Troy Blackwell (he/him) is the founder of Ready for Change, a political action committee dedicated to increasing get-out-the-vote activities among youth. He is also the chairperson of Big Apple Performing Arts, home to the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus and the Youth Pride Chorus. Previously, Blackwell was a New York City Council candidate in the Bronx. Prior to this, he worked in various press advance capacities for President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. Blackwell has also worked for other politicians including President Obama, Tom Steyer, and Mark Levine.
What is your favorite Pride Month event or celebration?
My favorite Pride Month celebration is seeing young LGBTQ performers sing with the Youth Pride Chorus. In the past, they have sung with Cyndi Lauper and this year they are performing at Little Island. We are living at a time when over 300 anti-LGBTQ bills are being passed across 36 legislatures, and books are being banned. It is imperative that young LGBTQ people feel seen, heard, and respected.
What LGBTQ+ icons or activists have inspired you?
I am inspired by many icons but especially James Baldwin and Bayard Rustin. Baldwin’s works of literature still inspire generations today and Rustin’s work during the civil rights era is definitely felt all around us. They both lived at a crucial time when they not only faced discrimination because of their sexuality but because of their race as well. That struggle and resilience in their intersectionality is one that I have deep respect for.
What people or corporations do to support the LGBTQ+ community year-round, not just during Pride Month?
First and foremost, if corporations truly want to support the LGBTQ community year-round, they should not fund or endorse candidates with anti-LGBTQ platforms. That is a big no. Furthermore, they should empower and champion the LGBTQ employees they have by creating a safe space with health plans that reflect modern families, updated anti-discrimination policies, preferred name and gender usage, and opportunities for advancement for all diverse individuals.
How can businesses create more inclusive environments for their employees and patrons?
To be more inclusive, businesses can empower workers to create an LGBTQ ERG (employee resource group) to help advocate for what they need. Secondly, businesses can empower staff to use their preferred pronouns. For patrons, it never hurts to have a strong mission statement that customers can see or access. Additionally, it is powerful when businesses have pride flags or pride stickers outside to acknowledge that they are LGBTQ-friendly.