Meet Kirsten Ussery: She has worked on behalf of LBGT children in the Detroit Public Schools and her leadership in the lesbian women of color support group SPICE – Sistas Providing Intelligence, Creativity and Empowerment. She has also become part of the young brain trust dedicated to the city’s renaissance. She belongs to the inner circle of one of Detroit’s most influential politicians, City Council President Charles Pugh, who, in 1999, ran as an openly gay candidate. Working closely with organizations like the Downtown Detroit Partnership and Business Leaders for Michigan, she has been privy to plans for the city’s revitalization. Ussery is truly not afraid of a challenge.
By Desiree Cooper BTL, Sept. 27, 2011
Meet Ryan Oliver: At 28, Oliver’s view of manhood has been hard-won. From his youth in a violent Detroit neighborhood, to his isolation as a black college student in a white environment, he has struggled to define himself and his masculinity. It’s a challenge that’s been even more daunting because Oliver is biologically female. As his journey to adulthood took a toll on Ryan’s cultural footing and his confidence suffered, he found support in the words of his sociology professor at EMU. Today, Ryan uses the passion ignited by his professor to advocate on behalf of the invisible transgendered community.
By Desiree Cooper BTL, Oct. 27, 2011
Adrienne Maree Brown
Meet Adrienne Maree Brown: Since her early 20s, Adrienne has worked on the ground floor of social movements in order to hone her skills. From 2006 to 2010, she was the executive director of The Ruckus Society, a California-based organization that trains activists in non-violent direct action. Today, Adrienne helps social justice groups and progressive movements as an organizational guru, a facilitator, a networker and a life couch. While her organizational consulting takes her nationwide, her home base is Detroit’s Cass Corridor, working closely with groups like the Food Justice Task Force and the East Michigan Environmental Council.
By Desiree Cooper BTL, Dec. 15, 2011
Meet Royale Theus: As a member of an African American LGBT health organization, Royale went to Detroit’s Palmer Park to pass out health information. After graduation, he eventually landed a job in the Detroit Health Department’s HIV mobile testing unit, bringing healthcare services to soup kitchens, methadone clinics and distressed neighborhoods. When he was only 20, the Detroit native discovered he was going to be a father. It wasn’t exactly what he had planned for his future. “Having a son saved my life,” said Theus, whose son is now 11. But instead of throwing him into a tailspin, fatherhood was a wake-up call. “He was my ‘Stay Out of Jail’ card. I knew there was someone depending on me.”
By Desiree Cooper BTL, Feb. 9, 2012
Meet Rosemary Linares: Rosemary is a bubbly 29-year-old with a master’s degree from New York University, a supportive husband and an adorable stepson. From the outside, it looks like she has it all, including what she calls “heterosexual privilege.” What is not so obvious is that Linares is a bisexual Latina. In 2010, Rosemary founded Cross Movement Social Justice Consulting to advance social justice by increasing the capacity of nonprofit organizations and building alliances across social movements. Last year, she joined the board of Detroit [email protected], a community based group formed to bring greater influence and visibility to the Latino/a LGBT and straight allied community.
By Desiree Cooper BTL, March 22, 2012
Meet Tony Johnson: Johnson, is disabled and lives on a fixed income. In 1993, he discovered that he was HIV-positive, but the virus has been undetectable in his blood since 2004. In 2005 Tony got involved in KICK’s mission to create a stigma-free, safe space for LGBT African Americans who are HIV-positive. Johnson was so taken by the mission, he started catching the bus three days a week to manage KICK’s calls and to become an intake specialist. But don’t bother talking to Johnson about his leadership in Detroit’s African American, LGBT community, it would only embarrass him. He’s more interested in talking about service and change.
By Desiree Cooper BTL, May 24, 2012
Meet Bre’Ann Campbell: After being denied housing for being trans, Bre’Ann took her case to Equality Michigan and the Michigan Department of Civil Rights and was launched into the public spotlight. Although investigators could not make a sufficient case that she had been the victim of discrimination, the incident awakened an activist within her. Bre’Ann didn’t set out to change the world, but in the process of finding herself this confident 26-year-old Detroiter has become an unwitting advocate for trans women everywhere.
By Desiree Cooper BTL, June 28, 2012
Meet Martin Colyer: This 29-year-old Chicago native, who moved to Detroit last December, has a lot of big plans for changing the world through leadership. After graduating from KICK’s first Learn, Educate, Advocate and Drive (LEAD) program in May, Martin said he has the tools to make those dreams come true. And to Colyer’s surprise, his chance for an out-front role would come before he left the LEAD class. His classmates unanimously voted that he should give the class’ graduation speech. Though he’s not sure where his love of helping people, especially those in the LGBT community, will take him, he says he is sure whatever he does he will be able to make a positive difference.
By Andrea Poteet BTL, July 26, 2012
Meet Kibibi Blount-Dorn: Kibibi loves food. It’s not just its flavors, smells and textures, or even the process of turning ingredients into a meal. For her, its about food’s story from the farm to the table and the people and places it touches along the way. But it’s more than that. Since accepting a job as program manager of the Detroit Food Policy Council, Kibibi has worked closely with the council to improve access to healthy food, advocate for urban agriculture and to bring broader education about food and health to Detroit.
By Andrea Poteet BTL, Sept. 6, 2012
Meet Lance Hicks: Growing up Detroit’s Northwest side, Lance did not have it easy in school. Growing up with a white parent and a black parent, his peers would deny him his identity, only seeing a white man. But his race is not the only part of his identity people often misread. Hicks, 22, has been correcting them about his gender since coming out as transgender at 15. After coming out, Lance’s mother would drive him to Affirmations’ youth group every week. There his passion for activism emerged. He become involved in OSASS, Oakland County Substance Abuse Services and through Affirmations, he helped organize a Midwest trans youth conference that ran from 2007 to 2009.
By Andrea Poteet BTL, Oct. 11, 2012
Meet Roland Leggett: For Roland, absence from Michigan not only made him fonder of his home state, it made him roll up his sleeves and start fighting to change it. In 2009, Leggett had just moved back to Michigan after working for Obama for America in Chicago. He said moving from progressive Chicago back to a state with so much anti-LGBT legislation was a shock. When he returned, he started working for ACLU of Michigan for two years before landing in his current job as a field organizer at Equality Michigan. Roland didn’t like what he saw when he got back to Michigan, so he started trying to change it.
By Andrea Poteet BTL, Nov. 1, 2012
Meet Alfredo Smith: Anyone working for a nonprofit organization that fights against AIDS with information, outreach and support is obviously driven by a desire to do good and help those in need. But while that is also the case for Alfredo Smith, who has worked with AIDS Partnership Michigan for five years, he admits that what initially drew him to his first AIDS-related volunteer stint, with Ruth Ellis Center’s Young Brothers United, was something a bit more practical. Condoms. But though he came for the freebies, Alfredo stayed for the one-on-one connections he was making with the 13-to-24-year old men the program targeted – connections that would lead him to the work he does today.
By Andrea Poteet BTL, Nov. 29, 2012