Community leader Keri Abrams joins Diversity Richmond board of directors

KAbrams"A few years ago I came out to myself and the world as a transgender female and started my transition to the woman I am today," shared Keri Abrams during a recent conversation. And "that woman" has since had a significant impact on the health of the local LGBT community. Keri is one of our most recent board additions and her voice has already made a significant difference in our work.

For several years, Keri has played a major role within the local community through her leadership with the local support group, the James River Transgender Society. She is often a speaker when LGBT organizations conduct educational programs and has befriended many women who are traveling the transition journey.

Over the past three years, Keri has been instrumental in helping our community develop stronger relationships with local law enforcement and with the appointments LGBT police liaisons. She helped plan several of the recent Transgender Day of Remembrance services and is presently helping Diversity Richmond orchestrate a job fair for the LGBT community. In 2015 she was a recipient of the prestigious OutStanding Virginian award, given annually by Equality Virginia. She also serves on the Equality Virginia Transgender Speakers Bureau and is a former ROSMY youth facilitator.

"I hope to continue and further the work that has already started to be more inclusive to my and other minority communities," she said.

Meet community organizer Micky Alexander Jordan

JordanA first-hand account of what inspires Micky ...

I am Micky Alexander Jordan, a Black queer and genderqueer activist. I work as a member leader and current fellow with Southerners on New Ground. In 2015, I also worked with a few organizations in Richmond to raise awareness of #BlackLivesMatter and the unjust deaths of black folks at the hands of the state. Since then I found a passion for organizing and helping make sure marginalized voices are not only heard but included at the table from the very beginning. I love graphic design and dreaming about building a safer, beautiful, more affirming world for trans and queer people of color to not just survive in but thrive in.

I have spoken on many different panels at the University of Richmond, Virginia Commonwealth University, and for different organizations about his experiences as a Black queer and trans organizer. I have also created several workshops, individually and with SONG Richmond, to explore ideas around community care, revolutionary love, what it means to pass as a trans person, non-binary identities, and more. I have also recently done organizing work with Raise Up for $15, and am currently working with the LGBTQ+ Safety Advisory Group at Virginia Commonwealth University to create a series of trans-affirming police trainings.

Micky is the first in a new series of local activists and community organizers featured in our newsletter. If you know of someone who inspires you, contact Rodney Lofton at

New Richmond Police LGBTQ Liaison Connecting With our Community

Diversity Richmond board chair, Art Toth and Executive Director, Bill Harrison, were recent guests of Richmond City Chief Rodney Durham and our new LGBTQ liaison, Captain Daniel Minton. The meeting was to allow all to become better acquainted and to strategize efforts to make our community and the Richmond police department stronger. Chief Durham very much wants to hear from our community and learn of concerns we may have.

Pictured: LGBTQ Richmond City Police Liaison, Captain Daniel Minton, Diversity Richmond board chair, Art Toth, Richmond City Police Chief, Alfred Durham and Diversity Richmond Director, Bill Harrison.

Another way we make help possible

DT stuffed toysDiversity Richmond is always looking for more ways to help the community. Health regulations will not allow us to sell donated stuffed toys, but we have on-going relationships with organizations that work with kids and can use the toys.

Pictured are Diversity Thrift manager Kris Woodson, left, and Steve Hennessee of St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Ginter Park. Steve coordinates the distribution of toys to kids in need.

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.