by Melinda Lejman | photo by Stephen Dillon
You were recently elected to serve as Chairman of the board of directors at OUTMemphis, and you are the first African American to hold the position. What impact do you feel this has on LGBT acceptance in the black community?
Because this is such a new appointment, only time will tell the overall impact, if any. There is much work to be done within the LGBTQ community. I am anxiously anticipating new outreach initiatives that OUTMemphis is undertaking directed at LGBTQ people of color, and our allies.
It has been a long road for all of us, but with these new programs and initiatives, I am hopeful to see even more progress. Moreover, I am excited for the opportunity to serve as Chairman for an organization primed for momentous growth and change in the coming year.
What is the most impactful work you feel happens at OUTMemphis and how do you support that work?
Our mission statement is “OUTMemphis empowers, connects, educates, and advocates for the LGBT community of the Mid-South.” Every day, the staff and volunteers serve as the living, breathing embodiment and personification of this mission.
From the incredible work being done with Youth Services–particularly, with the Metamorphosis Project – to our expanding Senior Division, OUTMemphis strives to be a welcoming place where all can be safe, respected, and celebrated.
I read that you were a 2016 “Top 40 under 40 Urban Elite Professional in Memphis” awardee. Why were you selected for that honor?
The Top 40 Under 40 Urban Elite Professionals Awards honors rising African- American Memphians who offer unique and innovative solutions to social problems, as well as those who shine in their respective professions.
Tell me about your background. (Where are you from, where did you go to school, what did you study?)
I am a proud native Memphian! I tell people all the time how thankful I am to have been born, raised, educated and now gainfully employed, engaged and connected all in the “city of good abode”! I am a graduate of the historic South Side High School and The Lemoyne-Owen College, where I earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science. In college, I sang in the concert choir, where I toured nationally and internationally as a soloist.
I am a 2016 Leadership Memphis FastTrack Program Graduate (The Best Class, Ever!). Professionally, I am a member of Meeting Professionals International TN Chapter, where I serve as a committee member for West TN. I have been involved with OUTMemphis since 2011, serving on the OutFlix and OutBid committees. I joined the board in 2016 and recently served as Vice-Chairman before becoming Chairman in December 2017.
You have worked at Opera Memphis since 2002 and you are currently their Director of Special Events. What’s your favorite part about your “day job”?
I have the best job ever! I know it may seem like hyperbole, but it’s true! Every day is unique and different. I am so fortunate to be surrounded by such wonderful colleagues who are highly skilled professionals and world-class talent that delight and amaze our audiences, production after production. It’s never a dull moment and I often have the best stories from my day-to-day experiences to share at parties!
What does a perfect day in Memphis look like for you?
Weekend brunch at Bosco’s followed by shopping, maybe taking in a show, and ending the day catching up with family and friends over a great home-cooked meal.
Are there any other causes you support in Memphis? What are they and why are they important?
The work of OUTMemphis is varied and quite fulfilling, thus it keeps me quite busy!
Anything else you want to share with our readers? (Hint hint: are you single?)
I am happily engaged to J. David Scruggs, a fellow native Memphian, who is a local and national award-winning Facilities Service Manager, specializing in multi-family housing. We are proud doggie daddies to three big black dogs – Paige, a Staffordshire Terrier, Luke, a Boxer Mix, and Figaro, a Labrador Retriever.