ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, COMMUNITIES OF COLOR, GLAAD,
FOUNDER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR MOBILIZING OUR BROTHERS INITIATIVE (MOBI)
Class of 2022 BEQ Pride LGBTQ Leader Under 40
(He, Him) is 35
What do you believe is your responsibility to this moment in history?
I dreamed so vividly to unearth my responsibility for this moment. As I discovered the answers, I encountered joy, love, family, friends, and wholeness of all these intersections. I was reminded that my duty is, to tell the truth. As a storyteller – to remind people of the narratives we don’t see. As a community mobilizer – to bring others together. As a culture curator – to celebrate unapologetic Black queer joy. I choose to live completely authentically and vulnerably. Vulnerability often is looked at as a weakness, but there’s beauty, courage, and strength that comes from it.
For the past 15 years, DaShawn Usher has grown as a leader through his community engagement efforts working with marginalized underserved and under-reached populations including Black communities, youth, LGBTQ+ and people living with HIV. His work in racial and social justice uplifts, centers and amplifies voices that are often unheard, unnoticed and disenfranchised. In 2017, DaShawn founded Mobilizing Our Brothers Initiative (MOBI). MOBI is a series of curated social connectivity events for gay and queer people of color to see their holistic selves while promoting community, wellness and personal development. Initiatives include MOBItalks, a personal and professional development series for Black gay men, and MOBIfest, an interactive wellness experience that celebrates Black queer voices in fashion, music, visual arts and media. With a focus on wellness, MOBI connects individuals to opportunities to better themselves before, during and after each event.
In 2021, DaShawn worked to expand MOBItalks to a digital series centered on professional development through entrepreneurship, innovation and Black gay business owners. MOBI partnered with Forbes magazine’s For(bes) the Culture to host a weeklong series of live conversations across MOBI Instagram accounts, which also resulted in a Forbes featured article that recapped the MOBItalks conversations. To date, MOBI has secured over $1 million in direct programming funding, with a large majority of the funding going directly back to the Black queer community, reaching over 2 million people, and is featured in several national and local publications.
As the Associate Director, Communities of Color at GLAAD, the world’s largest LGBTQ media advocacy organization, DaShawn is responsible for managing multiple program grants totaling over $15 million. He works daily to accelerate acceptance, increase awareness and create authentic and accurate portrayals and stories of LGBTQ people of color in media. The program leverages traditional media, influencers and original content as a means to educate the public on the issues facing the community and to accelerate acceptance. After launching GLAAD’s digital “Hangouts” series, DaShawn worked to leverage the organization’s immense social reach to center the stories of LGBTQ People of Color by bringing together a range of guests including artist Victor Jackson, journalist Shar Jossell, actor Julian J. Walker, author Robert Jones Jr., Recording Artivist Mila Jam and more. The “Hangouts” series covered topics including the history of Black music, the importance of International Transgender Day of Visibility, diverse representation in media and the Georgia Elections.
Earlier in 2021, DaShawn executive produced GLAAD’s inaugural HIV Stigma and Faith Summit, a three-day virtual event dedicated to training and educating leaders to better address the HIV and AIDS epidemic in the Southern region of the United States. The HIV Stigma and Faith Summit won the 2021 POZ Award for “Best Virtual Event.”
DaShawn also led a coalition of 11 organizations in a national effort to correct the narrative and get the relevant facts about HIV into headlines in response to rapper DaBaby’s inaccurate and harmful comments. This resulted in an open letter reaching 82.9 million people across the country, with more than 125 organizations signing in support of the open letter. He ultimately facilitated a meeting with DaBaby and nine Black leaders from community HIV-focused organizations over the summer.
Continuing to make waves in Hollywood, DaShawn was selected and completed the inaugural Ben the Writers Room, a virtual TV pilot and feature film writing workshop for underrepresented writers of color and LGBTQ+ storytellers shepherded by writer, producer and showrunner Ben Cory Jones.
DaShawn hopes within the next decade the LGBTQ+/SGL community will finally be free to exist, express and thrive in their lives as their authentic selves – and he is creating that future now. Understanding that culture is cultivated by visibility and representation in media, it is his hope that the work he leads now continues to further community visibility, acceptance and celebration. He imagines a world where LGBTQ+ youth, Black trans women and Black gay men are safe to be themselves – free of judgment, without shame or silenced.
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