Monday, July 20, 2020
This month nglccny has named Jerry Kajpust as our Ambassador of the Month. Jerry is a treasured member of our Chamber family and we are grateful for his service. His first encounters with the Chamber began with his early days at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art. Now going on twelve years, he currently serves as the Director of External Affairs for the Museum. He says nglccNY was and continues to be an invaluable resource, and is his first “go-to” when looking for professional support for the Museum and for himself.
“When the ambassador program began, I thought it was an excellent way to get more involved and give back to this amazing organization. As an ambassador, I see my role as that of a connector. One of my greatest satisfactions is when I make introductions, and in turn, those connections create new business opportunities and colleagues. What has been truly inspiring is seeing how much the Chamber has grown with members, corporate sponsors, non-profits and other professionals. And now being the organization that can certify LGBTQ owned businesses to be elevated to equal players in the world of supplier diversity, the nglccNY is empowering our community.
What I enjoy about meeting members is the passion they bring to their work and to our community. What I’ve learned, and share with new members, is ‘you get from the Chamber what you put into the Chamber. Opportunity doesn’t happen because of joining, it happens because you engage and become an active participant--you show up!’ I know it isn’t always easy for some of us to meet new people in a room of unknown faces, especially me who tends to be more of an introvert. That’s why it was brilliant for the Chamber to create the ambassador program. We help facilitate these introductions.
I know that we are now in a virtual world and we’ve gone online, but I must say that the virtual M3s have been engaging, helpful, and powerful in meeting new members and creating opportunity. I encourage you to join us for these M3s and to take advantage of the many offerings through the Chamber. I love when people reach out to me, and please do, I’m here as a resource. I look forward to the time when we can again celebrate in person, but until then I hope to see you online!”
Phyllis Mehalakes, Chair of The Ambassadors Committee praised Jerry's service to the chamber saying:
“Jerry is one of our most senior Ambassadors whose kindness and leadership qualities makes him a great member of our team. He’s always ready to assist others; his easy-going and approachable nature immediately puts his fellow Ambassadors, nglccNY members and corporate partners at ease. Jerry has provided us with incredible insight and valued suggestions, many of which have been put into practice at nglccNY. We’re also lucky to be able to draw upon his deep experience in the non-profit world as a Director of the Leslie Lohman Museum. nglccNY is fortunate to have Jerry as a member of our Ambassador committee.”
Jerry grew up in New Buffalo, a small Michigan town on Lake Michigan. He has an MA in Psychology. In addition to his museum work, Jerry’s vast career has included sales training, coaching, leadership development, hotel management, accounting, interior design and construction, retail, theater management, health care and restaurant work. He lived in Jerusalem for a period of time and also completed studies in theology.
Read more about Jerry here.
Thursday, July 9, 2020
|Anthony Hayes, founder of The Hayes Initiative|
“A great group of older gay mentors took me under their wing. They said, ‘You can be going out all night having fun, being young…but you are also going to the Human Rights Campaign Dinner, to the Empire State Pride Agenda,’ and so forth. I quickly became socialized around the idea of community.” So began Anthony Hayes’ journey to the founding of The Hayes Initiative.
When he arrived in New York in 1998 from Oklahoma, Anthony was in his early twenties. He began working in fashion, but by his mid-twenties, Anthony knew that he wanted to work with the LGBTQ community. At the end of a day spent lobbying Congress on behalf of HRC, he asked, “Can someone make a living doing this,” and was assured that the answer was yes. This led to a job at HRC in 2007. Working through the 2008 election cycle, Anthony and HRC focused on both federal and state elections, approaching them through the lens of LGBTQ issues. This was his entryway into the government, electoral, communications space.
From HRC, Anthony moved to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey helping oversee the agency’s response to major crises such as the “Bridgegate” scandal and Superstorm Sandy. On the 10th anniversary of 9/11, the Port Authority opened the Memorial Pools; Anthony was responsible for the media relating to that opening, as well as several other events at the site including bringing the Today show to broadcast from a crane on top of the building and having President Obama sign the last piece of steel to go into One World Trade. “All of this work, but especially the crises, when you are working simultaneously for two governors, a mayor, and multiple members of Congress, was a real PhD in crisis communications.”
Leaving the Port Authority, Anthony became a member of Secretary Clinton’s Press Advance Team during her 2016 campaign. “It was an incredible education in high stakes press, high stakes stagecraft.” At the end of the campaign, Anthony began to talk with various communications firms in New York City that were eager to bring him on; some offered retainers. “A friend of mine rightly said, ‘You’ve always wanted to start your own business; how many retainers do you need to start a business?’” While this was going on, he was contacted about managing a nation-wide bus tour aimed at countering efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. “I said, ‘Oh great. You should hire my company’ and they said, ‘Send us your contract.’ Thus, began the birth of a communications and government relations firm named The Hayes Initiative.”
Over the past four years, Anthony and his team have served numerous verticals including tech, real estate, major league sports, infrastructure, banking, media, philanthropy, and individuals with legal challenges. “It’s been a great experience to take those very specific lessons – from LGBT advocacy, fighting for hate crimes, fighting for marriage equality – articulating these very complicated things to the public quickly has become a skillset for us.” About 50% of The Hayes Initiative work is crisis-based. The rest tends to be supporting communications and government relations around major initiatives.
Anthony was invited to nglccNY by Jonathan Lovitz, Senior Vice President of NGLCC. “What I am loving most about it is the community. Even calling another member to ask for references to a vendor is helpful.” And, given Anthony’s commitment to LGBT advocacy, the fact that neither New York City nor New York State recognizes us as minority vendors is another incentive for his active involvement. “It’s the very same expansion we took with hate crimes. We took the existing laws and expanded them to include LGBTQ. This is more important now, coming out of COVID. I think all minority and women-owned small businesses are going to need this priority, to be supported.”
With the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, Anthony realized that The Hayes Initiative’s knowledge of crisis communication is needed throughout the business community; as a result, they are now offering short pro bono consultations to small businesses and nonprofits. “2020 and 2021 are going to be about crisis communication. When you add on the pandemic and recovery and the righteous anger in the streets on #BlackLivesMatter it’s a complicated landscape to be communicating, to find the right way to be authentic. If you are a small business about to launch something new, how do you launch, do you launch?”
“My encouragement to leaders, regardless of the size of your business, is don’t be overconfident that you know how to communicate. In the case of government relations, don’t wait until you need to ask for something; build relationships. And understand the business of media.”
To learn more about The Hayes Initiative, follow Founder @anthonyjhayes and @hayesinitiative on Twitter and Instagram, and visit their website.
Written by Brian Gorman, an NGLCC member and an International Coach Federation (ICF) certified professional coach. He brings five decades of change experience and study into every coaching conversation. He has served clients as large as Merck Manufacturing, as well as startups and individual leaders. Brian taps into the core of the matter, helping each person maximize their professional and personal potential. Brian works both one-on-one and with teams. In addition to his writing for nglccNY, Brian is a frequent contributor to Forbes online (https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/people/briangorman/#741ca8535c20) and serves as Managing Editor of Change Management Review. Website: www.TransformingLives.Coach Brian@TransformingLives.Coach
Thursday, June 18, 2020
|Shoulders of Giants Art Exhibit|
The portraits feature well-known figures like Marsha P. Johnson, Audre Lord, Harvey Milk, Billie Jean King and Elton John but also chronicles lesser known voices such as Michael Dillon, the first trans man to medically transition, Barbara Gittings, a prominent activist for LGBTQ rights in New York, and Bayard Rustin, the main organizer of the March On Washington where MLK delivered his infamous “I Have A Dream” speech.
It was the closure of non-essential businesses and sheltering in place due to the COVID 19 pandemic that sparked the idea for “Shoulders of Giants,” says Wilkins, who is the Co-Founder and CEO of Conception Arts. “My business had grounded to a halt because we are in the event space, hosting art exhibits all other the country.” Every year, Wilkins tries to do something for Pride Month. With lots of free time on her hands, she began researching people who were involved in fighting for LGBTQ+ rights.
“I had this yearning for a deeper understanding of what came before. What, or who, enabled me to live my life so freely today as an out gay-woman,” she explains. “As my research unfolded I came to understand that there was a great deal of diversity and intersectionality represented among those that fought to push us forward.” She adds there were voices and faces that were new to her, “I felt both a moral and creative responsibility to get to know them and to honor them.”
|Audre Lorde, Shoulders of Giants Art Exhibit|
Moreover, each portrait is paired with a personal essay. A white cisgender lesbian woman “who is perceived as being a straight white woman,” that is her experience, says Wilkins. She pondered, “how can I tell these stories about people of color and trans people in authentic way.” This led to the idea of including a letter of thanks from members of the LGBTQ+ community that expresses their gratitude and documents how they were personally affected by their hero’s contribution.
Wilkins eventually wants to take her “Shoulders of Giants” exhibit on the road to galleries and institutions, inviting the people who wrote the thank-you letters to share their experiences in person. She also wants to make this project a tool for educating communities, especially young LGBTQ+ people, “about the importance of a rich tapestry of people, cultures, ethnicities, genders, and classes that defined our movement.” She is in talks currently with the Newark Museum and Hudson River Museum about the possibility of the series being included in future programming.
Wilkins is in the business of holding art shows nationwide, enabling artists to showcase and sell their works without incurring hefty gallery fees or commissions. She notes some clients have sold $15,000 worth of artwork at one show after having paid only $330 to participate. “It’s a new way of art commerce,” she says.
Conception Arts also offers workshops and coaching among other services. “We are big on nurturing and elevating artists, helping them navigate the challenges of being a solo artist entrepreneur,” adds Wilkins. Since founding Conception Arts in 2011 with partner Jennifer Blum, the business has worked collectively with some 8,000 artists of varying mediums from sculptors to painters to photographers.
More recently Wilkins has been hosting daily live shows on Facebook and YouTube, called “Coffee With Artists,” where she interviews one artist each morning. “It has been a beautiful way to get to know what some of these creatives are doing, especially during COVID and sheltering in place,” she says.
Wilkins joined nglccNY at the end of 2018. “I appreciate the investment the organization has made in connecting the dots.” Meaning, “the chamber doesn’t just host networking events. I was assigned an ambassador who was able to point me in the direction of the people whom I should be having a conversation with as it related to the type of work I am in,” explains Wilkins who has attended several workshops and many of the monthly mixers. Conception Arts is in the process of getting certified. Wilkins says she proudly declares, “I am an LGTB business.”
|Marsha P. Johnson, Shoulders of Giants Art Exhibit|
“We have this unique moment in time where we cannot be together physically, but thanks to digital media we now have the power to reach people who may otherwise never have had the opportunity, or means, to travel to a big city PRIDE parade. I thought long and hard about how art can capture a moment in time and give hope. I want young people to be inspired to live in their truth.”
In the wake of worldwide protests over the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police, Wilkins acknowledges PRIDE marches were birthed out of protests. Afterall, the Stonewall Uprising of 1969 was a rebellion against police harassment and brutality.
“Communities have the right to be as angry as they are now,” says Wilkins.
She loves that LGBTQ+ PRIDE organizations around the nation (the world) have pivoted to focus on Black Lives Matter. “I think that was so appropriate. It’s about a damn time,” exclaims Wilkins who is originally from the UK and now resides in northern New Jersey with her wife.
Wilkins' work is also available for purchase. In the month of June, all funds raised will be matched for the National LGBTQ Task Force, for up to $50,000.
Written by Carolyn M. Brown, a journalist, author, playwright, producer, and founder of True Colors Project, a social enterprise that produces two annual events: My True Colors Excel Pride Awards and My True ColorsFestival, a multidisciplinary arts festival for and by LGBTQIAGNC+ storytellers. She is a member of the nglccNY Media and Communications Committee. @cmbrown_7
Wednesday, June 17, 2020
|Michael Venturiello and Larry Kramer|
“To say that I am alive today because of Larry Kramer is not an exaggeration,” Venturiello wrote. “To say that Larry Kramer is the reason for Christopher Street Tours is not an exaggeration. Today, we mourn his passing. Few know the intimate story of how Christopher Street Tours began. It was my first year in New York City.
I was lonely and sad and unfulfilled. Depressed and alone on a Friday night, I laid in bed and decided to casually turn on David France's How To Survive a Plague. That was the first time I heard about Larry Kramer and the work of ACT UP. I was awestruck to know that this man, and an entire generation before me, fought so hard for the survival of future generations. This inspired me to go to my first ACT UP New York meeting. Learning the history and the stories of those lives lost...I felt like I owed it to them, to my queer ancestors, to share their stories.
The mission of Christopher Street Tours is to share stories and uplift voices from those that paved the way before us. This work has brought me an incredible community of LGBTQ people all across the world, an immense sense of joy, and fulfillment like I've never felt before. And that story starts with Larry Kramer. Larry, may your voice forever be uplifted in power.”
nglccNY’s Chair of Media & Communications Cindi Creager spoke with Venturiello about his feelings on Larry Kramer. Read the Q & A below.
Cindi: When I saw your Facebook post on Larry Kramer I was very moved. Tell me more about what prompted you to write that.
Michael: It makes me emotional even to think about, because I think it's a very literal statement in so many ways. I think there's the forefront like Larry Kramer was an AIDS activist. He did so much to spark the community around activism and getting us where we are today. So I think it's twofold for me. It's a generational gratitude towards Larry Kramer. Because he started ACT UP and the Gay Men's Health Crisis, I can still live my life relatively freely and openly and have knowledge around HIV and AIDS. It has literally saved my life as a gay man.
I also think there's a more personal, deeper side to that. I struggled in my earlier life. I had moved to New York in 2016. I had a job at NYU and I liked it, but it wasn't my purpose and I knew that. It wasn't until then I even heard about Larry Kramer and his work. But something sparked in me to say, “This is my purpose [Christopher Street Tours]. This is my passion in life. This is what I'm meant to be doing and working on." So literally, metaphorically, all of it, I feel like Larry Kramer, I owe everything to him.
Cindi: You said that Larry Kramer is the reason for Christopher Street Tours. How so?
Michael: I see it as a very linear path to Christopher Street Tours, although at the time it felt very scattered and unsure, and I didn't know what I was doing, but with the start of Christopher Street Tours, it was very much like an aha, like oh, this is why I've been in these situations. This is why I've had to overcome these challenges… to get to Christopher Street Tours.
For me, it started with that job that I first took in New York City that I eventually grew to hate and was really just upset one Friday night and didn't want to go out, didn't want to do anything, didn't feel like I had any friends. Like the very sad New York City story. I just flipped on Netflix, or whatever, I'll watch whatever, and David France's How to Survive a Plague came on the list and I was just blown away and even still, I mean it makes sense, but in my head for some reason, it's silly that sometimes I still watch that trailer. The trailer alone to me is so inspirational. It got my attention as a 25 year old, new to New York City. It sparked something in me to say like, "What are you doing?" It challenged me to say like, "What are you doing to give back to your community? To fight for your community? To uplift your community?”
In that documentary I learned about the AIDS epidemic and Larry Kramer. What fascinated me about all of that was at the time I was at NYU, and I was working and living on 10th and Broadway. I was right in the middle of the Village where so much had happened. I felt like I was walking around the streets and no one was talking about it. No one was talking about the history and the movement.
I did a Google search for ACT UP and I found this very, very outdated website, probably still from the '90s. So much to the point where I was like, is this even a thing anymore? But all the actual content was updated, and that's when I went to my first ACT UP meeting and learned all about the AIDS epidemic. That was I think 2017. So it was a really transformative moment.
It sparked this history and historical context and desire to learn more about our history. I felt like it was my duty to share those stories. I feel like I owed it to those people that came before me who were no longer here to continue on that journey.
That's essentially Christopher Street Tours. That's our mission is to share stories and uplift voices from those that paved the way before us. None of that would have happened if I didn't flip on that documentary and see Larry Kramer at the LGBT Center giving his speech that this was a plague.
Cindi: That's incredible. Then how did you end up meeting him?
Michael: I met him through Judith Kasen-Windsor who was Edie Windsor’s second wife before Edie passed away. Judith took me to his apartment. Just to be in that apartment, to be in that space where Larry Kramer was…. I was just standing there taking it all in like, oh my gosh, the first meeting of GMHC, of ACT UP was right here in this living room. I've read about that example where you can see the view of Washington Square Park and the arch and lo and behold, you can. I could see where his computer was set up, and where he was writing furiously all the plays and all the other things. It was just such an amazing moment. We were able to share space and share community during the time. There was a picture that happened, which you saw. Unfortunately, that's where it ends, but it was still such a transformative experience and moment that I really, really feel so grateful for.
Cindi: That gives me goosebumps. You felt the gravity of that moment. I can only imagine what it was like.
Michael: When I first met him, I asked him, "What is one thing that you want people to know about you? Or one thing that you would want to share with the community on our tour specifically?" He said, "I love being gay. I love gay people and we need to stick together and fight back." I feel like that was Larry's MO, gay is good and gay is great and also ACT UP and fight back. That’s the chant we hear in Larry's voice, and because he died so recently, I'm sure that he had thoughts about Black Lives Matter. I can only imagine that he would take that energy and move full steam ahead with acting up and fighting back in the way that we are.
Monday, June 15, 2020
This month we are pleased to bestow our Ambassador of the Month honor upon Vincent Moy. Vincent is a cherished member of our chamber family as well as an expert in market research and consumer insights. He is a customer intelligence manger at the Wall Street Journal where he focuses on media & communications. He is also the co-lead/founding member of Asian@DJ at Dow Jones.
Phyllis Mehalakes, Chair of The Ambassadors Committee praised Vincent’s service to the chamber saying:
“Vincent is another one of our senior Ambassadors. I met him when we served together as Ambassadors and have always appreciated his team-first approach and easy-going spirit. Supporting our membership, fellow Ambassadors and corporate partners is second nature to Vincent who always goes the extra mile for all of us. Vincent is a true professional who thrives on helping and connecting others. He’s truly an invaluable member of our team.”
Here’s Vincent’s reaction to being named Ambassador of the Month for June:
“I joined nglccNY after moving here from LA. I didn't know many people in the city yet and wanted to meet other gay professionals. The Chamber provided the business mindset in a relaxed, social setting. The more events I attended, the more connections I made. Now I look forward to the cadence of monthly events, knowing I'll run into lots of friendly, familiar faces.
I've been a nglccNY ambassador for six years and really enjoy the unique social dynamic of the monthly M3 events. It's an enjoyable mix of shop talk and camaraderie, with the rotating venues hosted by different corporate partners who always keep it fresh.
nglccNY brings together its LGBTQ members and allies, from large corporations to entrepreneurs and proprietors, across all types of professions -- bankers, insurance agents, attorneys, realtors, event planners, life coaches -- you name it, we've got it! It's a real pleasure to connect people who have common professional interests, particularly when it's a client-service provider match. I always say that if we have to spend money on a service, we might as well keep it in the community.
I'm so impressed and grateful for the support of our long-term corporate partners like TD Bank, New York Life, Slate and Pernod Ricard. EY's Biz Pitch program in particular shows a real commitment to helping our entrepreneur members hone their craft in a constructive ‘Shark Tank’ environment. I don't know of another program like this that is specifically designed to help small businesses succeed.”
Congratulations, Vincent! We’re all grateful for your contributions to the chamber!
Wednesday, May 20, 2020
LGBT-owned and operated, Antarctic is more than just a digital agency. Growth-focused on brand development, digital fundraising and web development, Antarctic works mainly with nonprofits and cause-based organizations that are mission-driven and that give back to the community. In their own words, “We’re a group of designers, technologists, and digital strategists focused on helping cause-based organizations and nonprofits innovate and grow. We embrace growth as a central theme as well as strategic planning, thoughtful design and a robust understanding of web technologies that help place our clients ahead of the competition.”
Antarctic often works closely with other LGBTQ community partners, including God’s Love We Deliver, the Ali Forney Center, and SAGE (Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders). Specifically, in the current COVID-19 pandemic, Antarctic’s work is more important than ever before. Using their skills and talents, Antarctic has helped SAGE create an immediate response fundraising campaign, called “Taking Care of Our Own,” which raised $12,000 for GLBT elder services. The Antarctic team also assisted God’s Love We Deliver, raising enough funds to provide 210,000 shelf-stable meals. They created the hashtag #WhoAreYouCookingFor which inspired dozens of celebrities (including Michael Kors and Gwyneth Paltrow) to cook and share their virtual meals and donations with the organization.
The entrepreneurial spirit comes from Michael Yuasa, the founder and executive creative director of Antarctic. Initially created as a record label, Michael began working with companies and corporations to integrate their brands into events. This led to a path of more formal advertising and brand activation, ultimately leading to the rebirth of Antarctic as a digital agency. Michael had an “aha moment” when he realized that he could use his talents and skills with nonprofit organizations. “Maybe there’s a place for me,” Michael reflected, “to help build nonprofits to build their brands, to make them great.”
|Michael Yuasa, Founder and Executive Creative Director of Antarctic|
As an LGBT-owned business, Yuasa thought it was important to join nglccNY and become an officially Certified LGBT Business Enterprise ®. Yuasa was initially invited to the Chamber in 2016 and was impressed by the strong business network, but also, but the fun that everyone seemed to be having at the monthly M3 mixers. In his own words, “Everyone is always having a good time!” When asked why it was important to join nglccNY and to become a Certified LGBTBE ®, Yuasa responded, “We wanted to have deep ties in the organization, but also, because of the business potential.” Since joining the Chamber, Yuasa has had the opportunity to work with other Chamber members, including the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art and the National LGBT Bar Association. In fact, building a network and community is one of Yuasa’s main pieces of advice for other businesses: “Be involved. Show up. Meet people. Work on building those relationships.”
This connection to the community is a large part of what makes the work so meaningful. “As an agency, I think we’re one of the best,” Yuasa explains. “We take a lot of time, there’s a lot of education, there’s a lot of intensity that goes into the work. And we’re making the conscious choice to put that energy towards nonprofits and organizations that give back to the community.”
Yuasa and the Antarctic team are choosing to give back to the community in serving organizations that also give back to the community, creating an uplifting environment of goodwill.
To learn more about Antarctic and their work, you can visit antarcticagency.com or check them out on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Michael Venturiello is the founder of Christopher Street Tours, an LGBTQ history walking tour company. He is a proud member and Ambassador of nglccNY and sits on the Media and Communications committee.
This month we begin a new feature… our nglccNY Ambassador of the Month Honor.
In May we are spotlighting Mary Blanchett. Mary is a beloved member of our chamber family and a Registered Representative/Licensed agent through New York Life Insurance Company, and several other independent insurance companies. She always goes above and beyond to connect our members to new opportunities, to one another, and to the broader NGLCC/nglccNY mission.
Phyllis Mehalakes, Chair of The Ambassadors Committee offers high praise for Mary, saying:
“Mary is one of our most senior Ambassadors and we're lucky to have her on our team. Recently voted 'Outstanding Ambassador' by our membership, she excels at connecting people, making meaningful introductions and bringing new members to our events. She’s professional, approachable, and always willing to help. Working with Mary is a delight.”
Upon learning that she is our Ambassador of the Month, Mary said:
“Being an ambassador of nglccNY is about making it better for everyone. As an ambassador I do that by encouraging everyone to fully participate. I encourage attending the M3s and losing inhibitions when surrounded by strangers at networking events. I enjoy introducing people who may have ability to refer each other or need each others services. Growing individual businesses means growing a better Chamber. I encourage LGBT certification, participation in the biz pitch competitions as well as talking to corporate partners about Request For Proposals (RFP). Being an ambassador also means I get to know many wonderful professionals which makes me better.”
As Phyllis noted above, last September at a special M3 aboard Spirit Cruises, we awarded Mary the Outstanding Ambassador Award after a vote by our membership. At the time she said:
"I am so grateful my efforts are a positive force. I have a talent for remembering people's professions and focus on introducing folks who may collaborate or fulfill an expressed business need. I try to make professional networking fun and fruitful. All the wonderful members make that easy.”
Congratulations, Mary! We’re all proud to have you on our team!