by Shelby Durden
Jacksonville University Intern
Chevara Orrin’s earliest memory of activism was as a three-year old, sleeping in concrete building tubes across the street from the White House in support of the Bangladesh Liberation War and protesting famine in Pakistan. Since then she has dedicated her life to advocating for causes and created forums to address the issues she feels are most pressing to our world today. Chevara has not just given a lifetime of service, she uses her power to inspire and serve others as well.
In life, it is inevitable that hardships will come. As a victim of incest, Chevara channeled her feelings into ways to help protect other people from the same experiences she had by becoming an advocate for the eradication of sexual violence against women and girls. In 2008, she founded WhiteSpace SafeSpace, a monthly support group and forum for incest survivors.
Chevara comes from a mixed-race family who faced many challenges along the way. She took these challenges and created MOSAIC: Experiences of Mixed Race People and Families to serve as a support forum, social network, and information and community resource.
While both of these initiatives were founded because of her life experiences, her charitable work did not stop there, but rather fueled her life’s devotion to making the world a better and more accepting place for everyone. With a passion for social justice, a rich legacy of civil rights, and the ability to inspire and engage, Chevara Orrin conceptualized and co-created, We Are Straight Allies.
We Are Straight Allies is a campaign that aims to unify the community to stand up for the LGBT community. This campaign started in 2012 in direct response to the Jacksonville City Council vote rejecting Bill 2012-296, better known as the Human Rights Ordinance, which would have added sexual orientation to the current non-discrimination policy. The wildly successful campaign has drawn the participation of prominent figures such as feminist icon Gloria Steinem, Olympic gold medalist and civil rights attorney Nancy Hogshead-Makar, cultural and faith leaders, and superstars from the corporate world, including the CEOs of Florida Blue and The Haskell Company to all rally together and support diversity in the community.
For her tireless efforts to bridge gaps in equality and create unity across cultures, Chevara Orrin is the 2016 recipient of the Edward R. Hayes Unity in Action Award.