Thank you for the Equality Party at One Spark!

We Are Straight Allies would like to thank our courageous allies, incredible performers, amazing volunteers, and wonderful sponsors for your support during One Spark. Your commitment to seek and uphold justice and equality for all as we work to build a better community continues to inspire and motivate us. Through education, engagement and partnerships, we were able to secure 1,936 signed equality petitions, garner 759 votes, add 305 new ‘likes’ on our Facebook Page, and placed 22nd out of over 600 Creator Projects.

Many of you are aware of the controversy and discrimination that we faced during the beginning of One Spark. We would like to publicly thank the local media, corporate and community leaders and national organizations for their quick response and unwavering support. This challenge underscores the very real need for a comprehensive Human Rights Ordinance and continued dialogue and action within our community about the lived experiences of those who identify as LGBTQ.

We were deeply moved by so many of the comments from attendees and the wide range of diverse backgrounds of the people who support this Movement. Here are a few snippets we wanted to share with you:

“My younger brother came out to me on New Year’s Eve. He sent me a text. I was completely shocked…still trying to wrap my head around it, but expressed my support.
–40something Black man with wife and two children

“Our daughter is a lesbian in Philadelphia. She’s marrying her partner in Hawaii. We have two sons – one is openly gay, but we think the other one is too.”
–60something white couple from St. Augustine

“I came out last year. Now, I’m homeless. I’ve been sleeping on friend’s couches. I’m moving to another state next month.”
–20something college student

“This HRO will be detrimental to my business. It will result in lawsuits and from a Christian perspective, I have problems with the message of gay rights.”
–50something white male small business owner

“L-G-B-T! I love me some LGBT’s. They make the strongest drinks. Five dollars and three drinks later and I’M seeing rainbows!! What’s your [Creator] number? I’m voting for you!”
–30something Black woman walking behind us on our way to the Hemming Plaza stage for our Creator Pitch

“I’m pretty sure this [equality] is what Jesus would want.”
—60something, white male, as he signed his Equality Pledge

“I am sooooooooooooo hoping EVERYONE votes for your great work.  I am honored to have worked & volunteered with you.  Count Me In On Your Next Event / Venture!”
—40something, Hispanic female

“Just wanted to pop in and say thank you for everything you do to help our community.  It’s people like you and your organization that helps our (LGBT) community over come hatred and discrimination.  Thank you again.”
—30something, white male

“So glad that I volunteered with the We Are Straight Allies campaign at One Spark. I am used to talking with people about the inclusive HRO and collecting pledges in different venues, so it was not brand new for me. What was new was the fact that the entire discussion centered around straight people, their attitudes, what they know, and what is misinformation. It was about their journey, not mine.

First, I wasn’t necessarily the authority! It was great. The straight people behind the table were talking as authorities on what it means to be a straight ally. I was seen as a resource, so when someone had a question, they would turn to me for a little help or boost. It was great for me to be acting as a resource as opposed to initiator of a (sometimes) tricky discussion.

Second, gay people walked up and they were a little disoriented like me! We started to realize that we have a specific role within We Are Straight Allies. Our role involves showing up, being out, and feeling grateful for political support. When we do that with our straight allies, we’ve done A LOT.  The rest is up to the straight folks. It’s up to Jacksonville’s straight majority to get the info, define their position, and either become an ally or not.”
—40something, white female, community advocate and volunteer

And, a woman’s nephew came out to her as she was signing our Equality Pledge.

We have provided an overview of highlights from One Spark including links and images below.  Again, we thank you!

Equality Party at One Spark! Photo Album 

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Orchestra Equality

Press Coverage from the week:
Florida Times Union
First Coast News

Peace and Love,
Chevara, Laura & Dan
We Are Straight Allies [a community initiative by EQ3 Media]

Ally Profile: Reverend Dr. Bruce Havens

Bruce Havens_FP_Print

We thought we would let the Reverend Dr. Bruce Havens, Pastor of the Arlington Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, tell you in his own words why he joined the ‘We Are Straight Allies’ campaign:

I am a native of Florida and grew up in the years where schools were just beginning to integrate.  To me it was normal, natural and “cool.”  As a student at Harvard University, I learned about Martin Luther King, jr. and the principles of seeking social justice for people – no matter who they were:  people of other races, nationalities, different abilities, WOMEN! and those who were from many different sexual orientations.  I learned about the pain people suffer when they are discriminated against.  Since then I have been ordained in the United Church of Christ which has an historic record of inclusiveness:  we were the first primarily European – American denomination to ordain an African – American pastor, the first to ordain a woman and the first to ordain an openly gay man.  I am proud of that history and proud to represent that here in Jacksonville.  I am also a husband and a father of 2 boys and a girl and I want them to be proud of their community and its commitment to social justice and equality of opportunity for all people.  Every Sunday at our church we say to people, “No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey you are welcome here!”  I want that to be true for Jacksonville too.  We can disagree about how we practice our faith and still be for justice and against discrimination.  That is the legacy of all faiths.  If the business community can stand for justice and what is right, then the faith community should surely not lag behind.  That’s why I am a “Straight Ally,” for the Human Rights Ordinance.

We Are Straight Allies Statement Regarding Removal from One Spark Creator Venue

**UPDATE as of April 9, 2014; 8:30am**

We Are Straight Allies deeply appreciates the outpouring of community support in response to our previous statement to Parkway Properties.  At this time, we have been told our signage is “allowed to remain” up through the duration of the One Spark event.  Therefore, we will stay in our current location at the Juice Gallery in the Wells Fargo Tower located at 1 Independent Drive, Jacksonville, Florida.

Once the One Spark Festival has ended, We Are Straight Allies would like the opportunity to meet with Parkway Properties and their “key stakeholders” to discuss issues of bias and discrimination against the LGBT community, and their straight allies.  We would also be happy to conduct diversity training for their senior leadership and staff, as this is a crucial component to our mission as we work towards the passage of a fully comprehensive Human Rights Ordinance in the city of Jacksonville.

We hope to see you all at One Spark!


We Are Straight Allies would like to publicly express our deep concern and disappointment regarding statements made by Parkway Properties on April 8, 2014 on behalf of several of their “key stakeholders” in the Wells Fargo Tower at 1 Independent Drive in Jacksonville, Florida. As a registered One Spark Creator Project, We Are Straight Allies has spent the past several months preparing an intentional and educational advocacy campaign. During that time, we were not informed of any issues surrounding our campaign or materials chosen for the event.

When we were told there were building tenants that were uncomfortable with the content of our campaign and wanted us removed from the Creator Venue space, we were disheartened as it served as a stark reminder of the daily bigotry that faces our LGBT family.

While we appreciate the support of Wells Fargo, JCCI, OneSpark and several members of the Jacksonville community to help us resolve this matter, it does not detract from the fact that homophobia and discrimination are insidious in our city. As allies, we have made a firm commitment to champion the rights of those marginalized in our community. Fifty years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, we again stand at the crossroads of freedom and equality.

We hope this unfortunate incident will serve as a catalyst for meaningful dialogue to reach better understanding of our differences, help us find common ground upon which to stand, and create a more inclusive city for us all. The larger issue remains that if these companies discriminate against allies, we fear their LGBT employees may face even greater bias. The time is now to pass a comprehensive Human Rights Ordinance.

“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”
–Audre Lorde


Chevara Orrin, Laura Riggs and Dan Bagan

FB Cover Photo_OneSpark

One Spark Creator Project No. 20207

We Are Straight Allies is excited to be a Creator in this year’s One Spark Crowdfunding Festival. It’s estimated that over 150,000 people will flood the streets of downtown April 9-13. Volunteers will staff our Creator Booth to help us engage with visitors and advocate for equality!

Each day of the festival, we will have live performers, equality pledge forms, opportunities for visitors to email City Council and be photographed in front of an “I’m Coming Out as a Straight Ally” backdrop as well as learn more about our collective efforts towards equality.

Read our recent OneSpark press in the Florida Times-Union

Visit Our OneSpark Creator page

Check out our schedule of performances each day of One Spark!


4p-6p ‘On A Journey’ with DJ T.M. Underwood Kicking off our 5-days of peace, love and music, DJ T.M. Underwood will be taking us on a journey through some of the iconic Dance Music that we can all shake our booties too!


5:30p-6:30p Mondo Mike & The Po Boys  To see 62-year-old Mike Bernos on stage in the persona of Mondo Mike jumping up and down with his guitar like he was about to crowd surf, is to witness a man born again into the holy spirit of music. Bernos is aided by his five band members, the Po Boys and Spice, who are 20 to 30 years his junior but, by his own admission, light years ahead of him musically. Each in their own way has provided the channel for his metamorphosis – expression to his music and his phoenix. But none more so than Brittany Wescott, a.k.a Spice, the winsome and disarmingly charming 27-year-old African-American lead singer of Mondo Mike and the Po Boys.

7p-9p Spark This! with Al Letson [Poet, Playwright, Actor]
Enter the world of multi-disciplinary artist, Al Letson. An accomplished playwright, performance poet, actor and public radio host, Letson’s distinctive voice, insightful prose and unique vision have garnered national acclaim and inspired a growing number of fans and followers. Soul-stirring, interdisciplinary work has garnered Al Letson national recognition, critical acclaim and devoted fans. Early in his career, Letson established himself as a heavyweight in the Poetry Slam Movement, which reaped artistic credibility and renown. He has performed on a number of national, regional and local stages, including such venues as HBO’s Def Poetry Jam, and CBS’s 2004 Final Four PreGame.


4p-6p Cafe Groove with Jay A. Terry (and special guest Christopher Page) An entertainer since childhood competing in various talent shows, Jay honed his performance skills through formal voice, acting, and dance training. At 17 years of age he moved to New York City to pursue a career in professional acting. It was during that time that he began writing music while collaborating with other musicians & bands.  Jay is a previous One Spark Creator.  His musical influences include Jason Mraz, Matt Nathanson, Ray Lamontagne, Patrick Park, and Joshua Redman

7p-9p Love Reigns | The Evolution of a Poet Born and raised in Miami, FL Taryn ”LoveReigns” Wharwood has been writing poetry since the tender age of 5 years old and has been performing for as many years. She began performing professionally in 2006 in her current home town Jacksonville, FL. LoveReigns is an avid volunteer, community supporter and mentor. She is a creative writing teacher at a Duval county public school and spends her free time speaking to youth in and out of school among other things. Her first CD is entitled ”The Evolution of a Poet”. She also has a mixtape entitled ”Collard Greens and Collabos”. She is working on a chap book called ”IamLoveReigns” and book of poetry/semi autobiography to be released later this year called ”When the Reign Comes”. She was recently the first spoken word artist signed to

ParriScope Entertainment Records, an international force that will continue to help LoveReigns become a household name.


12p-2p Rob Walker the Vibalist
Rob Walker the Vibalist is a Keyboardist, Vocalist, Songwriter and Entertainer. Rob’s styles range from Jazz, RnB, Pop, Rock, Neo soul, Country, & Gospel. Performing as a solo act or with full band,  Rob brings strong energy behind any soloist or band and has worked with some amazing artists from all over. Locally, you can usually catch him performing with Mama Blue.

4p-6p  Orchestra Equality: An ensemble of professional and student musicians from the Jacksonville area, equally lovers of music and pioneers for the rights of all!

Join us for a very special performance by musicians from the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, students from UNF and Jacksonville University Music Programs, as well as Douglas Anderson School for the Performing Arts, gathering in one space to support the rights of our LGBT community.  We will be treated to solo pieces, a string quartet, a bassoon quartet, clarinet and bassoon duets, trios and more!

8p-10p “Music is Freedom” with Catharsis, aka Scott Petersen, is a producer, DJ, remixer, enthusiast, VW freak and just a man among many… Since 1999, he has worked with gifted engineer, Phil Green, providing the production force and extreme talent. Phil and Catharsis have been signed to numerous electronic music labels worldwide including OM Records and have appeared on CD compilations alongside Depeche Mode, Moby, Faithless, Dubtribe Sound System, Swayzak, and many more. They have over 50 vinyl releases, 3 full-length albums entitled “Keepin On” and “Deep Down” & “Canvas of Sound”, and appeared on 40 CD compilations on labels around the world. PC Synergy and Catharsis have performed all over the US alongside some of the most innovative electronic artists “in sound”.

We Are Straight Allies T-Shirts are now available!  You may purchase yours for $25. Shipping costs will be waived if you pick your shirt up during the 5-day event, just use the promo code ONEFREE! To order, please use one of the following links:


men_s_heather_charcoal_back_3 women_s-black-front_1

1. Click this link to go to our invitation page on VolunteerSpot:
2. Enter your email address: (You will NOT need to register an account on VolunteerSpot)
3. Sign up! Choose your spots – VolunteerSpot will send you an automated confirmation and reminders. Easy!

**Note: VolunteerSpot does not share your email address with anyone. If you prefer not to use your email address, please contact us and we can sign you up manually.

Facebook OneSpark_2

Ally Profile: The Chartrand Family


Gary Chartrand is the Executive Chairman of Acosta, a leading full-service sales and marketing agency, providing to manufacturers in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry.   He has been the pivotal force behind quadrupling the company’s geographic coverage, transforming Acosta into a leading full-service sales and marketing company in the U.S. and Canada. Gary received the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award for the State of Florida in May 2001, and has been an extraordinary leader in his industry and his community.  From 2003 to 2009 Mr. Chartrand was recognized as one of the 50 most powerful leaders in the grocery industry by Supermarket News.

Mr. Chartrand also has a passion for educating our children in Duval County.  In April 2007, he led a community effort to help bring Teach for America to Jacksonville. Jacksonville was the second city in Florida to have attracted Teach for America to its community.  Because of his passion for education, coupled with his business and leadership experience, Mr. Chartrand was appointed to the State Board of education in 2011.

Gary currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Tom Coughlin Jay Fund Foundation; St. Vincent’s Hospital, The Jacksonville Public Education Fund, and a director on the board of the KIPP schools in Jacksonville, FL. He previously served as a member of the Board of Directors for the I. M. Sulzbacher Homeless Center in Jacksonville. Gary is actively involved in raising funds for The Wounded Warrior Project, headquartered in Jacksonville.    He is also an enthusiastic supporter of the Catholic Charities, Guardian of Dreams Catholic schools and the Diocese of St. Augustine.

Gary is a graduate of the University of New Hampshire.  He resides in Ponte Vedra Beach with his wife, Nancy.  They have two children, Jeffrey and Meredith.

Born Nancy Jane Piecuch in 1954 to first generation Polish immigrants, Frank and Jane Piecuch. Nancy’s birthplace and home was Manchester, New Hampshire where her value of volunteerism took hold. She graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a Bachelor of Science and teaching degree. In 1982, the Chartrand family migrated to Jacksonville, Florida where they have made their home. Continuing with the values instilled in her during childhood, Nancy served on the Parent Teacher Associations at her children’s schools and the family’s local parish, Resurrection Church. Her devotion to the Catholic faith has inspired a deep belief in social justice.

She has served throughout the community on numerous boards including The Ronald McDonald House, St. Vincent’s Hospital. PACE School for Girls, and Birthright, Inc. Currently Nancy sits on the board at PACE, St. Vincent’s Healthcare Foundation where she is the chair the cultivation committee, and Chairman of the Board at The Chartrand Foundation which focuses on equal opportunities for all.

Their daughter, Meredith graduated from Florida State University in 2003, where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Family and Child Sciences. After graduation, she moved to New York City, where she taught art at a Montessori school. In 2006, Meredith moved back to Jacksonville to help to improve the lives of Jacksonville’s children and work with her family to establish The Chartrand Foundation. She currently serves on the board of The Chartrand Foundation, Discovery Montessori School, and The Women’s Giving Alliance. While raising three young daughters with her husband Mark, she has spearheaded initiatives in Early Childhood Development with specific interest in the JCCI Children 1-2-3 Study and the Healthy Start Coalition. Meredith believes that children in Jacksonville can reach their full potential when they are born healthy and their early stage development is nourished, and invests her time in ensuring these outcomes are available to the greatest number of children possible.

Mark Frisch is a Jacksonville native. He graduated from Bolles High School, then attended the University of Florida, where he graduated in 2003 earning a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a major in management. After graduation, Mark joined his family business, Beaver Street Fisheries Inc. where he currently serves as the Executive Vice President.

In 2010, Mark was a recipient of the Jacksonville Business Journal’s 40 and under 40 awards.

He is an active member in the community, serving on the board of Trustees of Jacksonville University, the Board of Directors of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, and the Board of Directors of Wolfson Children’s Hospital.

Most recently, Mark has bought a soccer franchise in the NASL which will begin to play in 2015. Mr. Frisch’s Hobbies include, playing golf, watching sports, and finding time for his love of automobiles.

The Chartrand Family proudly joins the “We are Straight Allies” campaign in support of their son and brother, Jeffrey, and for the entire LGBT community.  In their own words, they describe the importance for why they are ‘coming out’ as allies:

We joined this movement as a family to send an intentional message regarding family acceptance, love, and support for the LGBT families. Family rejection is one of the biggest issues contributing to LGBT youth homelessness and drug abuse. According to the National Alliance To End Homelessness (NAEH), roughly 1 in 5 youth who are homeless self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT). LGBT youth are more likely to run away from home or be rejected by their families if family members have difficulty accepting their sexual orientation. Once homeless, LGBT youth face disturbingly high rates of physical assault, sexual exploitation, and mental health problems.

Our son and brother, Jeff, identifies as a gay man. We were unaware of the suffering Jeff experienced growing up in Jacksonville but since have learned that his suffering was most caused by the messages that were sent directly and indirectly to him about who he was and is. He was not protected then and is not protected now.

We joined this effort to pass the Human Rights Ordinance on behalf of human rights, human dignity, and equal rights for the LGBT community. Not additional rights, not different rights just equal rights. The decision whether or not to pass a Human Rights Ordinance is to decide whether we are humanizing or dehumanizing the LGBT community or more simply are we treating people with the dignity and respect that they deserve?

We invite the larger Jacksonville community to break through fear, silence, despair, complicity and indifference, and follow the truth by joining in the struggle for justice for all our LGBT brothers, sisters, sons, and daughters.  We need to speak out publicly, become engaged for what is right. Equal rights for all is the only way of correcting this injustice.

We love this city and it is our hope that together we can send the message of love and acceptable to all who reside here.

Chartrand Family Photo

We are straight allies coming out in support of our LGBT community and the Jacksonville Human Rights Ordinance.


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