Tag Archives: Jayda

Ally Profile: Ellison Bennett

Ellison Bennett_FP

It is said let no one judge another.  If we can find the time to love as Jesus did, we would be more happy with ourselves.  I AM an ally, because I truly understand that people are of God. 

Ellison Bennett is a native of Pensacola and graduate of Booker T. Washington High School, noted as the historical Black high school in Pensacola. He grew up during segregation and understands the pain of discrimination and bigotry first-hand. Ellison has championed social justice issues most of his life and credits God with his unwavering commitment to equality for ALL people. He served as president of the Pensacola Chapter the SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference) from 1998-2004. Ellison has served in various capacities within the community including as a volunteer for the Southern Poverty Law Center, mentor with Warrington Middle School, board member with The National Movement for Civil and Human Rights, Inc., board of directors with S.L. Jones Christian Academy; feeding the homeless, and Hurricanes Ivan and Katrina efforts.

The very beginnings of the SCLC can be traced back to the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which began on December 5, 1955 after Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white man on the bus. The boycott lasted for 381 days and ended on December 21, 1956, with the desegregation of the Montgomery bus system. The boycott was carried out by the newly established Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA). Martin Luther King, Jr. served as President and Ralph David Abernathy served as Program Director. It was one of history’s most dramatic and massive nonviolent protests, stunning the nation and the world. The boycott was also a signal to Black America to begin a new phase of the long struggle, a phase that came to be known as the modern civil rights movement.  The SCLC is a now a nationwide organization made up of chapters and affiliates with programs that affect the lives of all Americans: north, south, east and west. Its sphere of influence and interests has become international in scope because the human rights movement transcends national boundaries.

Ellison is a Vietnam War veteran serving from 1970 – 1975. He served as a police officer in the early 1970’s and graduated from Mortuary School in Miami Dade in 1977.  He was the first Black letter carrier in Haines City, Florida, and received death threats daily because of his race. From 1984-1987, Ellison served as a member of the Haines City Council. He established Pensacola Caskets in 2014 and continues this efforts as a tireless servant leader.

Among the many honors and awards Ellison has received are: 1986 Haines City, FL Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. award and the 2004 Vietnam Vet Rev. H. K. Matthews award.

Ellison met Jayda Dunham (age 8) while working on equality efforts with her family in Pensacola.  We profiled Jayda and her mothers back in October.  Her mothers have instilled in Jayda that, despite the world’s differences, all lives are important and matter.  As a seasoned advocate, he mentors a new guard of community activists championing for the equal treatment of all people.

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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.