ROSMY Makes History
Listen to John Dougherty and Todd Anderson’s acceptance speech at last night’s Richmond History Makers Event at the Valentine Richmond History Center.
John Dougherty arrives to the Valentine Richmond History Center and pins his green boutonniere that fashions him and his organization as one of the evening’s honorees. It’s been a busy seven days for Dougherty and ROSMY. Last week, the Executive Director was honored as one of Style Weekly’s Top 40 Under 40. Tonight’s the night ROSMY enters the history books so to speak.
“It’s been remarkable to see how quickly the organization has really come forward and over the 3.5 years that I’ve been there, watching things pick up speed and it just gets faster and faster and faster.”
It’s just before 5 o’clock on Tuesday evening at the 5th Annual Richmond History Makers Celebration. Dougherty and his boyfriend make their way back to the Center’s garden for a VIP reception with some of Richmond’s well to-do. A red carpet adorns one end of the walkway leading to the main event. The garden is lit with miniature lights. The VIPs mingle around a three-tiered fountain and Dougherty is working the crowd.
“Tonight, one of the things that’s really special to me is that an organization like this is getting this type of recognition,” he says. “Especially as conservative as we think Richmond or Virginia as a whole may be – to think that the community has in one way or another said we need to keep pushing forward. That’s huge.”
This evening, ROSMY receives recognition for improving social justice in Metro Richmond. In fact, all five of the honorees were nominated and selected because they harness a shared passion to improve the quality of life in the city. Being recognized tonight, ROSMY is in the company of the Neighborhood Resource Center, Virginia Heroes, the Central Virginia Waste Management Authority, and CrossOver Ministry.
Dougherty doesn’t think the award could have come at a better time. The organization founded in 1991 has grown organically based on the community’s needs and the city’s readiness he says. When ROSMY originated, it was one of the first 15 organizations for sexual minority youth in the entire country.
“To think that started in Richmond, VA is phenomenal,” Dougherty says.
As the VIP reception wraps up, Dougherty enters the main event and connects with fellow ROSMY supporters, staff, and the hundreds in attendance for the History Makers event.
“I think ROSMY’s place in history has evolved. I think ROSMY’s place was one starting to be that support and a safety net,” he says. “Now it’s about forcing conversations, it’s about opening dialogue and communication around an issue that is significant in every human being’s life.”
Dougherty contributes ROSMY’s success in recent years to opening doors and having these conversations with organizations and how they make an impact.
“It’s not a gay-related issue and it’s not a transgendered-related issue,” he says. “All youth go through this process. The struggles that people go through as they come to accept who they are in terms of their gender and their sexual orientation is one that can be universally looked at.”
ROSMY has shifted from simply youth support programs to providing hotline access across the state and youth leadership development.
“[Now] it’s not just about coddling people who are struggling, but it’s about making them strong leaders. We’re looking at things in a totally different way.”
When Dougherty takes the stage to accept the award on behalf of ROSMY, he touches on the powerful meaning of the recognition for his organization.
“I can’t tell you enough what this is going to mean to take this back to our youth and tell them that you are accepted and you do belong in this community and this community supports you.”
“Times and culture have shifted and the organization has expanded over the course of 25 years toward building communities with LGBTQ+ youth, families, schools, and faith communities.”September 12, 2016
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