Tag Archives: LGBT community

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.

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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 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: SunTrust Bank

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“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.

Ally Profile: John Delaney

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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.”

We Stand in Solidarity

We Are Straight Allies will be standing in solidarity with the six openly gay Olympians competing in the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, along with the openly gay members of the delegations attending this year’s games.  It is our hope that Russia will remain respectful of the Olympic Charter that states, “The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.”

All beings everywhere have the right to be happy and free and we are inextricably bound to aide in the happiness and freedom for others.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once wrote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” We find the the level of intolerance, injustice, violence, hate, anger, and fear that the LGBT community faces around the world, as well as at home, inexcusable.  The Olympics creates the opportunity to bring Russia’s anti-LGBT policies center stage so the world can see and, hopefully, demand change.  While we are fighting for the fair treatment of LGBT people here at home, we have a greater responsibility to the global community to help stop the mistreatment of human beings everywhere.

Movements take time, some faster than others, but none happen in a vacuum.  If we can help make lives better for our local communities, that creates momentum for change on a global scale.  Please join us in this cause and help us affect change in the hearts and minds of people everywhere.

“Gay rights have taken center stage at Sochi, thanks to Russia’s own targeting of the LGBT community. In June 2013, the Russian government banned dissemination of pro-gay “propaganda” that could be accessible to children. The law’s vagueness, activists note, could prohibit almost any pro-gay expression, such as public statements, rallies, rainbow flags, rainbow nesting dolls, or same-sex hand-holding. Violators can be fined or jailed up to 14 days. Foreigners can be expelled.

Then in July 2013, Russia made it illegal for foreign gay and lesbian couples to adopt Russian children, and in October 2013, the government proposed legislation that would remove Russian children from their LGBT parents. The proposal is now withdrawn.

Over the last seven months, Russia has introduced or amended at least 13 laws restricting freedom of expression, association and assembly of non-governmental organizations, particularly those that receive foreign funding — a violation of international human rights law, says Amnesty International.”  —Global Post, February 5, 2014