishop of Virginia, Robert Hall.  
Pope's life and work are remembered annually at Christ Church School with the awarding of The Edward Meeks Gregory Service Award. Closer to home, the chapel of the ecumenical community at Richmond Hill boasts a stained glass window in his honor. The Edward Meeks Gregory Papers are open for research in the archives of the VCU's Cabell Library.
Pope would have loved last week's Orlando memorial. Like Pope - and like countless others in our community - let us continue to build bridges.

Edward Meeks "Pope" Gregory's tombstone features the word Pontificeamus --  Latin for Let us build bridges

Diversity Richmond Continues Support of Holocaust Education

holocaust educationJay Ipson is no stranger to Richmonders. The co-founder of the Virginia Holocaust Museum, Mr. Ipson has also been a longtime community partner with Diversity Richmond in educating people about the horrors of the Holocaust. A Holocaust survivor himself, Mr. Ipson, at age six, and his family hid for nine months in the German countryside. Six of those months were spent literally underground, hiding under a potato field. The Ipsons immigrated to America when he was twelve.

Our most recent project with Mr. Ipson, or "Jay," as we all know him is an interesting one. As Jay recently shared, "From Biblical times to the present, precious metals played a huge part in men's survival, as so it was during World War II."

"In 1940 Hitler and Stalin made a pack, and the Russians invaded Lithuania, confiscating all business belongings. Paper currency was of little value. The world stood by and did nothing; so Hitler invaded Lithuania and the Nazi's and our Lithuanian neighbors stripped us of our worldly goods, placing us in a Ghetto. Some of us that had gold coins managed to hide them."

"My parents came up with the idea of taking Mother's sweater and hiding gold coins inside the buttons." So, many years later Jay had his mother's sweater recreated and sewed quarters inside the buttons. The mannequin that wears the reproduced sweater was donated by Diversity Thrift. Jay uses the mannequin to help share his family's story of faith, resilience and incredible courage. We are very proud to play even this small role in helping.

Thanks to Altria and Hamilton Glass, another mural is cast

DR 2nd mural

Our second mural, designed by Hamilton Glass, was completed this past week. As with the first, the project was funded by Altria. The company's volunteer pool of employees also contributed hours of painting to fill in Ham's drawing, with many finishing touches to come. The mural is located on a wall of the building located in the thrift store parking lot. "We wanted something that was fun and colorful and also addressed the store," shared Bill Harrison. "Hamilton and Altria did their magic once again. The store customers love it. We have heard praises all week."

Diversity Richmond says goodbye and THANK YOU to Debra Terry

DR DTerryProgram Coordinator, Debra Terry, has been with Diversity Richmond for four years, first as an intern and then as an employee. As a seasoned activist, Debra has spent the past four years helping to strengthen the bonds of the LGBTQ+ community and advocating for the needs of LGBTQ+ individuals. Though she loves the work that she does, Debra will be moving on to her next adventure by the end of May. As her intern, I was able to sit down with her to discuss more about the journey that she has been on and the new one that lies ahead.

Becoming a Social Worker

Debra’s journey began as a graduate student in the Masters of Social Work (MSW) program at Virginia Commonwealth University, but becoming a social worker, Debra says, was an accident. She had studied psychology during her undergraduate program, and she originally wanted to do counseling. Social work was the quicker and cheaper way to pursue this career path, but when Debra started the program, she was not satisfied. In fact, she hated it and felt like she was “just trying to survive.”

But these feelings changed when she fell in love with her social justice class, which was taught by Terry Pendleton at the time. “It changed my orientation from micro to macro because I was so taken by issues of social justice. Through the class, I started to identify with the social work profession.”

Ending up at Diversity Richmond

During her first year in the social work program, Debra interned at Minority Health Consortium. At Minority Health Consortium, she did work focusing on HIV education, outreach, testing, and prevention. She was placed there because of her interest in sexual risk reduction in transgender communities. After this experience, she knew she wanted to work specifically in transgender and queer communities for her second year internship, and Diversity seemed like the best place to do this. Starting off at Diversity was rough and rocky because she was the first social work intern they had ever had, but she positions it as being a valuable learning experience for both her and the organization.

Debra credits her experience as an intern to Rita McNeil, her supervisor from Minority Health Consortium. Once Debra left there, Rita was gracious enough to volunteer her time at Diversity so Debra could do her internship here. If it were not for Rita, Debra says she doesn’t know where she would be right now.

Watching Diversity Richmond Grow

Over the years, Debra has seen many changes occur at Diversity Richmond. One of the most significant changes she has noticed is the intentional shift to become more inclusive. When Debra started, Diversity Richmond was still known as the Gay Community Center of Richmond (GCCR). At the time, a community-based needs assessment had been conducted and found that many identities within the community felt excluded from GCCR. Many felt that the organization seemed to be channeling most of its energy into catering to the needs of specifically white, gay adults.

Since then, Diversity has rebranded and made a conscious attempt at becoming more inclusive, but as Debra mentions, there’s still more work that needs to be done. “It’s a process. It’s never over. We always have to be inclusive, truly inclusive, and we have to have a really intersectional lens that we do this work through, to make sure we are working with, and supporting, all members of our community.”

Most Rewarding Experience

Debra’s time at Diversity Richmond has been full of rich experiences, both rewarding and tough. When asked about her most rewarding experience, Debra mentions the Trans Inclusive Shelter Project (TISP). TISP is a program at Diversity Richmond which Debra, personally, got to develop and implement. The goal of the organization is to influence policies and practices of homeless shelters and services in order to create safer places for transgender individuals experiencing homelessness or unstable housing. The idea for the project was sparked by a single client of Debra’s. A young transwoman reached out to Debra looking for resources because she had just turned 18 and was asked to leave her grandmother’s home, but she had nowhere to go.

At the time, Virginia’s policy on housing according to gender identity did not exist, and Debra’s client was forced to go into a men’s shelter. Since then, things have changed. Shelters are now required to house folks according to their gender identity, and the team of advocates who make up TISP including Debra, Afton Bradley from Fan Free Clinic, Nichele Carver from the Department of Housing and Community Development, Alex Wagaman from VCU’s School of Social Work, and Rae Obejero from St. Joseph’s Villa continue to work toward inclusive, affirming policy and practice within homeless services.

Even though this is the case, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done around educating and training homeless shelter providers on competent and friendly care for transgender individuals. In order to address this issue, TISP is getting ready to do a statewide, educational webinar series in May. This will be Debra’s last project both with TISP and Diversity Richmond.

What’s Next?

Debra’s next journey is going to be in the mountains in Montana. Her and her partner will be moving out there at the end of May to continue working on the cabin they currently have half built. Debra’s extremely excited to be heading out there because it’s going to be something brand new for her. “We’re going to build and play in the snow and figure things out.”

As for her work, Debra is approaching it as an experiment. The closet city is an hour and 15 minutes away, and the closest town might be a bit too conservative for the work she wants to do. “...There’s an LGBTQ+ community center [in the city], and homeless shelters, and Planned Parenthood, so the things that I have interest in and/or experience in are not at my fingertips. I thought a little bit about organizing and trying to do some rural organizing, but I just don’t know. And I think that’s okay. Because the first thing I need to do is to go out there and take care of me and myself and do what I’m doing with my partner. And as far as work goes, I think I need to go out there and look and listen and be quiet, and see what’s out there.”

To Community Members

From Debra:

“As it relates to my beloved LGBTQ+ Greater Richmond Community, and as it relates to this work, and my organization, I would say... we always need to be effortful and mindful of inclusion in the work that we are doing. We’ve seen a lot of really great successes, but we still have a lot of work to do in our community. It can be really easy to grab our little success and just run away with it and feel good (and we should feel good), but I think we really need to focus on the vast amount of work that needs be done.

It’s really important to look around and stand with the folks who need us the most, and be with people who are facing the greatest obstacles due to systemic oppression, homophobia, transphobia and racism. That’s where our focus should be; standing with, sitting with, working with our folks who are most vulnerable to bigotry and violence. Fundraisers, and mixers, and social events are important. But we also need to be out in the community working with local homeless shelters, in schools talking with students and teachers, on the street with our fellow protesters, and remembering to show up and challenge politicians and employers to be inclusive.”

Debra’s last day is officially April 27th, but she’ll still be helping out around Diversity Richmond until the end of May. Be sure to stop in, wish her goodbye, and say thank you!

Pictured: Debra Terry and board member Rodney Lofton

Iridian Gallery at Diversity Richmond committee making waves

IG meeting

Our phenomenal art gallery committee recently met to map out the details of our upcoming shows.

You can still see the current show, {D}Light: Works in copper by Cathy G. Vaughn, for a couple more weeks.

After that, we have Truthful History Heals, curated by our own Beth Marschak. She posed the question: If the conversation about the Civil War statues on Monument Ave. was VISUAL, could more voices be heard? We are hosting this visual salon as part of exhibit, and want your participation. Contributions will be printed out and added to the walls for the duration of the show. Open to artists AND non-artists, and open to ALL. Get your entries in asap, and pass it on.

Stay tuned for more from the Iridian Gallery at Diversity Richmond, and thank you to this incredible group of talented volunteers!

Diversity Richmond supports Equality Virginia

EV dinner 2016

Diversity Richmond board members and staff attended the 2016 Equality Virginia Commonwealth Dinner, celebrating our community big time!