Meet 13 Emerging Leaders in Social Justice Selected as Arcus Fellows
Every year, the Arcus Foundation, a global foundation promoting respect for diversity among peoples and in nature, chooses early-stage executive directors of LGBT and allied nonprofit organizations based in the United States for its world-famous fellowship program.
The organization announced today the selection of 13 executive directors to participate in the 2015 Arcus Leadership Fellowship.
The fellowship, which was previously known as the Arcus LGBT Leadership Initiative (ALLI), is designed to support these first-rung leaders as they climb the ladder to success and greater effectiveness in serving the community at large.
In a statement, the head of the foundation described the fellowship as part of its commitment to advance the strength, diversity, and effectiveness of leadership in the LGBT movement. “This year’s fellowship cohort is made up of emerging leaders who have made a range of exceptional contributions to social justice,” said Kevin Jennings, Arcus’ executive director. “Arcus is committed to lifting up and investing in the effectiveness and success of these talented individuals and their leadership as they continue to advance LGBT equality here in the United States.”
The 2015 fellows include a lawyer who advocates for the rights of children determined to be intersex; California’s former Deputy Attorney General, who is now at the helm of a national nonprofit serving LGBT immigrants; an activist who is working on behalf of transgender Latin Americans residing in the U.S., and an athlete and coach who founded a national nonprofit that works toward safer and more inclusive sports and athletics for LGBT people.
As part of the yearlong program, fellows will attend a retreat with their mentors to set personal and professional goals and begin the development of an ongoing network of peer support. The program’s mentors possess decades of experience and leadership in a diverse range of fields in the nonprofit sector, and include Patricia Jerido, Kate Kendell, Clarence Patton, and Tim Sweeney, among others.
Learn more about each of the fellows on the following pages:
Andrea Bowen is executive director of Garden State Equality and was named to the Trans100 in April. She led successful transgender policy advocacy efforts in Washington, D.C., including passage of birth certificate and name change reform legislation, and mayoral policy solidifying transgender people’s right to insurance coverage of transition-related care. She also helped engineer a legal victory against a women’s homeless shelter in DC that was denying access to transgender women.
Darrious Hilmon is executive director of Affirmations, metro Detroit’s community center for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and its allies. Hilmon is a best-selling author and has nearly 20 years of experience in strategy driven fund development, event management and marketing. As vice president and chief development officer for the Chicago Urban League, he serves as a member of the executive management team with lead accountability for planning and execution of all fund development activity, as well as design and implementation of organization and program evaluation systems. Prior to joining the Chicago Urban League, Hilmon was the chief development and marketing officer for Youth Guidance, vice president of corporate, foundation and government relations for Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana, and marketing and development director for Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit where he led the team responsible for winning the Neighborhood Builder Award from Bank of America — the first Detroit non-profit to ever win the award — and the Achieving Excellence Award from DTE Energy.
Ginna Brelsford is co-director of the GSA Network. Brelsford managed the network's finance and operations as Finance and Administrative Director before becoming Co-Executive Director. Brelsford has more than 10 years of nonprofit financial and operations experience having previously been employed at MassEquality, Nonprofit Finance Fund, and Environmental Justice Coalition for Water. In her tenure at GSA Network, Ginna has overseen organizational human resources and operational needs in a rapid expansion of staff and infrastructure.
Hudson Taylor is executive director of Athlete Ally. As an athlete in high school and college, Taylor often observed the use of homophobic language and demeaning humor, especially in sports. Soon after enrolling at the University of Maryland, he befriended LGBT students in his theatre classes and became increasingly aware of the pain caused by homophobic behavior. Hudson, who is not gay, felt it was imperative to confront the marginalization of LGBT athletes, coaches and others through systemic homophobia and transphobia. He decided to take action as a straight ally to change athletic culture for the better and stand in solidarity with the LGBT community, by wearing an LGBT equality sticker from the Human Rights Campaign on his wrestling headgear. Although he encountered criticism from his peers, he received thousands of emails from parents and closeted athletes, expressing thanks and sharing their own experiences of homophobia and transphobia in sports. This experience inspired Hudson to launch Athlete Ally.
Caroline Dessert is executive director, Immigration Equality, the nation’s leading organization providing direct representation and advocacy for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and HIV-positive asylum seekers. Dessert is a lifetime advocate for social justice, a queer Latina originally from El Centro, California and a Deputy Attorney General in the Public Rights Division of the California Attorney General’s Office. In 2013, Dessert helped lead a suit against Corinthian Colleges, a for-profit schools chain. The suit charged that Corinthian engaged in a predatory scheme that targeted low-income, vulnerable Californians through deceptive and false advertisements that misrepresented job placement rates and school programs. Corinthian has since agreed to sell or close its more than 100 campuses across the country. Dessert also served as Editor-in-Chief of the Chicano/a Latino/a Law Review at UCLA and was on the board of the Immigrant Rights Consortium in San Diego, California.
Matt Kidd is executive director of Reaching Out MBA, the nation's leading organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender graduate business students. Kidd's background is in product development in technology start-ups and theatrical production. His experiences range from working with New York-based Tenlegs on sales and product marketing, to consulting for MyCityWay, a BMW-backed company. Kidd has also served as a theatrical producer and consultant for commercial and non-profit arts organizations, and was on the Board of the Greater Boston Business Council. Reaching Out MBA has a singular purpose to empower LGBT MBA students to become professionals who will lead the way to equality in business education, the workplace, and society. Through programming anchored by its annual conference, Reaching Out MBA, Inc. educates LGBT MBA students about the opportunities and challenges of being LGBT MBA students and business leaders, how to capitalize on those opportunities, and overcome those challenges.
Janson Wu is executive director of Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), where the Harvard Law School graduate works to protect the rights of LGBT elders as well as on the issues of family law and parentage, employment benefits, transgender rights, DOMA, and marriage equality. Last month Wu told The Advocate that as the nation steps closer to full marriage equality, greater visibility of LGBT people can result in an increase in discrimination, at least in the short term. Some straight people “are comfortable with LGBT people in theory, but not when they are public about it,” said Wu. He served on the legal teams of many of GLAD’s significant cases, including the DOMA challenges Gill v. OPM and Pedersen v. OPM, and the successful asylum case of Ugandan activist John Abdallah Wambere. In 2012, in the case In re Madelyn B, Janson successfully argued before New Hampshire’s highest court that a non-biological lesbian mother should be recognized as a parent. In addition to his litigation, Janson has been extensively involved in GLAD’s legislative and policy work throughout New England.
Charlene Carruthers is director of Black Youth Project 100, an activist member-led organization of black 18-35 year olds dedicated to creating justice and freedom for all black people. Charlene is a political organizer and writer with over 10 years of experience in racial justice, feminist and youth leadership development movement work. Her passion for developing young leaders to build capacity within marginalized communities has led her to work on immigrant rights, economic justice and civil rights campaigns nationwide. She has led grassroots and digital strategy campaigns for national progressive organizations including the Center for Community Change, the Women’s Media Center, ColorOfChange.org and National People’s Action. Charlene is deeply committed to working with young organizers seeking to create a better world. She has facilitated and developed political trainings for organizations including the NAACP, the Center for Progressive Leadership, the New Organizing Institute, MoveOn.org, Young People For and Wellstone Action.