Maven turns five: a night filled with joy, community, and an eye towards the future
After two years of virtual meetings and celebrations, Maven Leadership Collective shared a warm embrace in celebration of our milestone fifth anniversary. The event was hosted at New World Symphony on Thursday, April 14, and took COVID-19 precautions to ensure the community’s safety. Maven has been supporting and investing in queer and trans people of color since the inception of their signature leadership development program in 2017. For many of the Maven alumnx and friends, the night felt like a homecoming celebration.
“This feels like a family reunion,” said Christopher J. Cuevas (they | them), Program Officer for the Laughing Gull Foundation’s LGBTQ+ Equality Fund and member of Maven’s anniversary cohort. “I am reconnecting with people who I have not seen in years. To be here and see everyone feels like a gift.”
Guests knew they would be in for a special night when the email invite instructed not to run on Miami time–this was a night you would not want to miss any minute of. Lively host and Maven alumna, Octavia Yearwood (she | they) directed guests into the Truist Pavilion, where they were greeted with a warm fuschia light.
As the lights dimmed, a short film titled, “LipService” played. The intimate film features the experiences of Nadege Green (she | her), Jasmen Rogers (she | her), and Arsimmer McCoy (she | her), who have all had lip service paid to them in the various racist, white-centric worlds they have inhabited. The film set the tone for the night and was a reminder of the necessity an organization like Maven has in the community–an oasis of genuine trust and opportunity in a lip service desert.
“Maven has always been really good at being intentional about how they make people feel,” said Jasmen Rogers. “The feeling of community, the feeling of shared trauma but also shared joy. It’s so good to be back in community tonight.”
“Tonight, I am in community” GeoVanna Gonzalez (she | her) said. “This is one of the few events after COVID I have not turned around and found myself alone or isolated. There is good conversation, meaningful connections, it’s really beautiful.”
Courtney Mickens’ powerhouse vocals greeted guests as they arrived on the rooftop, surrounded by a lush native garden, and Miami Beach’s art deco skyline. Friends new and old sipped champagne and mingled as the sun set. By the time the full moon rose, Danny Anzueto (all pronouns)), Maven co-founder and senior director of talent activation, arrived to announce the first of two surprises.
The Anniversary Cohort will include Nadege Green (she | her), Doris Parent (she | her), Pioneer Winter (he | him), Christopher J. Cuevas (they | them), Dejha Carrington (she | her), and Gabriel Garcia-Vera (all pronouns). The group will retreat in Costa Rica this summer, travel to Durham, North Carolina to exchange ideas with local grassroots leaders and then host Maven Rising this fall in Miami. But, what was not shared with them prior to the evening, however, is that they will also have $50,000 to distribute collectively in support of equitable social impact that prioritizes queer and trans POC.
“We wrap them in an ecosystem of support,” Anzueto said. “That includes instruction coaching, practical experiences, meaningful network building, and collective wellbeing activities. They improve the quality of life for more than 200,000 people annually in the areas of civic engagement, economic independence, health equity, and access to the arts and public education. For our fifth anniversary, we have assembled the most extraordinary cohort for an advanced master class that will prioritize rest and big ideas and examine intuition, intimacy and inspiration to achieve more equitable social justice.”
Co-founder and executive director, Corey Davis (he | they), then took the stage in one of the more tender and personal moments of the evening. Davis, whose mother and father were in attendance, recalled his maternal grandfather who worked in a mail room on Wall Street.
“There were obviously people who didn’t think that he was intelligent enough to figure out what was going on,” Davis said. “So they talked as if he wasn’t there. And I’m sure that there’s a number of people who are standing here who can identify with what that is–when people think that you are invisible, maybe even in philanthropy, talk about ‘invisibilized’ populations. No one is invisible. We are here.”
Davis’ speech was an ode to familial and community support, and making sure to pass that same love and care forward when it’s your turn to do so.
“But for our families, contributing, helping us, feeding us, giving us a place to stay, coming to our events, there would be no Maven Leadership Collective,” Davis said. “There’s so many of us who have been turned out of their homes. And I’ve been able to count on my family. So I just want to express my gratitude.”
The blessings continued as Davis announced the Elevate Impact Fund, a $100,000 fund for Black, brown, queer and trans social impact leaders. The goal of the fund is to remove obstacles, elevate the impact that creators have in their communities, and support projects from queer and trans people of color.
“We are moving from climbing up the rough side of the mountain,” Davis said. “We are moving the mountain.”
The evening was rounded out with a show stopping performance by South Florida Ballroom. As the champagne continued to pour and guests danced the cha cha slide, the Maven family rejoiced in the power and solidarity their community has fostered in just five short years.
“I think the research is very clear about how difficult it is for Black-led organizations to be able to survive,” Davis said. “We’re under-resourced, underestimated, but charged with doing so much. To be able to say, hey, it’s been a five year journey, and we’re poised to continue to do great things, for me, it’s tremendously exciting.”