Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Vision: One man's dream to make a difference becomes a reality

He sits in front of his perspective employer shy, timid, hands shaking slightly. After glancing over his resume again Mickey Hart, coordinator of Ohio University's LGBT Programs Center, looks up and smiles. Jonathan Connary's hands calm a bit but his leg is still trembling.

"I see from your resume that you haven't done any of this kind of work before," Hart said. "What is it that has drawn you to our office."

Though somewhat uncomfortable in his surroundings, Connary doesn't miss a beat. "I want to make a difference," he immediately replied. Nearly two years later Connary's proclamation at a simple interview has come true, and is seen through the lives of the students who live his mantra of inclusion and acceptance every day.

Photo Credit: Dwayne Steward

Connary, a second year graduate students hailing from New Hampshire, is credited by a small but mighty group for founding SHADES. A perplexed look may cross the face of skeptics who simply see Connary's pale exterior, but he says his being white has pushed him to do more research on the plight the multicultural lgbt community.

"I feel like I have to know more then those who are in this community so that I can show them my interest is genuine," he said.

Connary could find only ten or so other groups in the country that had groups like SHADES. He contacted them and started compiling feedback. He read novels by multicultural lgbt people, perused Web sites for news on lgbt people of color daily and studied professional journals for a better social, psychological, and economical understanding. Soon all that he needed to find were the people.

"I knew that a multicultural gay population had to exist," he said. "Out of a population of 20,000 people they had to be out there somewhere."

Chantelle Fullerton, SHADES secretary, however, begs to differ, stating a group before Connary arrived might not have been feasible.

"Jon got here at just the right time," Fullerton said. "There were only like two of us here before Jon, but a bunch of freshman came the same year he did, which helped get the group off the ground."

She also said talks of creating such a group the year before had surfaced but no one was willing to step up to the plate and make it happen. That was until Connary arrived.

"He really deserves a lot of credit," she said. "Without him I really don't think the group would have ever become more then a great idea."

Photo Credit: Dwayne Steward

Once piles of research began forming around his apartment, Connary began using Web sites like and tapped into faculty resources to drum up enough response to plant the seed of interest. A small contingency of students and professors was formed at the end of Fall Quarter 2005. SHADES had officially begun.

"After the first few meetings it was becoming apparent that the group should transform into a student oriented organization," said Hart, who's been with the center since 2000 and started conversation about creating a SHADES. So Jon went in search of a president.

In stepped Evan Robinson.

Photo Credit: Cody Plaskett

The soft spoken, socialite, with urban influenced style stepped up and took the reigns of SHADES with a vengeance. The unlikely pair pushed the unknown group into the spotlight making it a force to be reckoned with on campus.

After the first few meetings Robinson said he saw that a great potential existed in what they were trying to do and knew he had to a large part of it.

"I just ran with it," he said. "We just all clicked so well so fast, we've become a family, I love it. It's beautiful. I just love it."

Photo Credit: Jonathan Connary


At 6:27 AM, Blogger Sara B said...

The "history" of SHADES is very helpful in understanding what the group actually is. You said Connary is white and that it might seem strange. I think it's great that SHADES includes all races. You also said that Connary didn't have a background in the LGBT community. What types of experience do other members have?

At 6:29 AM, Blogger Amber James said...

I had no idea this group existed on campus until I started reading your blog. It is great to see the determination of a few individuals to diversify campus and create a group like this. OU students appear to be making great strides to bring together seemingly underrepresented groups.

How many students are currently part of SHADES? Does the group have events to create awareness - or is it more of "underground" group that not many people know about unless they are involved?

At 6:31 AM, Blogger Brandon Clark said...

It's nice to get to know SHADES's founding fathers. What are some of the victories or turmoils that SHADES have gone through around campus? Are they making any changes in our campus life?


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