Category Archives: Families

We are mothers and fathers teaching our children to love and accept each other’s intrinsic humanness. We are sisters and brothers holding the hands of our siblings with great pride in who they are.

THE STORY OF DENISE: ONE WOMAN’S JOURNEY OF TRANSFORMATION, LOVE AND ACCEPTANCE

Denise Iandoli was born on March 5, 1950 as John Martin Iandoli. This documentary tells the story of her courageous journey of self-discovery, self-love and acceptance.

 

Mayor Andrew Gillum | Tallahassee, FL

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. 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 a message for the city of Jacksonville.

 

Ally Profile: The Dunham Family

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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

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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 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.

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 more than 20 years of 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. 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. Chevara 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.

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 Georgetown University’s Strategic Diversity and Inclusive 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.