Category Archives: Communities

We are clergy and missionaries shepherding our congregations to welcome everyone into their hearts, openly and without judgment. We are veterans who have fought for the freedom of others across the ocean and who will continue to fight for basic human rights on our own native soil. We are citizens who believe in everyone’s right to pursue their own happiness.

Ally Profile: Pastor Reginald Gundy

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Born in Jacksonville, Pastor Gundy is a graduate of Troy State University with a BS Degree and hold two Masters Degrees, Masters of Arts in Pastoral Ministries and Master of Divinity.

He is a retired public school teacher, and is also retired from the US Army with two Meritorious Service Awards. He is the recipient of the Congressional Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition for outstanding and invaluable service to the community award, Jacksonville’s Florida Mayor’s Distinguish Award, Trailblazers Award, Teacher of the Year Award and many other U.S. Army Awards

He is currently the Pastor of the Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church and past Jacksonville Local Chapter and State President Florida Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He has 14 years of experience in working with Not-for-Profit organizations specializing in advocacy for Juvenile Justice and Civil Rights issues. He is married to Wallette, they have a son named Andrew and two grandchildren, Darrion and Savia. He is a pastor with 33 years ministerial experience and serves on the Boards of several Not-for-Profit Organizations.

Recently, Pastor Gundy has publicly changed his stance on the need to expand the HRO in Jacksonville.  Once a vocal opponent of amending our city’s protections, Pastor Gundy has expressed why it is important to protect the rights of everyone in our community.

It is time for me to write the letter from the “Jacksonville Jail”.  It must address the conservative evangelical and black church as a whole:

The history
The harm
The hurt
The healing
The hope

The LBGT community has a right to be heard, but also others.  The voices of change must also respect the voices of resistance.  We must also deal with the voices of fear. I see the plan to introduce the law that will address the fears, but that is not what many others see.   It is very important that Bible base-believers be heard, along with the others.   That did not happen in the first meeting and must not happen hence forth.

I have set on the new ordinance for 18-months that specifically addresses the protection of the church.  You cannot blame a culture of resistance  based on their Biblical beliefs.  My belief is tied deeply with the Bible, as it relates to all matters of sin, and all have and all sin, and all fall short.  But, thank God for Jesus, all can be saved and forgiven.  Anger and mistrust, on either side, does not allow acceptance, respect, forgiveness and reconciliation.

LBGT issues have divided churches, communities and families.  This should not be, there must be honest dialogue, disagreements and forgiveness.  The evangelicals must be part of the long-term solutions and we all must love each other, even if we do not agree:

1.  The law protects the church.
2.  The law protects housing, jobs and public access.
3.  The law protects people against discrimination.

The conversation is tough but it must be held.  Discrimination against any human being is discrimination against all humanity.

Love should not divide, but bring all of us together.

Pastor Reginald Gundy, pens An awakening to what it means not to discriminate, featured in the Orlando Sentinel on February 5, 2016

Ally Profile: Chevara Orrin

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“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.”

With a passion for social justice, a rich legacy of civil rights, and the ability to inspire and engage, Chevara Orrin founded 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 an award-winning diversity & inclusion strategist, social entrepreneur, published author, social justice activist, independent filmmaker and dynamic public speaker. Her earliest memory of activism is as a three-year old, sleeping inside concrete building tubes across the street from the White House in support of the Bangladesh Liberation War and protesting famine in Pakistan.

Chevara is a forward-thinking catalyst who is passionate about igniting organizational transformation. In her current role as Chief Creative Catalyst for Collective Concepts, she is best known for having conceived and co-created We Are Allies, a national advertising campaign to support equality and move towards passage of inclusive policies to protect the LGBTQ community and #WhiteAndWoke™ an initiative to raise awareness about racial inequality and promote equity through intentional action.

The Allies campaign has drawn the participation of prominent figures such as feminist icon Gloria Steinem, Olympic gold medalist and civil rights attorney Nancy Hogshead-Makar, cultural and faith leaders, and superstars from the corporate world, including the CEOs of Florida Blue and SunTrust Bank. Chevara is executive producer of an independent documentary, “The Story of Denise” that explores the transgender experience and family acceptance.

Chevara’s work and passion lives at the intersection of gender parity, racial equity, LGBTQ equality and arts activism. She is an innovative leader with experience ranging from senior management in the arts and higher education sectors to consulting with Fortune 500 clients. Chevara is a frequent conference presenter, lecturer and motivational speaker. She is also a survivor of childhood poverty, incest, teenage pregnancy, and domestic violence. It is because of, not in spite of, her personal journey of tragedy and triumph that she is inspired to use her experiences and voice as a catalyst to ignite social transformation. An outspoken advocate for the eradication of sexual violence against women and girls, Chevara founded WhiteSpace SafeSpace, a monthly support group and forum for incest survivors and will soon be published in  #LoveWITHAccountability, a collection of writings that examine how accountability is a powerful and necessary form of love needed to address child sexual abuse.

Chevara is deeply inspired by the legacy of her parents. She is the daughter of a white, Jewish mother who served as the lead coordinator for the 1967 March on the Pentagon in opposition of the Vietnam War and a Black father who was a fiery top lieutenant of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and a driving force behind many critical civil rights campaigns of the 1960s, including the 1963 Birmingham Children’s Crusade, 1965 Selma to Montgomery March and Voting Rights Act.

While serving as an administrator at a university in North Carolina, Chevara co-founded the first-ever Gay-Straight Student Alliance. Seven months later, she was instrumental in the drafting and subsequent passage of the university’s first non-discrimination policy inclusive of sexual orientation. It was a unanimous decision by the Board of Trustees. 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 LGBTQ organizations, including the Campaign for Southern Equality, PFLAG, and Equality Florida.

Chevara has been recognized by the White House and the Human Rights Campaign as a leader, advocate and ally for the LGBTQ community and featured in publications including The Washington Post, Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The Feminist Wire. She has also been a featured guest on SiriusXM Radio and highlighted in John Blake’s 2007 book Children of the Movement, a powerful glimpse into the heart and soul of the Freedom Movement of the Sixties as seen by its children. Her numerous awards for community service include the Hands on Jacksonville Unity in Action award, University of North Florida Woman of Influence, Jacksonville “Who’s Who for Justice award, Jacksonville Mayor’s Commission on the Status of Women honoree, Girls Inc. Jacksonville “Women of Vision” award, Spelman College Game Changers award, Triad Business Journal “Forty under 40” and Winston-Salem Urban League Community Leader of the Year. Chevara is a 2010 graduate of Leadership Winston-Salem and a current member of the Leadership Broward Class XXXVII.

Chevara has facilitated workshops and dialogues across the U.S. from TEDx Jacksonville to serving as keynote speaker for the NSA (National Security Agency) Diversity Speaker Series to co-hosting ‘Jazz Under the Bridge’ with legendary Tony award-winner, Ben Vereen.

She believes that “There is a human cost when we fail to connect. Ideas unborn. Dreams unrealized. Communities un-ignited.”

A native of Washington, D.C., Chevara was raised in Memphis, Tennessee and earned a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication from the University of Memphis. She is a 2017 graduate of the Georgetown University Executive Certificate in Strategic Diversity & Inclusion Management Program. She is the proud mother of Michael, a graduate of Columbia University and senior trainer with The Posse Foundation, and William, an actor, yogi and college student in Atlanta, GA who is featured in “Wait No Longer,” the true story of the 1964 race riots in St. Augustine, Florida.

 

Ally Profile: Mayor Andrew Gillum

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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. He is the Democratic Party nominee for governor of Florida in the 2018 election. 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.

Andrew has always been a staunch supporter of LGBTQ rights during his years as a public leader. As a City Commissioner, Gillum led the charge to expand domestic partner benefits for City employees. As Mayor, when more than a dozen counties were refusing to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples in Florida, Gillum raised his voice in opposition and extended an invitation for couples to get married in Florida’s capital – Tallahassee. In the wake of the Pulse Nightclub tragedy, he spoke up unapologetically for the victims and their families.

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.”

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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 children.

Jacksonville Community Advocates

Recently, we had the pleasure of featuring Maria Mark, City Commissioner in Atlantic Beach, as a Straight Ally after she advocated for the passage of a comprehensive Human Rights Ordinance in her city.  During the photo shoot, she was joined by several advocates who have joined the growing chorus, calling for the passage of a comprehensive Human Rights Ordinance in our city.

JAX Allies_Ad-2_FP_PrintA little more about each of the people you see in the image above (from left to right, top to bottom):

Ramon Day, Community Leader
Ramon Day is a fifth generation Floridian and native of Madison, Florida.  He grew up in Jacksonville and graduated from Jacksonville University, then went on to earn his MBA in Finance from the University of Florida.  His unique career experience spans the private and public sectors.  Currently, he works an account manager at Allstate Insurance.  Ramon learned the details of government and the highest standards of public service when he served as Chief of Staff to the late Congressman Charles E. Bennett in Washington, D.C. Ramon and his wife, Mary, have four wonderful children. They are well established residents of the Southside and are active members of Blessed Trinity Catholic Church. Ramon believes God created all of us equality and supports an HRO.

Maria Mark, City Commissioner of Atlantic Beach
Maria has been a community advocate for many years and was elected to the City of Atlantic Beach City Commission in 2011.  She helped draft and sponsor the Human Rights Ordinance that recently passed (4-0) on August 11, 2014. She was awarded the “2014 Voice for Equality Award” at Equality Florida’s Jacksonville Annual Gala for her dedication to equal rights for the LGBT community in Atlantic Beach.  Read more about Maria HERE.

Ju’Coby Pittman, President and CEO of the Clara White Mission
Ju’Coby is a native Jacksonville-resident who graduated from Englewood High School, and then went on to pursue the Edward Waters College C.L.I.M.B. Program.  Additionally, she was honored with a Doctorate of Humane Letters by Jones College.  As the CEO/President of the Clara White Mission, her primary focus of feeding and meeting the needs of Jacksonville’s homeless population has been advanced by the implementation of a “Drop-in Day Center”, providing customized services for veterans. Community engagement has kept her at the forefront of Jacksonville’s progression as Ju’Coby has served on the transition team(s) of Jacksonville’s three prior mayor’s: John Delaney, John Peyton, and current Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown. Ju’Coby believes that an HRO makes for more inclusion in our community.

Jesse Wilson, Advocate, Author and Motivational Speaker
Jesse is a Jacksonville native who has become a major advocate for issues surrounding children, LGBT equality, civic engagement, downtown development, and human rights. A survivor of the state’s foster care system, Jesse has spent an immeasurable amount of time in Tallahassee rallying the charge for laws related to children and has been influential in assuring many great pieces of legislation become law. He is also an avid writer and was first published at the age of 16 in his book of poetry titled The Storm Rolling In . He currently works for Family Support Services of North Florida and is a contributing writer for Void Magazine. Jesse was recently named the #1 writer in the 904 by Void Magazine, a top 30 Under 30 by Buzz Magazine, and the Best Local Author & Best Local Righteous Crusader by Folio Weekly readers.  Check out his video statement HERE!

Jacksonville Community Allies

More and more often we are contacted by allies of the LGBT Community who are eager to add their voice to the growing chorus for equality in Jacksonville.  Together, we continue to share a desire for the passage of a comprehensive Human Rights Ordinance in our city.

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A little more about each of the people you see in the image above (from left to right, top to bottom):

Glorious Johnson, Educator
Glorious is a native of Jacksonville, FL and has always called it home. She taught many years in the Duval County School System. This was a fantastic opportunity for her to help the children of the Jacksonville community learn and grow. For over 35 years, she taught children and adults reading, writing, mathematics, and science in her home.  When she left teaching, she received a very treasured award: an Honorary Life Membership from the Florida Parent/Teacher Association.  Glorious believes that everyone should have the right to live and work and be who they are.

Jason Tetlak, Artist/Designer
Jason has spent most of my life studying art and design, and currently works at a non-profit that focuses on bringing a variety of quality cultural experiences to town.  He has also had the opportunity to teach elementary school students in the Duval Public School System.  Jason and his family live in Murray Hill and enjoy spending time in the area’s many parks and playgrounds, and love discovering new local restaurants. He believes that as allies we have the obligation to ascertain that our LGBT community has equal rights and equal opportunity to make Jacksonville a better place for all.  Find out WHY!

Niki  Brunson, Business Owner/Urban Core
As a small business owner in the urban core, Niki has been featured in the Folio Weekly for her standout restaurant.  She explains why she is thankful to call Jacksonville home and believes that all human beings are born with rights.  The city is responsible for protecting those rights for all its citizens. View her statement HERE!

James Eddy, Community Activist
Originally from West Virginia, James moved to Jacksonville after graduated from highs school.  He has worked for the Jacksonville Zoo for over 14-years.  He actively volunteers for many organizations, including being a member of the Jacksonville Coalition for Equality since 2012.  As a member of the LGBT Community, James is eager to see Jacksonville pass a fully comprehensive Human Rights Ordinance to protect all of its citizens’ rights for equal opportunity under the law.  He is also the first openly gay candidate to run for City Council in this year’s election.  Congratulations, James!

Mark Kerrin, Adjunct Professor
Mark is an Adjunct Professor at Edward Waters College teaching Emergency Management, Forensic, Terrorism & Homeland Security. He was also Rosa Parks National Security Director for nearly 12-years.  He has authored several books dedicated to the knowledge that he received from Parks. This gave him a view into the need for universal human rights through her eyes and Mark believes, in the 21st-Century, it is time for Jacksonville to pass a comprehensive Human Rights Ordinance. View his statement NOW!