Board of Directors

Marquis Mapp, Virginia Pride Committee Chair

marquis mapp photoMarquis Mapp joined the Diversity board in 2021. Through his work with Stonewall Sports-Richmond, he has gained help for both Diversity Richmond and Virginia Pride. He actually chairs our Virginia Pride Board Committee.

Currently he serves on the Leadership Board for Stonewall Sports- Richmond where he is the Community Director. His goal for the past year was to further connect the LGBTQ+ organizations with the vast experience and support that can be found in the members of Stonewall Sports- Richmond. The paganization has partnered with LGBTQ+ city leaders to promote representation of LGBTQ+ individuals in decision making surrounding policing, funds utilized for supporting homelessness and advocating for Trans individuals and addressing the unique challenges they face in trying to access services like shelters.

He also oversees the Diversity Equity and Inclusion officer on our Board and help to promote a more inclusive and equitable experience for our players by reviewing currently policies and bylaws and being intentional with the recruitment and retention of our players and Leadership Board members. In addition, Marquis has spent considerable time educating himself by attending workshops on DEI and leadership and feels that he has gained valuable tools to help enhance his work in creating communities focusing on equity and inclusivity.

“I am a firm believer in the work Diversity- Richmond performs. Like Diversity, Stonewall Sports- Richmond works as a funnel agency to monetarily support community-based organizations that are LGBTQ+ focused, in hopes of helping to enhance the incredible work they are already accomplishing in the community. In addition, I have been very active with the volunteer efforts this past year and using Stonewall as an organization to help recruit and manage volunteers. I am happy to continue to give back by taking a more active role with the organization and providing support and expertise where I can.”

Scott Carpenter

scott carpenter

Scott Carpenter joined our board in June 2021. He is a business banking executive with Truist and has helped us secure sponsorships of several Diversity Richmond, as well as Virginia Pride events. Scott’s dedication to the LGBTQ civil rights movement is obvious. “The issue regarding trans youth and bathrooms hit home and I became involved with heritage BB&T Bank’s LGBTQ BRG at the corporate level and continue to be on the Bank’s steering committee advocating for inclusivity and employee engagement for now Truist.  This has allowed me to educate folks and make a difference within my company. “ Scott is also involved in our Virginia East Chapter as an advisor and promoting programs and involvement in LGBTQ related activities for Truist. Scott has also shared that he has other close family members that are in the LGBTQIA community, "so this is personal too". Scott believes that we need to look for opportunities to actively support our causes in a targeted way that makes an impact and does not just broad-brush issues.   “I wear my LGBTQ lifestyle on my sleeve proudly and am aware that there are risks associated with that but those are risks I’m willing to take because we need to be proud of who we are and I can’t change me.”

Fernando Rodriguez, Viva!RVA Chair

fernando picFernando Rodriguez was named our “Volunteer of the Year” in 2020 for his work in coordinating Viva RVA and many other LatinX outreach events. During the pandemic he has helped us with our food drives as well as connecting us with the Virginia Department of Health for outreach, testing and vaccination efforts. Fernando joined our board in June 2021.
 

He shared, “Since I was a teenager, I have been moved to help others. I was an active member of my church and participated or led missionary trips, community outreach events and initiatives for homeless and people in need. As an adult, I participated or led a wide array of groups that encouraged men and women to become better members of society. Whether it was a small men’s group that focused on battling with addictions or Toast Masters International, helping members become better public speakers.”


During his time in Richmond, he has collaborated with other organizations such as The Office of the Governor (Hispanic Relations and LGBTQ Outreach), Virginia Tourism, Gay Fathers Community and Diversity Richmond.
He has collaborated with several Richmond organizations in leadership and/or volunteering roles. One of them has been Gay Fathers Community, a non-profit organization that organizes social, support, and community events for gay and bisexual men that are fathers, their partners, children, friends and supporters. For Diversity Richmond he collaborated with the Black and Bold Awards and spearheaded Viva RVA!


Fernando will again coordinate our Hispanic outreach efforts.

Lt. Matt Pecka

MattPecka

Matt joined our board in June, 2021. He achieved a bachelor’s degree from Virginia Commonwealth University and a master’s degree in criminal justice from the University of Louisville. Lt. Pecka joined the Henrico County Police Division in 2001 as a member of the 31 st Basic Police Academy. During his tenure, he has served in Patrol Operations, Personnel and Training, Special Operations Group and most recently Office of Public Affairs. Matt and his partner, Jordan, live in Henrico County and he looks forward to building relationships between law enforcement and the LGBTQ community.

Matt shared, “As an individual and as a police officer for Henrico County, I have taken pride in supporting Diversity Richmond’s cause to bring out community together as one inclusive community. Lieutenant Colonel Toney and I have attended various events hosted at Diversity Richmond where donated funds are given back to the community organizations that support LGBTQ members/events.”

“I have also been in regular attendance to the “Prime Timers,” where they recognize law enforcement, frequently serving as a POC. Yearly, I attend the PRIDE events, promoting recruitment for law enforcement. I have attended both in casual attire and uniform to promote unity and have those conversations necessary to develop relationships in the communities we serve. “ Within the Police Division, I serve as an LGBTQ+ liaison where our staff has created a brochure with tips and shows of support for our LGBTQ community members near and afar. Recently, sexual orientation has been added into our policies and procedures, allowing for additional protection and assisting my mission to recruit those seeking county-level positions within Henrico County.

Kayla Finn, Special Events Co-chair

Kayla Finn

Kayla joined us in June, 2021. She is an employee of our partner agency, Nationz Foundation and co- chairs our Special Events Committee.
Kayla shared, “As a PrEP Navigator and HIV/STI counselor at Nationz, it has given me the opportunity to meet and assist so many individuals of different backgrounds while allowing me to build relationships and learn more about my community. The experience that I have gained not only as a transwoman of Color, but as a multi-talented and diverse entertainer and as a nationally known and recognized representative of several pageantry systems within my LGBTQIA community, has given me platforms that I can always use because of my work ethic and professionalism. Therefore, my 20 years of experience has now given me the ability to make my platform not only fair and consistent, but even stronger and available to those around me. If given the opportunity to be a part of Diversity Richmond Leadership, it will allow me to learn and grow even more, not only within myself but also within my community. My interest in this means that I would only like to learn more about Diversity Richmond and all of the wonderful accolades that have been received for the outstanding leadership and role played in our community. My experience with Diversity Richmond has been minimal or short visited. But I will be willing to learn more and everything that Diversity Richmond stands for if chosen or given the chance to be stronger together.”

Romilda P. Smith

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Romilda joined our board in June 2021 and has been a long-time volunteer with Diversity, having worked on many special events with the special events committee. “I have lived in Virginia off and on since 1980 after growing up in Boston. It’s been exciting seeing the cultural growth in Central Virginia over the years. Most of my career here has been with the State of Virginia, most recently the Department of Juvenile Justice where I believe my love of helping and educating was nurtured. In 2005 I got my real estate license and continued to “help and educating” volunteering with various housing organizations in the city. I always thought giving back had to be overt. However, looking back I have been “giving back” my whole life.” She is an Associate Broker with Keller Williams Realty.

Ariane McKeller Crosby, Special Events Co-chair

ariane mckeller crosby

Ariane McKeller Crosby is a strong advocate for the LGBTQ community and is a board member of U.G.R.C. where she has assisted in curating Black Pride RVA weekend for the past two years. She is thefounder of Green Vibes RVA, a modern planetary cultivating good vibes to lift our community’s collective wellbeing through the joy of houseplants. Her leadership position at Capital One in Small Business Banking has given her the opportunity to mentor and guide the developmental growth of her team. Mentoring and leadership development are practices close to Ariane’s heart as she credits her success to those who mentored her along the way. She’s listed in OutRVA, Richmond Times Dispatch and VPM news. Ariane received a forensic science degree with a minor in biology and chemistry from Virginia Commonwealth University.

Chris Rich

Chris Rich Headshot 2 002

Christine Rich is a long-time supporter of Diversity Richmond and through her company Rich’s Stitches,has been a perennial sponsor and contributor to Diversity. She is the owner of Rich’s Stitches, Inc. with her twin sister Cecilia Rich. Rich’s Stitches has been helping Richmond businesses build their brands with custom embroidery, screen printing services and advertising specialty items for over 32 years in the Bellevue area. She graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University in 1983. She also played Field Hockey for VCU and is a proud “Ram”. Rich’s Stitches Inc. is a member of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce as a certified business enterprise. The NGLCC is the business voice for LGBT community, the largest advocacy organization dedicated to expanding economic opportunities and advancement for LGBT people and exclusive certifying body for LGBT-owned businesses. She has served on many boards including the Network of Enterprising Women and Altrusa International of Richmond. She has also been president of the Bellevue Merchant Association for 8 years. She has been an integral part of making the Bellevue Area what it is today. “I look forward to sharing my talents, gifts and abilities with such a valuable organization as Diversity Richmond”

Luise Farmer, Chair, Board of Directors

LuiseLuise Farmer joined our board in 2016. Better known as “Cheezi,” she has been an active member of the Richmond LGBT community for years. Cheezi is very active with Metropolitan Community Church Richmond and serves as the congregation’s vice moderator. She is also a leader in “Women of Essence,” an organization dedicated to bringing attention to the impact that breast cancer has on the African American community.

Robyn Bentley, Vice Chair

Robyn

Robyn Bentley is a seasoned radio personality and owner of Feng Shui Diva, LLC.

Robyn was one of the first females on the air in Virginia. In 1979, during her senior year of high school, she put the needle on the record and began her radio career as well as recognized the importance of community involvement. Robyn graduated from VCU with a BS in Mass Communications / Advertising and worked as an announcer, promotions director, and program director. You may remember hearing her locally in Richmond on Boomtown Richmond, Q94, Power93, 93Lazer, or EZ104. Robyn also worked on air in Greensboro, NC where she volunteered with the Triad Health Project on the AIDS Memorial Quilt display at the Greensboro Coliseum in ‘94. In Philadelphia she served on the board of directors for PrideFest America and volunteered for the Philadelphia AIDS Fund as the “Ball Girl” at its GayBingo! monthly fundraiser.

In 1999 Robyn received her feng shui certification and launched a new career as Feng Shui Diva®. In 2004 she published her first book Creating A Haven: Simple Steps For A Healthy and Nurturing Home.

Robyn has been a Diversity Richmond board member and an AARP Diversity Team Advisor since 2015. She is the past chair of Central Virginia SAGE and the Diversity Richmond Special Events Committee. Robyn publishes the Diversity Richmond newsletter.

Keri Abrams, Program Committee

KeriOriginally from Akron Ohio, Keri’s family moved to Richmond when she was very young. Life in her early days seemed fairly normal except with constant feelings of confusion on her gender. Keri graduated from Hermitage High School and attended Virginia Tech where she majored in architecture.

After leaving college, amongst a major economic downturn, she decided to forgo her career in architecture and instead pursued a career as a motorcycle mechanic. Motorcycles had been a passion for a very long time.

In the spring of 2010, she came out to herself and the world as a transgender female and started her transition to the woman she is today. Keri quickly became involved in the transgender community and has had the opportunity to run  transgender specific programing at a local non-profit. She has been a youth facilitator at ROSMY and a lead facilitator in James River Transgender Society, a local support group.

She has also participated on many LGBT discussion panels, college classes, and has given educational presentations to area businesses. In 2015 Keri was named one of Equality Virginia's OutStanding Virginians.  She has continued working with EV where she is currently a member of the Equality Virginia Transgender Speakers Bureau.

Keri is very honored to be named to the Board of Diversity Richmond, where she hopes to continue, and further the work that has already been started to be more inclusive to hers and many other minority communities.

Kevin W. Allison, Ph.D., Financial Development

Kevin AllisonKevin W. Allison serves as Associate Vice President for Strategy and Development with the Office of the President at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. He previously held positions as Senior Executive Director for Strategy and Administration in the Office of the President, interim vice president for Inclusive Excellence, associate dean for community activities in the College of Humanities and Sciences and as Director of Applied and Outreach Scholarship in VCU’s L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at VCU. Dr. Allison served on senior leadership teams for the VCU Center for Cultural Experiences in Prevention, and the Clark-Hill Institute for Positive Youth Development, one of the CDC’s National Academic Centers for Excellence on Youth Violence Prevention. Dr. Allison received his Ph.D. in clinical-community psychology from DePaul University, his undergraduate degree from the University of Notre Dame, and completed his clinical internship at Children’s Hospital in Washington, DC. Dr. Allison joined VCU in 1996 and is professor of psychology, with a joint appointment in the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs. His research, scholarship and teaching focus on the role of culture and context in adolescent development, and the design and evaluation of school and community-based interventions to support healthy developmental trajectories for urban youth. Dr. Allison is recipient of VCU’s 2005 Reese-Melton Presidential Award for Multicultural Enrichment and was a 2016-17 American Council of Education Fellow. He is co-author with Dr. Faye Belgrave of African American Psychology: From Africa to America, now in its fourth edition. Prior to joining VCU, Dr. Allison was a faculty member in the department of psychology at Penn State University. Earlier in his career, Dr. Allison served as the Clinical Director of City Lights, a school for troubled and troubling youth in Washington, D.C.

Michael Birch-Pierce, Iridian Gallery Vice-chair

Michael-BirchOur newest board member is Michael Birch-Pierce. Michael is a fiber artist and assistant professor of Fashion Design at Virginia Commonwealth University. He received a BFA in Fashion Design from VCU and studied at the Savannah College of Art and Design for an MFA in Fibers. He has designed embellishment for Diane von Furstenburg and was lead stylist on André Leon Talley's Little Black Dress costume exhibition in Savannah and Paris. Michael has completed artist residencies in Hong Kong and Lacoste, France and his work has been exhibited in numerous galleries and museums, including the White House, Design/Miami, and Quirk Gallery.

He is the recipient of the 2016 Pollak Prize in Applied Arts. The newly elected Vice Chair of the Iridian Gallery at Diversity Richmond steering Committee, Michael has been an active member since its inception. He curated the exhibition, "Manufactured Faces, Performative Spaces" in 2015 and emceed the successful 2016 Bling it Out silent auction.

Kirk Blandford, CPA

Kirk currently serves as the Chief Financial Officer of the American Civil War Museum, where he has successfully improved the financial operating performance of the museum and coordinated a $10.5 million financing to support the building of the new American Civil War Museum which opened to the public on May 4th of 2019. When Kirk arrived at the museum in September 2016 the financial reporting systems were poorly designed and executed. Kirk focused on improving financial reporting and improving financial performance. Prior to joining the museum, Kirk worked as the Senior Vice President of Finance and Human Resources at Healthy Companies International, a consulting firm based in Arlington, VA from 2009 to 2016. Prior to joining Healthy Companies International, Kirk served as the Vice President of Finance at Calvert Memorial Hospital in Maryland from 2001 to 2009. Kirk has more than 32 years of financial management experience in a variety of leadership roles, primarily working for not-for-profit organizations.

Kirk holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from The College of William and Mary and a master’s degree from Virginia Commonwealth University in healthcare administration. Kirk is also a certified public accountant and is a long time member of the Virginia Society of Certified Public Accountants.

Lee Dyer

Lee Dyer

E. Lee Dyer IV works as the Associate Director of LGBTQ Campus Life at the University of Richmond’s office of Common Ground, centering social justice, equity, and LGBTQIA inclusion. He holds Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Dillard University and Master’s in Public Administration from North Carolina Central University. Lee is responsible for LGBTQ program and policy creation and implementation at U of R, as well as creating safe spaces of community for the university’s LGBTQIA community. Outside of U of R, Lee serves as an Executive Board Member for Side by Side, a non-profit dedicated to providing safe spaces and services to LGBTQ youth of Richmond. He is a proud member of Alpha Omega Kappa Fraternity Incorporated, a fraternal organization for men of trans experience. Prior to Richmond, Mr. Dyer was is the Program Coordinator for the University of Cincinnati’s LGBTQ Center. He also served as the Vice President of Community Accountability for the Midwest Institute for Sexuality and Gender Diversity (MSGD). As a native of New Orleans and son of an incarcerated parent, he works with non-profits in New Orleans in an effort to reduce the recidivism rate of Black men in Louisiana. Mr. Dyer strives to create opportunities to enrich the lives marginalized identities.

Margaret Hill, Secretary, Financial Development Chair

Margaret HillMargaret Hill has been the Executive Director of the Hanover Education Foundation and the Business Partnerships Specialist for Hanover County Public Schools for the last 16 years. As the Business Partnerships Specialist, she oversees the 250+ businesses that partner with Hanover’s 25 schools. Margaret raises funds for the Hanover school division through the assistance of the Hanover community, alumni and local businesses. She was responsible for securing endowments in the amount of 3.4 million.

She graduated from Longwood College with a Degree in Psychology and Virginia Commonwealth University with a Masters in Rehabilitative Counseling with an emphasis on drug and alcohol.

She is a 2006 graduate from Leadership Metro Richmond.

She has served on many different boards in Richmond and the surrounding areas.

“I am so excited to have the opportunity to serve on the Diversity Richmond Board of Directors. Diversity Richmond does so much for our community and I am so thrilled to be a part of it.”

Chris Moore

Board member Chris MooreChris Moore is a writer, photographer, and community volunteer who has lived in Richmond since 1991. His work has appeared locally in Virginia Living, Style Weekly, 64 Magazine, and Richmond Family Magazine. As a community volunteer and advocate, Chris has served on the Boards of Directors of Peter Paul Development Center, Virginia Supportive Housing, VCU College of Humanities & Sciences (Advisory Board), St. James’s Children’s Center, ACTS (Area Congregations Together in Service), James River Writers, and Friends of the Richmond Public Library.

Chris and his wife, Dena, have two sons, Ben and Sam.

Ayana Obika-Clayborne

Owner, Gratitude Rising Events

A lifelong Richmond resident, Ayana Obika is an experienced creative project manager, with a focus in networking, fundraising, event planning and community engagement. In 2011, she founded Gratitude Rising Events, creating and managing outstanding events that seek to entertain, educate and engage. She also serves as a non-profit and for-profit consultant in development and fundraising. Ayana currently serves as a board member of Project Yoga Richmond and the Richmond Business Alliance.

Ayana is a proud veteran of the U.S. Army, and served as a Flight Ops Specialist. She was voted as one of the Best of Gay Richmond in 2012 by the staff of GayRVA.com. She is the mother of four beautiful and smart grown-ups and the “Yaya” of four beautiful and smart grand-darlings, as well as “pet parent” of a very affectionate teenager cat and the cutest Chihuahua in the world. She is passionate about hiking, running and dancing, especially salsa, hoop and Zumba. Ayana loves vegan cooking and her kale salad is legendary. When not spending her time on any of those things or planning an event, she’s probably hanging out in her meditation space.

Jean Segner, Chair, Governance Committee

Jean Segner

With a passion for fairness, equality and justice, Jean has been a volunteer and leader in a number of LGBTQ advocacy efforts beginning in 1997, as member and later president of the Central Virginia Business and Professional Guild, the area’s first LGBT Chamber of Commerce. She served as director of Equality Virginia, from 2002 until 2012. She served as interim Executive Director of EV in 2010-11. During her Board tenure she chaired the EV Commonwealth Dinner for three years from 2009-2011, and was engaged in the 2006 legislative fight for marriage equality in Virginia. Her legislative work for EV led her to become more active as a fund-raiser and host for LGBTQ allied candidates for local and statewide office in Virginia. Jean was named an OUTStanding Virginian in 2014 for her advocacy work. She has been a member of the Board of Directors of Richmond Triangle Players since 2012.

Jean manages Communications and Community Engagement for Richmond-based SunTrust Mortgage. Prior to joining SunTrust, she held leadership roles in marketing, corporate communications and investor relations at several financial services companies including Wells Fargo predecessors Central Fidelity and Wachovia; Genworth Financial and its predecessor, GE Financial.

In addition to her LGBT advocacy Jean volunteers for the Junior Achievement, Making Strides, the United Way and in 2016 co-chaired the Open Your Heart campaign of the American Heart Association Go Red for Women. She is in the 2016-7 class of Leadership Metro Richmond.

Art Toth, Chair Emeritus

Owner, La Grande Dame

Local businessman, Art Toth, was looking for ways to give back to the community when he researched the Gay Community Center of Richmond. His extensive career in retail was a perfect match with some of the needs of the GCCR board. “We were elated to learn that Art was interested in being on board. We’ve only had one meeting, but it’s already clear what an asset he will be,” said board chair, Beth Marshak.

After graduating from Michigan State University with a degree in Mathematics and Science, Art was associated with J.L. Hudson Department Store. He then moved to Richmond, becoming a Miller and Rhoads associate, with his final position there being a Vice President. He later joined Thalhimers as a Vice President. When May Company bought Thalhimers, he was offered positions, but would have to leave Richmond which he did not want to do.

After considerable thought he took a leap of faith and opened la Grand Dame. That was 21 years ago with his long list of clientele reaching miles outside of the Capital City. “I wanted to give back in some way and my experience in retail, finance, marketing….it’s what I do every day,” he shared. “There are energetic, talented people on the board and I look forward to working with all of them. The Center has a bright future and we will work together so it can achieve its fullest potential.”

Art serves on the Richmond Business Alliance Leadership Committee.

Michael Young

Michael YoungMichael Young is a Vice President at SunTrust Banks, Inc. Prior to transitioning to the Commercial group at SunTrust, Michael worked in the Business Banking Group as a Relationship Manager. He has served the Central Virginia market since joining the Business Banking Division in April of 2003.

Michael joined SunTrust in January 1993. Prior to that, he worked for Virginia Federal Savings Bank in Charlottesville and Richmond. During his time at Virginia Federal, he worked as a Market Manager responsible for the branch network.

Michael is active with the Scott's Addition Boulevard Association, as well as various other charitable organizations in the community.