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.
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.
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.
“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.
“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.” –Arnold Evans
We Are Straight Allies welcomes our newest additions to our growing chorus for LGBT Equality across the State of Florida. We are proud to have Arnold Evans, Division President, Central Florida; Tanya Powers, Senior Vice President and Division Sales Manager, Georgia-North Florida Division; Wendy McSweeney, Senior Vice President and Enterprise Inclusion Leader; and Todd Feintuch, Senior Managing Director for SunTrust Private Wealth, North Florida and Coastal GA Regions
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.
Tanya Powers is a Senior Vice President and Division Sales Manager for the Georgia-North Florida Division. In this role, she is responsible for driving sales strategy, training and sales management effectiveness for the division. Tanya is based in Jacksonville, Florida. She joined SunTrust in 1992, as a part time teller her last year of college. She spent 12 years as an Area Manager managing the 25 banking centers within the Jacksonville market. In this role, Tanya focused on integrating the company’s business and sales strategy as well as achievement of revenue goals. She is a member of the Board of Trustees for St. Johns Country Day School.
Tanya is a Straight Ally because everyone has the right to be treated equally and fairly.
Wendy McSweeney is a Senior Vice President and Enterprise Inclusion Leader for SunTrust Bank, 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, Wendy 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.
Wendy serves on the board of directors of The Brian Jordan Foundation. In 2014, Black Enterprise Magazine named her 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. 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.
Wendy has the opportunity to support the LGBT community each and every day by enabling a more inclusive culture through opportunities and conversation with her LGBT teammates. We all know someone that is a member of the LGBT community and Wendy wants each of them to feel valued and connected to the organization and to each other.
Todd Feintuch is the Senior Managing Director for SunTrust Private Wealth in the North Florida and Coastal GA Regions. His Team consists of Client Advisors and Specialists in North Florida and Coastal Georgia markets. Todd has been in Wealth Management for over 10 years, both as a Managing Director and as a Wealth Advisor. He is currently earning his Juris Doctor from Barry Law School.
As a registered representative of SunTrust Investment Services, Todd holds FINRA series 7, 66, and 24 registrations and Florida Life and Health and Variable Licenses and holds a CFP® Designation.
Todd believes that we should all have the freedom to be who they are and he believes strongly in equal rights for everyone.
After serving as Jacksonville’s mayor from 1995-2003, John A. Delaney became the University of North Florida’s fifth president in 2003. As mayor, Delaney spearheaded major initiatives including The Better Jacksonville Plan, a $2.2 billion improvement plan that gave the city new public facilities and other amenities. He also created the Preservation Project, a massive land conservation program giving Jacksonville the distinction of having the largest urban park system in the United States. Prior to that, he served as the chief assistant state attorney, the number two prosecutor for Northeast Florida and as the general counsel for the City of Jacksonville.
As UNF President, John A. Delaney oversees a campus of more than 16,000 students, 600 faculty and more than 1,000 staff. The 1,381 acre campus in Northeast Florida is considered a driver in the region, with an annual economic impact of nearly $1 billion. Under his direction, UNF reaffirmed its commitment to students, by offering individualized attention and offering transformational learning opportunities.
Delaney is considered UNF’s chief fundraiser, nearly doubling the university’s privately funded endowment. In April 2013, the Power of Transformation campaign exceeded its goal, raising more than $130 million. The campaign was publicly launched in 2009 with an ambitious goal of $110 million. His presidency continues a distinguished career as a public servant. Delaney has also served on numerous non-profit and corporate boards. He and his wife Gena have four children and twin grandsons.
John explains why the Human Rights Ordinance in the city of Jacksonville is important, not only to him, but to the city of Jacksonville: “If we want a strong workforce and a strong educational system, we need to recognize the rights and contributions of LGBT individuals in the workplace and throughout society. It’s the smart thing to do as well as the ethically and morally right course to follow.”