Profiles in Leadership: Pride Month 2021
During Pride month, Benton + Bradford Consulting salutes LGBTQ+ leaders and heroes who have had a significant impact on their communities, on our country, and on the world.
American civil rights activist Bayard Rustin was a key adviser to Martin Luther King, Jr., and a main organizer of the March on Washington in 1963, a huge demonstration to build support for civil rights legislation. In his human rights efforts, he combined his philosophy of non-violent resistance with superb organizational skills, while living as an openly gay man. Although he was arrested several times for civil disobedience and homosexuality, he continued to fight throughout his lifetime for equality. In 2013 he was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, one of the highest civilian awards given in the United States.
Contemporary writer/novelist Zev Good is gay, married, Jewish and Southern, and writes about real people who may also happen to be gay, married, Jewish and Southern. His ability to create fully realized characters who are not solely defined by one or more of these descriptors helps create understanding of individuals rather than the labels that are so often placed on them. In meeting Zev back in the summer of 2012, I have known him to be insightful about people, humorous and honest above all else; a voice of reason in a world often filled with chaos and posturing.
Dr. Rachel Levine
This year Dr. Levine became America’s first openly transgender federal official following her confirmation as assistant secretary of health in President Biden’s administration. She is the No. 2 official in the Department of Health & Human Services, after serving as secretary of health for Pennsylvania, where she served on the front lines of pandemic response for the state. She is a trained pediatrician with degrees from Harvard and Tulane University. In response to transphobic comments directed toward her in July, she said, “I have no room in my heart for hatred, and frankly I do not have time for intolerance.”
A young transgender LGBTQ+ activist and TV star, Jazz shares her life publicly to create acceptance and equality. From her first televised interview with Barbara Walters at age six to her children’s book to her reality show, “I Am Jazz,” returning for a seventh season this year, she promotes embracing one’s true identity and has served as a role model for countless trans youth and adults. She continues her trans advocacy work in person and online, communicating with her millions of social media followers.
Steve Williams is many things: CEO of a multimillion-dollar international sign company, owner/operator of a gallery that showcases emerging to mid-career artists, a visual storyteller in an array of mediums, and a builder of community. Among the many ways in which he gives of his time and talent, Steve helps to match professional artists to at-risk teens to help them express themselves and find their paths. In knowing Steve since middle school, he has always been passionate in his interests, sincere in his communication with others and honest. No matter how long it’s been since we have spoken, he will always answer a call and offer a helping hand when needed.
As cofounder of Transformation Journeys Worldwide, Gabrielle helps leading edge organizations create fully inclusive environments that support and respect trans people, enabling optimal organizational growth. Prior to starting the company, she had been the owner/operator of multiple successful businesses in the construction industry, overseeing multi-million-dollar projects nationwide. An out and active trans woman since 2010, she has received numerous accolades including being named the Atlanta Business Chronicle’s 2019 Outstanding Voice for Diversity and Inclusion and Emory University’s Alum of the Year Pride Award in 2018. I met Gabrielle at a diversity event in Atlanta, GA and was moved by her story of transition and perseverance. Through her example, I am reminded each day that diversity and inclusion work is important and impactful.
An American writer, civil rights activist, feminist, educator, and librarian, Audre Lorde dedicated her life and work to confronting and addressing injustices of racism, sexism, classism, capitalism, heterosexism, and homophobia. She described herself as a black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet, and through her poems, essays and memoirs she wrote about race, sexual orientation and gender identity. Among her many accomplishments, she cofounded a publishing company run by and for women of color to amplify marginalized voices. Speaking at the 20th anniversary event commemorating the March on Washington she said, “We know that when we join hands across the table of our difference, our diversity gives us great power. When we can arm ourselves with the strength and vision from all of our diverse communities, then we will in truth all be free at last.”
True leaders forge new paths and inspire action. Let’s talk about how to equip your high potentials on their leadership journeys.