Troy Blackwell political action committee vote

Troy Blackwell

Founder, Ready for Change and Chairman, Big Apple Performing Arts Inc.

Troy Blackwell political action committee vote

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.

Justin Blake Edelman

Justin Blake

Executive Director, Edelman Trust Institute

Justin Blake Edelman

Justin Blake (he/him) leads the Edelman Trust Institute, a global center for the study and cultivation of trust across business, government, media, and civil society. The Institute produces the expanding Edelman Trust Barometer report series, and content and convenings to forward the understanding of how to build trust. A 20+ year Edelman veteran, Blake is also the global chair of executive positioning, working with government officials, university presidents, NGO heads, and numerous Fortune 500 CEOs and executives. He is on the board of GLAAD and BOFFO.

What is your favorite Pride Month event or celebration?
Simply being in NYC over that weekend is so special. Walking the streets, riding the subways, feeding off the enthusiasm, wonder, and excitement of the people, particularly those from out-of-town and those newer to the festivities. I love going to the Queer Liberation march as it feels like exactly the reason why Pride exists in the first place.

What LGBTQ+ icons or activists have inspired you?
Those involved in AIDS activism, including ACT UP, are a total inspiration. As a PR professional, I also so admire the way ACT UP utilized an arsenal of communications techniques to push for and achieve needed change from derelict leaders and institutions.

What can people and corporations do to support the LGBTQ+ community year-round, not just during Pride Month?
Thinking of multinational corporations, LGBTQ+ people are subject to death in certain countries where they operate, imprisonment in others, and a scourge of hateful state and municipal laws here in the U.S. If you want to be an ally, don’t just put up a Pride flag — we desperately need your help to protect our ability to survive. Get involved: use your power, influence, and megaphone.

How can businesses create more inclusive environments for their employees and patrons?
There are dozens of ways to answer this question, but let me focus on the C-Suite. First off, are there LGBTQ+ leaders in your C-Suite and your board/advisers? Does your leadership team regularly interact with LGBTQ+ employees? Are your leaders aware of, and positively engaged in, legislation impacting your LGBTQ+ team members? And a very practical tip: include a place for pronouns in your company’s email signatures.

Erik Bottcher progressive new york city council

Erik Bottcher

Councilmember, New York City Council

Erik Bottcher progressive new york city council

Erik Bottcher (he/him) is a dedicated public servant who has devoted his life to progressive causes and the betterment of the community he loves. He represents City Council District 3, which includes the neighborhoods of Greenwich Village, Chelsea, and Hell’s Kitchen. Erik previously worked as the LGBTQ and HIV/AIDS community liaison in the City Council, and as the LGBTQ community liaison in the governor’s office, where he helped organize the fight for marriage equality.

What is your favorite Pride Month event or celebration?
The moment the Pride Parade builds to the arrival at the Stonewall Inn and you feel the sense and weight of history in a way that you can’t anywhere else.

What LGBTQ+ icons or activists have inspired you?
Peter Staley spoke truth to power as a young man diagnosed with HIV at a time it was a death sentence. Through ACT UP and the Treatment Action Group, he and his fellow activists saved countless lives and continue to do so today.

What can people and corporations do to support the LGBTQ+ community year-round, not just during Pride Month?
Stay engaged and be an upstander, not just a bystander. When you see something wrong, speak up.

Jabari Brisport new york person of color
Photograph by Kevin Doherty

Jabari Brisport

Senator, New York State Senate

Jabari Brisport new york person of color

Until becoming the first openly gay person of color to serve in New York’s legislature last year, Senator Jabari Brisport (he/him) was a math teacher at a public middle school in Crown Heights. A born-and-raised Brooklynite, he initially got involved in political activism through the fight to legalize same-sex marriage in New York, and through organizing rallies and protests as part of the early Black Lives Matter movement. Now the chair of the Committee on Children and Families, he’s fought particularly hard for queer, homeless, and foster youth.

What is your favorite Pride Month event or celebration?
The Queer Liberation March organized by Reclaim Pride. This year it was on Sunday, June 26, 2022, from 1:00-5:30 PM at Foley Square.

Although Pride Month is now associated with floats and rainbowfied corporate logos, the first Pride was a protest — an anti-capitalist, anti-cop protest. Let’s reclaim Pride and continue the fight for queer liberation; it won’t be handed to us wrapped in a Verizon coupon.

What LGBTQ+ icons or activists have inspired you?
Marsha P. Johnson — in her own words: “No pride for some of us without liberation for all of us.” She fought to make the queer movement more inclusive, loving, and radical — the more we live up to that, the stronger we become.

Harvey Milk — in the words of Anne Kronenberg, “he imagined a righteous world inside his head and then he set about to create it for real.”

Cecilia Gentili — among countless contributions to queer liberation, Gentili fought successfully for the recent passage of a vital TGNB Wellness and Equity Fund in New York.

What can people and corporations do to support the LGBTQ+ community year-round, not just during Pride Month?
They can fight to dismantle capitalism, which disproportionately and significantly harms queer people. Under capitalism, our safety and wellbeing is dependent on the entirely undemocratic goodwill of our bosses, landlords, banks, and insurance companies. Capitalism and queerphobia also have a symbiotic relationship in the U.S. Many corporations — including some publicly celebrating Pride month — donate vast amounts to fund the campaigns of conservative politicians that prioritize corporate profits above all else; those same politicians are often the ones who gain popular support by spreading queerphobic rhetoric and passing anti-LGBTQ+ legislation.

How can businesses create more inclusive environments for their employees and patrons?
Inclusive workplaces require a more equitable balance of power between workers and bosses. Under capitalism our access to basic needs — like healthcare and food — is dependent on our employment, so even the possibility that an employer might be queerphobic can make people feel their life depends on staying in the closet. Unionization is the best way to protect workers from the prejudices and whims of their employers. Businesses that don’t support unionization hurt queer liberation.

Justin T. Brown CLAGS CUNY

Justin T. Brown

Executive Director, The Center for LGBTQ Studies (CLAGS)

Justin T. Brown CLAGS CUNY

Justin T. Brown (he/him) is the executive director of The Center for LGBTQ Studies (CLAGS), CUNY. He’s served in this position since 2017. Dr. Brown is also public health program director and associate professor at LaGuardia Community College, CUNY. Prior to CLAGS, Brown was the deputy director of the CUNY Institute for Health Equity. Dr. Brown’s work has spanned research and direct service, dedicating himself to addressing BIPOC LGBTQI+ health inequities through program development and policy analysis. Dr. Brown is professionally active, serving on numerous boards and organizational committees.

What is your favorite Pride Month event or celebration?
This is a challenging one as no one specific celebration stands out as “the one” for me. However, those times that remind us to remember and reconnect to our history and our past center me. We must honor our pioneers and those that came before us to make moments such as these — celebrating Pride — possible. Events and celebrations that commemorate our past are what I always look forward to during this time. Also, those events that highlight the struggles that we still face and remind us to continue to fight and advocate for equity and justice for our community.

What LGBTQ+ icons or activists have inspired you?
My work has been dedicated to service and applied work that leads to systemic change. Growing up in small-town Ohio, I had limited knowledge of LGBTQI+ of color folks so I looked to history. I have been deeply inspired by social activists and those that forced doors open when they seemingly were closed. Key icons for me include Bayard Rustin, Pauli Murray, Barbara Jordan, and James Baldwin. They all had a unique quality that has informed my own sense of humility, quiet strength, and unwavering resolve to raise up voices of BIPOC LGBTQI+ folks through education, civic engagement, and advocacy.

What can people and corporations do to support the LGBTQ+ community year-round, not just during Pride Month?
It is important to understand that Pride Month is a time to highlight the LGBTQI+ community, but it should serve as a reminder of what needs to still be done. People can be advocates and supporters of social change through action. People can volunteer, donate to organizations, and attend LGBTQI+-centered programs/events that occur year round. Our community faces greater health disparities, particularly BIPOC LGBTQI+ folks than any other community. People can show solidarity by speaking up when they see discrimination and injustice. People can use their power through social media to raise critical consciousness.

How can businesses create more inclusive environments for their employees and patrons?
Today there is a lot of focus on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion within organizations. Most of this work aims to create inclusive environments, but in many ways it falls flat. Research shows that diversity trainings have limited lasting impact. It’s important to change the culture of the space through policy, creating collaborative-inclusive spaces and reinforcing practices. Move away from training and toward cultural-responsive practice education. Open, candid communication will lead to social change.

Verley Brown

Verley Brown

Candidate, Manhattan Surrogate Court Judge and Associate, Meltzer, Lippe, Goldstein & Breitstone LLP

Verley Brown

Verley Brown is an associate in the Trust and Estate Litigation Practice Group at the New York based law firm Meltzer, Lippe, Goldstein & Breitstone, LLP. Brown served in the United States Marine Corps before receiving his B.S. from John Jay College of Criminal Justice and his J.D. from Brooklyn Law School. He is currently a candidate for Manhattan Surrogate Court Judge. If he were to be elected, Brown would be the first openly LGBTQ Surrogate Court Judge to serve in New York County.

Carol Bullock Pride Staten Island

Carol Bullock

Executive Director, Pride Center of Staten Island

Carol Bullock Pride Staten Island

Carol Bullock (she/her) came to the Pride Center of Staten Island after a 30-year career with Staples, becoming the executive director in 2017. She focuses on relationship building, visibility, and development as she leads the staff in living up to the values of the Pride Center. Carol is an active member of many groups, advocating for equality and creating visibility. Ms. Bullock also serves on local boards and has received numerous honors locally. She has been recognized for her ability to work with elected officials from both sides of the aisle.

What is your favorite Pride Month event or celebration?
Staten Island is the first NYC borough to hold its Pride events every year — May. We have two events that I find significant. One is called Spectrum. It’s an open mic night for TGE (transgender and gender expansive) individuals. The creativity, honesty and artistry performed that night is powerful. Many open up about their journey, their experiences. It’s fun, moving and healing. The other event I find significant is our PrideFest festival. It is a day of celebration, with vendors and performers. All Staten Islanders are welcome and it’s amazing to see the LGBTQ+ community and allies come together and celebrate Pride.

What LGBTQ+ icons or activists have inspired you?
Two icons have inspired me tremendously — Edie Windsor and Urvashi Vaid. Unfortunately, I never met Edie in person, but she paved the way for the LGBTQ+ community in an inspiring, visible, but more importantly, lasting way. I did, however, meet Urvashi at a conference. I was in awe of her presentation, story, and the work she accomplished for our community. We kept in touch and I was honored she shared her wisdom with me on several occasions. These two individuals impacted the community in such different ways, yet both fought hard for equal rights for LGBTQ+ individuals.

What can people and corporations do to support the LGBTQ+ community year-round, not just during Pride Month?
I believe one important thing a person/corporation can do is get to know the community. Visit a local LGBTQ+ center. Understand the challenges and obstacles faced by the community, what resources the Center offers, what the needs are. This can be eye-opening and help those individuals/corporations identify how they can best support our community. Speak up, I mean educate others, speak up if you see something. Hate is learned. Educate others that our differences and uniqueness make a community thrive. Attend events or partner with local Centers — not just during Pride month, but every month.

How can businesses create more inclusive environments for their employees and patrons?
There are simple things — hiring practices, a rainbow sticker on a door, etc. Again, get to know the community. Visit a local LGBTQ+ center. Understand the challenges and obstacles faced by the community, what resources the Center offers, what are the needs. This can help those individuals/corporations identify how they can make their environment more inclusive. Attending events, educating themselves, offering competency trainings for all staff. These can be extremely powerful actions.

Bureau of General Services Queer

Bureau of General Services — Queer Division

Bureau of General Services Queer

Greg Newton and Donnie Jochum, Co-Founders

Donnie Jochum (he/him) and Greg Newton (he/him) co-founded the Bureau of General Services — Queer Division in 2012. The Bureau is an independent, all-volunteer queer cultural center, bookstore, and event space hosted by The LGBT Community Center in New York City. We aim to foster a community invested in the values of mindfulness, intellectual curiosity, justice, compassion, and playfulness. Our mission is to excite and educate a self-confident, sex-positive, and supportive queer community by offering books, publications, and art and by hosting readings, performances, film screenings, book discussion groups, and workshops.

What is your favorite Pride Month event or celebration?
The Queer Liberation March, which was launched in 2019 to mark the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall rebellion by the Reclaim Pride Coalition, is so important because it is a community driven, grassroots organization. The march centers LGBTQ+ people and does not allow corporate floats or police participation. This year the March took place on Sunday, June 26th: https://reclaimpridenyc.org/

What LGBTQ+ icons or activists have inspired you?
To name just a few, in no particular order:
Leslie Feinberg, the trans activist and author of Stone Butch Blues and Transgender Warriors
Judy Grahn, lesbian and feminist activist, author, and scholar
Bayard Rustin, civil rights activist, LGBTQ+ activist, and peace activist
Audre Lorde, poet, lesbian activist, feminist, and warrior fighting racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia
Joseph Beam, Black gay activist and author
Sarah Schulman, author, activist, playwright, and filmmaker
David Wojnarowicz, artist, AIDS activist, queer activist, and author
Justin Vivian Bond, singer, performer, artist
Masha Gessen, journalist and author
Chelsea Manning, whistleblower and activist

and so many more!

What can people and corporations do to support the LGBTQ+ community year-round, not just during Pride Month?
People and corporations should engage LGBTQ+ communities year round so that we are always present. We need allies to insist that the histories of LGBTQ+ peoples and our contributions to the broader culture are recognized as a matter of course. Most importantly, we need people to understand that programs that benefit everyone are programs that benefit queer people. If we truly invest in the well being of all people then we are investing in the lives Black people, Indigenous people, people of color, disabled people, refugees, asylum seekers, poor people, and LGBTQ+ people, which is to say ALL people.

How can businesses create more inclusive environments for their employees and patrons?
We’re glad that many businesses now recognize the existence of and value of their queer employees and customers, but businesses are generally so focused on profit that they fail to consider the effects of their practices. If they truly care for all people, then that must include those who they employ in countries that lack sufficient protections for workers and the environment. In other words, we need to stop seeing any people as disposable.

Rob Byrnes East Midtown Partnership LGBTQ

Rob Byrnes

President, East Midtown Partnership

Rob Byrnes East Midtown Partnership LGBTQ

Rob Byrnes (he/him) has served as president of the East Midtown Partnership since 2002. In that capacity, he has not only worked to support the district’s economy and quality of life, but has developed multicultural programming and events. He is also a Lambda Literary Award-winning author, an inductee into the Saints & Sinners LGBTQ Literary Festival Hall of Fame, and a Board member of The Publishing Triangle and The Other Side of Silence, the city’s oldest LGBTQ theater company.

What is your favorite Pride Month event or celebration?
The annual Pride March in Manhattan is always a highlight for the large and diverse crowd it brings together, but what I find truly inspiring are public displays of LGBTQ+ pride in smaller communities. The fact that those marches, picnics, festivals, and other gatherings are increasing in numbers and acceptance is proof that there is strength in visibility.

What LGBTQ+ icons or activists have inspired you?
I am forever in debt to those who were bravely out and advocated for LGBTQ+ visibility and acceptance when it wasn’t easy. People like Frank Kameny, Bayard Rustin, Barbara Gittings, and so many others — including many names lost to history — made it possible for people like me to live openly and unapologetically in 2022.

What can people and corporations do to support the LGBTQ+ community year-round, not just during Pride Month?
Supporting the LGBTQ+ community is not something one does for one-twelfth of a year, and it is much bigger than slapping a corporate logo on a float or a rainbow trinket or making financial donations. Advocates — including advocates in the business community — should be vigilant on how the cultural and political climate affect queer lives. In recent years, there has been a notable increase in dangerous rhetoric and legislative action directed at the LGBTQ+ community. Decent people have a collective obligation to stand up to that.

How can businesses create more inclusive environments for their employees and patrons?
A comfortable, inclusive environment for queer employees and patrons begins and ends with respect and acceptance. At their core, matters like sexual orientation and gender expression are neutral traits, and should be treated that way. Intolerance — whether within the workforce or on the sales floor — is anathema to an inclusive environment.

Tiffany Caban lgbtq city council

Tiffany Cabán

Co-Chair of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Caucus, New York City Council

Tiffany Caban lgbtq city council

A Queens native, Tiffany (she/her) spent years as a public defender fighting the brutal system of mass incarceration before running for office. In 2019, she lost a long shot race for Queens District Attorney by just 55 votes, and two years later became the City Councilmember representing District 22, including Astoria, Rikers Island, and parts of Jackson Heights, Woodside, and East Elmhurst.

What is your favorite Pride Month event or celebration?
The Dyke March, which reclaims Pride from corporate whitewashing, and which honors the legacy of the original Pride, which was an uprising, not a parade.

What LGBTQ+ icons or activists have inspired you?
A huge array. Just to name four: movement ancestor Audre Lorde; Black queer feminist visionary Barbara Smith; contemporary genius, poet and activist (and bestie) Camonghne Felix; and beautiful, powerful teenage non-binary inspiration (and Queens kid) Sage Gagarin.

What can people and corporations do to support the LGBTQ+ community year-round, not just during Pride Month?
Support abolition. Abolition is queer. Support shrinking the size, scope, and reach of our policing, prosecution, and incarceration apparatus, and help build out public health infrastructure that lifts up the folks that are especially on the margins of our community: Black trans women, gender non-conforming folks, undocumented immigrants, sex workers, our disabled neighbors, friends, and family, and more.

How can businesses create more inclusive environments for their employees and patrons?
Gender neutral restrooms, sharing and asking pronouns, openly declaring they they’re a safe space for queer folks, and training staff on cultural competency and upstander protocol.