Ally Profile: Arnold Evans

Arnold Evans_FP

Arnold Evans is the Central Florida Division President for SunTrust Bank, based in Orlando. In that capacity, he leads a team that provides the full range of traditional and capital markets products and advice for privately-owned companies, and not-for-profit, educational and governmental entities. Arnold was previously SunTrust’s Regional President for Jacksonville.  Prior to his move to commercial banking, Mr. Evans spent 17 years as an investment banker, including nine years in the Equity Originations Group at SunTrust Robinson Humphrey in Atlanta, GA, and eight in Equity Capital Markets at J.P. Morgan in New York City.

Arnold previously served as an Air Defense Artillery Officer in the U.S. Army.  During his 5+ years on active duty, he served in roles ranging from Platoon Leader to Battery, Battalion, Brigade and General’s Staff Advisor in geographic locations including the United States, Europe and South West Asia.  He completed his military service at the rank of Captain. In addition to his work responsibilities, he currently serves as a Trustee for the Darden School Foundation (Charlottesville, VA) and as head of that entity’s Investment Committee. He and his wife Joyce have two daughters, Asha and Aaren.

Arnold believes in LGBT Equality because as a City, as a State, and as a Country, we don’t have the luxury to exclude anyone.  “Inclusion & Diversity are not only good for business, but the way good business is conducted. We don’t have the luxury to exclude anyone. By embracing and leveraging our different backgrounds, experiences and perspectives, we become more innovative, productive and profitable.

Ally Profile: The Dunham Family

Dunham Family_FP

I am coming out as a straight ally because I have two Gay Moms who love me and take great care of me.  I love them very much. –Jayda Dunham, Age 8

Michelle Caldwell and Serena Dunham met in 2001 at Holy Cross Metropolitan Church, located in Pensacola, Florida and celebrated a Holy Union in 2006. Although they could have legally wed in other states, it was important that their marriage be recognized in their home state of Florida, so they waited until that day would come. That day finally happened on January 6, 2015.

Michelle grew up near Pulaski, Tennessee, where the KKK was started. She observed first-hand the hatred of those who wore sheets to cover their shame, as they burn crosses and hurt people who were a different color, or in any other way, from them.

As a service connected disabled veteran, Michelle is the Founder and CEO of Monument to Women Veterans Foundation. Her organization is dedicated to creating a Monument that will honor and recognize the 2-million women who have served this country and have been in combat since 1948. She advocates for more empowerment of the role of women who currently make up 23% of our Armed Forces.

Serena is originally from Vermont. Coming from a large family, she had always wanted. After winning her battle with breast cancer, the possibility of having a child of her own would be a miracle. When they were given an ultrasound picture, in late 2006, and asked if they would be interested in adopting this baby at birth, they answered with a resounding YES! Serena carried the picture of the ultrasound, in her lunch box, and looked at her picture every day.

The baby was African-American and would be adopted by two white women, living in a predominantly white community. As parents who just happen to be gay, Michelle and Serena were not concerned so much for themselves, they were concerned about the possible discrimination their daughter could experience as a child whose parents are gay. Living in the conservative South, they were also concerned about the discrimination she may face, being a black child with white parents.

Like any good parent, these concerns required further introspection. Michelle and Serena hosted weekly bible study groups in their home. The group would pray over the ultrasound picture, for a healthy baby and guidance in raising their daughter. They came to understand that if God was allowing them to have this child, then God had great plans for that child.

On May 21, 2007, 8-week old Jayda Danielle joined the Dunham Family. Today Jayda is a happy, healthy third-grader who loves science, drama and, most of all, traveling. She is a great athlete, student and recently, received the award for “Terrific Kid” from her school, which, of course, we think fits pretty well! One of the things Jayda loves the most, is helping Michelle work with the homeless Veterans program at Christmas. “Home for Holidays” takes homeless veteran families off the streets and places them in a hotel for 30-days. Santa Claus comes to visit the children and Jayda gets to be Santa’s helper.

As a family, we believe in the basic principle, “To love one another as God first loved us.” We do this without judgment or prejudiced towards others and we strive to teach others by leading a good example. It is our goal to raise Jayda into a well-rounded person. We have taught her to extend God’s Love and grace to everyone, and instilled the importance of the needs of others. She has learned that, despite the world’s differences, all lives are important and matter.

We stand up for Straight Allies because we want our children to grow up in a world that is equal to all people, regardless of race, color, or sexual orientation. We must educate people and reach out across the barriers to see the rainbow inside all of us.

Ally Profile: Chevara Orrin

Chevara Orrin_FP

“Being an ally isn’t an option, it is a way of life. I recall my mother, a white Jewish woman saying to us when we were little girls, ‘It is absolutely the responsibility of those in positions of power and privilege – the oppressors (whatever form that takes) to be actively engaged in the liberation of those who are being oppressed.’ I believe that as human beings, we are inextricably bound and responsible for one another.”

With a passion for social justice, a rich legacy of civil rights, and the ability to inspire and engage, Chevara Orrin conceptualized and co-created, We Are Straight Allies in direct response to the August 2012 Jacksonville City Council vote rejecting Bill 2012-296, better known as the Human Rights Ordinance (HRO) which would have added sexual orientation to the current non-discrimination policy.

Chevara has worked in the profit and higher education sectors for more than 20 years and has served as a community advocate for more than 40 years. She is a creative consultant, writer and public speaker. Her earliest memory of activism was as a three-year old, sleeping in concrete building tubes across the street from the White House in support of the Bangladesh Liberation War and protesting famine in Pakistan.

She is the daughter of a white, Jewish civil & human rights, social justice, and women’s liberation activist and a Black father who served as a “fiery top lieutenant of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.” and a force behind many of the pivotal civil rights campaigns of the 1960s, including the 1963 Birmingham Children’s Crusade, 1965 Selma to Montgomery March and the 1966 Chicago Open Housing Movement.

It is this legacy and her personal journey of survivorship (poverty, domestic violence, fatherlessness, incest, single motherhood) that have led Chevara to champion for the marginalized.

While serving as an administrator at a university in North Carolina, Chevara co-founded the first-ever Gay-Straight Student Alliance. Seven months later, the Board of Trustees unanimously voted to add “sexual orientation” to the university’s non-discrimination policy. A first in the history of the campus. This trailblazing work caught the attention of the White House Office of Public Engagement and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). Chevara has collaborated with numerous LGBT organizations, including the Campaign for Southern Equality, PFLAG, and Equality Florida.

As a “soul connector,” Chevara’s personal mission is to engage and mobilize communities around issues of race, gender, justice, health, education and economic disparity. Because of her tireless efforts, Chevara has been recognized by the White House and Human Rights Campaign as an emerging leader, advocate and ally for the LGBT community. She also has become an outspoken advocate for raising awareness of, and helping to eradicate sexual violence against women and girls.  She has received numerous awards and recognition for her unwavering commitment to community.

Chevara has been an official Floridian since August 2012. Although new to Jacksonville, she has woven her thread into the fabric of the community and is actively involved with numerous nonprofit organizations. She serves as a member of the WJCT board of trustees, the Cultural Service Grants Council and was appointed to the Times-Union Editorial Board.

Chevara is also a popular and regular panelist and host/emcee for many nonprofit organizations and has been featured as a TEDx Jacksonville speaker.

Chevara has been featured in articles in The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville Free Press, Arbus Magazine, The Washington Post, Atlanta-Journal ConstitutionWinston-Salem Chronicleskirt! Magazine, Winston-Salem JournalWinston-Salem Monthly, and John Blake’s powerful, painful glimpse into the heart and soul of the Freedom Movement of the Sixties through the lens of some of its children, Children of the Movement.

Chevara was born in Washington, DC and raised in Memphis, TN. She obtained a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication from the University of Memphis. Chevara is married to Marlon Hubbard and has two sons, Michael and William, and a cat named Nala.


Ally Profile: Wendy McSweeney

Wendy McSweeney_FP

Wendy McSweeney is the Enterprise Inclusion Leader for SunTrust Banks, Inc., responsible for developing and executing growth and engagement strategies, consulting with executive leaders and driving enterprise wide inclusion and diversity at SunTrust. With a focus on deliberate and inclusive connections with teammates, communities and clients, McSweeney is accountable for linking the internal and external activities of Suntrust’s Teammate Networks to business goals and objectives, providing transformative learning opportunities and effectively communicating the company’s commitment to inclusion. She is excited to have the opportunity to create an environment where her LGBT teammates feel safe and valued for their contribution to the company.

A 20-year veteran of the financial services industry, McSweeney has extensive inclusion and diversity, leadership, program management, relationship management, coaching and consulting experience. She chairs the SunTrust Enterprise Inclusion Council and serves as a member of the SunTrust Executive Inclusion Committee. In 2014, Black Enterprise Magazine named McSweeney one of the “Top Executives for Diversity & Inclusion” and the Georgia Diversity Council named her one of the “Most Powerful and Influential Women” in Georgia.

Before joining SunTrust in 2013, McSweeney served as the diverse segments development leader at Wells Fargo Advisors (WFA). In that role, she designed programs to increase productivity and retention of diverse financial advisors and managers and led the new financial advisor sourcing program to recruit new advisors to the business. During her 11 years with WFA, she served in increasingly responsible positions to include business & administration manager of the national sales group and business manager of the business development group. Prior to joining WFA, McSweeney served as a conversion manager for SunTrust Bank’s Retirement Group where she partnered with organizations in Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

McSweeney also serves on the Board of Directors of The Brian Jordan Foundation. She is a member of The Network Journal’s 2012 Class of “Forty under 40” leaders in business and a 2010 graduate of the St Louis Business Diversity Initiative Fellow’s Leadership Program. She earned an undergraduate degree in accounting from Virginia Union University and an MBA from the University of Phoenix. Wendy is a registered general securities representative with a Series 7 license.

Ally Profile: Mayor Andrew Gillum

Mayor Gillum_FP

With a passion for public service, and the ability to motivate and mobilize people to action, Mayor Andrew D. Gillum is recognized statewide, in Florida, and nationally as an emerging leader. At the age of 23, Gillum became the youngest person ever elected to the Tallahassee City Commission in February 2003. At the time of the election, Gillum was a student at Florida A&M University (FAMU), majoring in political science. In August 2004, Mr. Gillum was re-elected to serve for a full four-year term, and was subsequently re-elected in 2008 and August 2012. He was elected Mayor of Tallahassee in August 2014.

During his 12 years of service Mayor Gillum has played a leadership role in countless community initiatives including the Landlord Tenant Mediation Program, the Code Enforcement Amnesty Program, Good Neighbor energy assistance program, and the creation of the Silver Lake Neighborhood Park. He also served as the City’s chief negotiator for the consolidation of our community’s Fire and EMS services, and has spearheaded several initiatives to boost economic growth through commercial utility deposit rebates, land exchanges with Florida State University, and the development of seven-day guarantee permitting. In 2010, Mayor Gillum was instrumental in converting a former neighborhood recreational center into the Palmer-Monroe Teen Center, which works daily to meet the emotional, physical, artistic and educational needs of area teens, and also runs a restorative justice program called Community Connections that serves to deter youth away from the Court system and toward productive and constructive activity.

As Mayor, Andrew has launched numerous transformative initiatives, such as: The Tallahassee Future Leaders Academy, a summer jobs program for over 100 Tallahassee youth; Operation Safe Neighborhoods, which is designed to empower neighbors and help deter acts of violence; he has spearheaded efforts to bring TEDx back to Tallahassee and hosted a Startup weekend in the Capital City; and he has started the Family First agenda, which is moving Tallahassee towards a more nurturing and dynamic place for children and families to grow strong.  After experiencing intense discrimination and unwelcomeness from his community as a child, Mayor Gillum’s brother moved from the State of Florida to a place where he could live safe and free as a gay man.  It is a primary reason why the Mayor chose to be a part of the We Are Straight Allies campaign.

“Being an ally is important to me because love is never wrong, and equality must continue to be a part of the progress we work to drive in our community, our state, and in our country.  Nothing would please me more than if my brother could come back home and live in his home State of Florida.”


Mayor Gillum has received numerous awards and recognitions for his passion and service over the years, and has been named an emerging leader by the Congressional Black Caucus, Jet Magazine, Ebony Magazine, the Association of Trial Lawyers for America (ATLA), The Drum Major Institute, IMPACT, and the Washington Post. He has also been regularly featured on several local and national news mediums including MSNBC, CNN, the Huffington Post, and the Tallahassee Democrat on various civic and social justice issues.

In addition to his work as Mayor of Tallahassee, Andrew works for the People for the American Way Foundation as the National Director of Leadership Programs and the Founder and Executive Director of the Young Elected Officials Network.

Andrew and his wife R. Jai live in Tallahassee, Florida with their beautiful twins Caroline and Jackson.

We are straight allies coming out in support of our LGBT community and equal rights for all!


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