Publisher’s Note: Fall 2020
We may have pressed pause by having to close our economy and mandate stay-at-home orders except for essential workers here in the United States, but the rest of the world is moving on. If you are still here and the ravages of the viral and/or the economic pandemic haven’t left you and yours in ruins, I have one request — let your voice be heard. If things look grim right now, know that we can pick up the pieces together and begin again, one day at a time.
One day in particular offers an opportunity to work together for a new beginning. Melissa Lowery, our editor, spoke with Justin Nelson, co-founder and chief executive officer of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce. He shares some surprising statistics about LGBTQ voter turnout in 2016 and reminds us all that come Election Day, we must raise our voices together. The stakes have never been higher according to Justin and I agree.
Our inaugural issue of BEQ Pride featured co-owners Helen Russell and Brooke McDonnell of Equator Coffees as they were being recognized as the Small Business Administration’s 2016 Small Business of the Year. This year has been particularly difficult for small businesses and Equator Coffees was no different. Our editor Melissa Lowery spoke with Helen who shared that the first 6 months of the year left the company “shaken to the core”. During the conversation, Helen reveals a fundamental truth about privilege — many of us haven’t truly considered or realized how we’ve benefited from our privilege.
The most important outcome of this great pause is we’ve all had to reckon with ourselves, our lives and often revisit our purpose. We’ve had to take a good hard look and re-evaluate our priorities. Helen and Brooke’s resilience, commitment to their employees and community and determination to build back are what make them champions and pillars of the community.
The Tyler Clementi Foundation announced that more than 1 million people have taken a 10-point Upstander pledge as part of the Million Upstander Movement. The foundation, named for Joe and Jane Clementi’s son, Tyler, an openly gay college student, was founded a few days after Tyler died by suicide after his roommate surreptitiously posted a video online of Tyler and a date being intimate and the unrelenting cyberbullying that followed. It has been 10 years since Tyler died and the foundation continues working to eliminate bullying in the workplace, schools, houses of worship and online. Take the pledge and learn more about their “True Faith Doesn’t Bully” initiative to address faith-based bullying in this issue.
Julie A. Palm brings us a profile of tech leader Gina Tomlinson of T5 Solutions Technology Consulting Services. Gina wants people who look like her and love like her to love technology too. Gina talks about her realization that the purpose of technology in the public sector is for it to operate for the public good. She says “it really awakened something in me — a desire to serve and to give back to my community.” Gina’s path to entrepreneurship and service to the community is a great example for us all.
Also in this issue, Ryann Brooks shares an amazing profile of Irene Brank and her story of Allyship in the workplace and at home. Irene reveals she didn’t know what the ‘T’ stood for in LGBT when her own child revealed her truth. This is a story of triumph and self-empowerment. We are all better off when people like Irene and her daughter Sam share their truth.
Continuing on the theme of making our voices heard, Kassaundra Shanette Lockhart spoke with Earl Fowlkes, Jr., the president and chief executive officer of the Center for Black Equity and chair of the Democratic Party’s LGBTQ Caucus, about voter suppression.
Earl Fowlkes is keenly aware of voter suppression and the fact that “if 60,000 Black, gay folks had voted in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin,” there may have been a different outcome in the 2016 election. In this article, you’ll learn about the three pillars of equity — health, economic and social — that drive the programming and outreach of the Center and how to get involved. He is hopeful about the equality movement this time primarily because of the multiracial response across the nation. And, I’m sure it’s not lost on him that more and more Black and LatinX people are being recognized for the important roles they’ve played in helping America make good on its promise to all its citizens.
Now is a perfect time to renew our commitment to one another and begin to rebuild for a better future. There is no denying the difficulties we’ve faced throughout 2020, but we have the opportunity to end strong and build for the future.