Gene Crayton, Paralyzed Veterans’ First African-American President

Gene Creyton, PVA

Gene Crayton was born on a southern Illinois farm, 15 miles north of where the Ohio and Mississippi river’s meet, the fifth of six kids, Crayton learned early about duty, service and a hard day’s work.

His father, a share cropper, died when he was two years old and it was up to his mother to keep the farm going and raise the family.

Crayton’s sense of service followed him throughout his early life and at the young age of 17, during his junior year of high school, Crayton enlisted in the U.S. Navy Reserve. After graduation, he entered active duty where he attended Hospital Corps School at the U.S. Naval Hospital in San Diego, on his way to becoming a corpsman.

“I had hoped to become a doctor,” says Crayton. “As corpsman, I was constantly helping people and doing things to keep people from getting sick. Those duties constantly fed my desire to help others by doing things to help improve their lives. And in some cases, save their lives.”

Crayton soon reported for a training aboard the U.S.S. Purdy where he spent his time working in the sick bay. It wasn’t long after the Purdy that the young sailor would be called to serve in Vietnam.

Crayton was assigned to the 26th Marine Regiment to serve as corpsman. Since the Marine Corps has no medical personnel of its own, it has historically forged a tight bond with the Navy.

Typically referred to as “Doc,” a Navy corpsman will train alongside their Marine unit, often doing the same type of tactical training and physical fitness training as the Marines.

Crayton ultimately served during the Tet Offensive where he saw many tragic injuries and saved numerous lives. His unit was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for its extraordinary heroism in action.

“One thing that I don’t think many people talk about, but when I was in Khe Sanh, Vietnam right before the Tet Offensive started, I had never seen a place so beautiful in my life,” Crayton recalls.

“The banana trees and the different colors of the foliage and the birds. And then of course, Tet hit and all of that changed. I think, if you want to talk about anything, the experience was an extension of my learning as far as culture is concerned. Remember, I was a 17-year-old kid when I went to boot camp. I learned about different cultures and learned how to take care of myself.”

After leaving active duty, Crayton moved to St. Louis, where he was assigned to the local Marine Corps Reserve unit. Respiratory therapy was a new field at that time and Crayton took a job at Deaconess Hospital.

“At the time, there were only 200 registered respiratory therapists in the United States,” says Crayton. “So, people that had training were in demand. When I went to apply they asked me when do you want to start to work?”

Crayton held that job until an automobile accident left him a T-5 paraplegic. He was honorably discharged from the Navy not long after and left wondering what would come next.

“I was injured when I was 21,” says Crayton. “After going through the post-injury depression and all of that, I adapted the attitude that I can do it. That attitude ultimately gave me my life.”

Crayton spent his first few post-injury years a recluse, desperately trying to regain control of his new life.

“I had no freedom, no independence, I didn’t drive, I wouldn’t go anywhere unless someone took me,” says Crayton. “After the change, I got out, found my own apartment, learned to drive and had a couple of jobs before discovering Paralyzed Veterans of America, which lead me to where I am now.”

Like so many veterans before him, Crayton discovered the resources and camaraderie of Paralyzed Veterans of America (Paralyzed Veterans) and it wasn’t long before he fully inserted himself into the Gateway Chapter. There, he learned about the organization, traveled to Washington, D.C., for legislation testimony and quickly rose in the ranks of the organization ultimately serving as chapter secretary, president and national director.

Crayton became the first African-American national president during the Paralyzed Veterans’s 63rd Annual Convention in Miami.

It was an opportunity to better the organization and help other people,” says Crayton. “But I don’t think I had a very successful presidency to be honest with you. I look back on it now and believe the things I was trying to accomplish were right, but I just went about it in the wrong way. I tried to be responsive to everybody … no one was too big and no one was too small for my time.”

Crayton wouldn’t change a thing and credits Paralyzed Veterans for helping shape the man he is today.

“Being with the Marines certainly taught me discipline,” says Crayton. “I’m not sure it [military service] affected my life as I am now. I give the credit to Paralyzed Veterans and the positive influence over the man I am now. Paralyzed Veterans taught me many skills on being a better leader, how we lobby for the veterans and their benefits and I had a chance to see some of the most prestigious events in and around our nation’s capital.”

As we honor Black History Month, Crayton reflects on the men and women who blazed a trail before him and continues to advocate for education and employment; two of his most passionate platforms.

“Growing up, I heard a great deal about Booker T. Washington, who was before my time, but nonetheless was a strong voice of the African-Americans post-slavery,” says Crayton. “Of course, I enjoyed hearing the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King, and as time went on I learned about some of the athletes and the contributions that they made, such as Joe Louis, who was known for his contributions to the United Service Organization (USO). I absolutely enjoyed the stories of the Tuskegee Airmen and had the honor of meeting a few of them over the years. They blazed the trail for other African-American pilots.”

Crayton encourages young African-Americans to enlist in the military, but to get a military occupational specialty that will benefit a secure civilian livelihood.

During Black History Month, Crayton has a deep appreciation and respect for the men and women who helped blaze a trail for him. He follows their example by advocating for education and employment for African-Americans, which are two of his most passionate platforms.

King once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?” It’s safe to say Crayton has spent his life working on a great answer to King’s question.

Source: Paralyzed Veterans of America

Meet the first openly autistic woman elected to political office

Sarah Hernandez sitting at her desk smiling wearing a flowery green and yellow dress

By Kathleen Wroblewski, Director of Communications, Bay Path University

It’s difficult for many people to approach a stranger’s house and knock on their door. It’s quite another matter if you are knocking on doors and running for public office.

Within minutes, you need to introduce yourself and connect with the person on the other side of the threshold. We call it being face to face—a fundamental form of human communication.

When Assistant Professor Sarah Hernandez, ’14 G’15, of the occupational therapy department decided to run for the school board in her local town, the process of canvassing in the community and meeting strangers was absolutely terrifying. “At first, I had to watch how people did it. And, slowly, I learned to pick up certain cues and how to handle myself in different situations. People were very patient with me. It was a big step when I knocked on that first door.”

Sarah’s success is all the more remarkable because she is neurodiverse: she is on the autism spectrum. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a development condition defined by social and communication difficulties and repetitive, inflexible patterns of behavior.

When you first meet Sarah, a mother of three with a friendly and welcoming smile, she appears to be the opposite of society’s profile of being autistic. But appearances can be deceiving. Sarah, along with many other young girls and women, has mastered what is known as “social camouflaging,” or hiding in plain sight. In many ways, this coping technique has led to women of all ages to be misdiagnosed, or in some cases, not diagnosed with autism at all. And that gets to the heart of Sarah’s story:

“I was diagnosed in my thirties, and that is not unusual for women. I knew that I was different somehow, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. There were times that I just had to shut down and not communicate. I was lucky to learn it was a form of autism because most women fly under the radar and never find out. They live in a world of inner turmoil. It’s only recently that researchers are looking at the gender differences in autism. In fact, the criteria for diagnosing ASD are based on data gathered from the studies of boys.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the disorder is 4.5 times more common in boys than girls. As awareness of autism grows, new protocols are being developed that indicate the gap may not be as wide as once thought. In the meantime, there are discernable shifts in society’s perceptions of autism.

Expanding the Definition of a Diverse Workplace

Sarah, like many others on the spectrum, has learned to live with her autism. She is a role model for her occupational therapy students, sharing her experiences to make them more sensitive to the differences and contributions of the members of her “tribe.”

“I let my students know right up front that I am autistic. And I share my knowledge of the strengths of autism—our ability to think in patterns, to visualize, and to be problem solvers,” she says.

In fact, this skill set is prompting companies and organizations to expand their definitions of a diverse workplace. A recent article in the Harvard Business Review, Neurodiversity as a Competitive Advantage, by Robert Austin and Gary Pisano, reports that the neurodiverse population remains a largely untapped talent pool. With a vast number of IT and IT-related positions going unfilled, HR departments are re-examining their recruitment practices and working environments to accommodate neurodiverse employees. In companies with active neurodiverse hiring programs, such as Hewlett Packard, Microsoft, Ford, and others, they have already realized productivity gains and a high number of innovations. They have found that diversity does deliver.

Standing Shoulder to Shoulder

“I know I am incredibly lucky to be working at Bay Path,” states Sarah. “I am doing what I love, and I can be honest about who I am.”

Sarah’s generosity of spirit does not stop at Bay Path. She and her husband have one biological child, have adopted two children, and are therapeutic foster parents. When one of Sarah’s children experienced difficulties in school because she is darker in complexion, she knew she had to step forward to give voice to her daughter and others. She decided to run for the school board.

“I can hide my disability, but my daughter can’t turn her skin color off. I decided that I needed to stand shoulder to shoulder with others on the spectrum, as well as represent all those who need a spokesperson.”

So, Sarah left her comfort zone and began knocking on doors, participating in debates, and attending meetings. She never hid her autism. And she won.

But her victory wasn’t just for the schoolchildren in her town. Through social media, her election gained broad attention. NBC Hartford did a profile on her, and at a national conference on autism, she shared the stage with former Senator Tom Harkin, who introduced the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) into the Senate.

For Sarah, the attention was sometimes hard to believe: “As a person on the spectrum, I believe we live in a world that wasn’t made for us. But we have to keep participating, and we have to work to represent ourselves. I like to say, ‘We have to put our pants on in the morning.’ We just need to show up.”

Sarah certainly has.


World Disability Day 2018 Focuses On Equal Opportunities And Inclusiveness For People With Disability


World Disability Day 2018 is meant to promote rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in all spheres of development and society.

December 3 is observed as International Day of Persons with Disabilities or World Disability Day. Commemoration of this day was done by United Nations General Assembly resolution in 1992. The day is meant to promote rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in all spheres of development and society. The idea is to increase awareness about persons with disabilities, their situation and their means to survive in cultural, economic, social and political life. On this day, awareness is spread on how organisations and individuals can get involved in breaking down attitudinal and structural barriers for people with disability.

Around 1 billion people around the world live with a disability. This number makes for around 15% of the global population. On World Disability Day, celebrations are done for achievements of people with disabilities.

World Disability Day 2018 theme

World Disability Day 2018 theme is, “Empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality.” According to the United Nations, The theme focuses on empowering persons with disability with equal opportunities and inclusiveness. The idea is to empower them with equitable, inclusive and sustainable development as part of Agenda for Sustainable Development 2030.

The 2030 agenda aims at including every single person with disability, and leave no one behind. Persons with disabilities can be both beneficiaries and agents of change. They can speed up the process of sustainable development which is inclusive in nature. They can promote a society which is resilient for all, including in the context of disaster risk reduction and humanitarian action.

Continue onto NDTV to read the complete article.

MTA New York City Transit Hires First-Ever Senior Advisor for Systemwide Accessibility


For the first time ever, New York City Transit will have a dedicated accessibility chief. 

On Monday, NYCT President Andy Byford announced the appointment of Alex Elegudin as Senior Advisor for Systemwide Accessibility. He’ll be tasked with overseeing and implementing the Fast Forward Plan initiative to expand accessibility to subway and bus customers, as well as improve Access-A-Ride service.

Elegudin, a longtime accessibility advocate, will serve as MTA NYC Transit’s innaugural Senior Advisor for Systemwide Accessibility, an executive-level position reporting directly to President Byford.  His first day on the job is Monday, June 25.

“Advancing the cause of accessibility is one of my top priorities and Alex’s new role will pull together all of our accessibility-related work streams, touching all Fast Forward projects and all NYC Transit departments,” President Byford said.

“I’m incredibly excited to be joining President Byford’s executive team,” Elegudin said.  “The vision set forth in the ‘Fast Forward’ plan will make NYC Transit work better for New Yorkers of all abilities, with a strong emphasis on improving accessibility quickly.  I look forward to being a part of making the plan a reality and helping to make New York City the most accessible city in the world.”

“Expanding accessibility is a priority for all MTA agencies, with the subway serving millions of people a day having particular urgency,” said MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota, who has convened a special working group of MTA Board members to advise on improving accessibility.  “President Byford’s creation of this new position and Alex’s appointment are a victory for all of our customers who need more accessible subway, bus and paratransit service.”

Continue onto the MTA Newsroom to read the complete article.


This woman is an exceptionally effective Capitol Hill lobbyist. She also has Down syndrome.


There are thousands of lobbyists in Washington, legions of well-connected pros who are hired by special interest groups to vigorously advocate for issues.

Perhaps nobody in those ranks is more committed to their cause than Kayla McKeon, the first registered Capitol Hill lobbyist with Down syndrome.

“I make personal connections, tell personal stories,” said McKeon, 30, who works for the District-based National Down Syndrome Society. “It’s hard for them to say no.”

McKeon, a New York native, has already shown her lobbying chops by helping to get a bill signed into law in December that allows people with disabilities to save greater amounts of money without penalty to their Medicaid benefits.

She said walking around Capitol Hill and persuading lawmakers to do right by people she calls “differently abled” is both exhilarating and humbling.

“I feel powerful knowing I am walking in the same steps as congressmen and women,” she said. “I can feel the power radiating as I walk around the Capitol.”

McKeon’s first advantage on Capitol Hill is that she can explain the trials of a disabled person from her heart. Her second advantage is that nothing intimidates her. She’s been giving motivational speeches at the Special Olympics since she was 18.

“She’s never nervous,” said her mother, Patti McKeon. “When she gives a speech to a big crowd, I’m a wreck, and she’s calm as can be. She doesn’t care who she is speaking to, it’s like she’s talking to her best friend. That’s a real strength when you’re talking to members of Congress.”

One of McKeon’s favorite phrases is: “I’m ready, willing and able.”

McKeon started her part-time lobbying job in October, advocating for laws that protect the rights of disabled people while making independent living easier for adults like her. She is also taking classes toward her associate degree at Onondaga Community College in central New York.

The hardest part of her job, she said, is getting on the schedules of high-powered people. The easiest part is making her pitches once she’s face-to-face.

“I’m good at being a self-advocate, of letting myself be heard,” she said.

Sara Hart Weir, president and chief executive of the National Down Syndrome Society, hired McKeon. The two first met about six years ago at various Down syndrome events. Weir said she had always been impressed with McKeon.

When they ran into each other last year in Washington, Weir decided McKeon should be on her staff. She had to ask twice, because at first McKeon wasn’t sure whether it was the right move for her.

Continue onto The Washington Post to read the complete article.

Airpower Foundation Announces Changes to it’s Executive Board of Directors


The Airpower Foundation is announcing changes to it’s Executive Board of Directors. These changes were effective January 1, 2018.

Sid Eppes, former Vice Chairman, has been elected Chairman, and Major General Kevin Pottinger, (Ret.) USAF, has been elected Vice Chairman by the Airpower Foundation Board of Directors.

The Airpower Foundation expresses it’s sincere gratitude to Mr. Palomares for his numerous years, and countless hours of dedicated volunteer service and leadership as Chairman. Mr. Palomares will remain on the Foundation board.

Mr. Eppes has been a long time member of the Airpower Foundation board, has been instrumental in assisting with the growth and development of the foundation over the years, and served as Chairman of the Grants Review Committee. He served four years as Chairman of the Fort Worth Airpower Council, the oldest civilian military support origination in the nation, and also has served as the Sky Ball Vice Chairman / Operations Director for the past 10 years.

Mr. Eppes’ extensive experience with sponsor relations, organizational partnerships, knowledge of the veteran support community, and relationships with nationally elected officials, will be instrumental to lead the foundation as we continue to grow and increase our support to those who serve and their families.

Major General Pottinger joined the Airpower Foundation Board 4 years ago as the military liaison/advisor and was voted as a director in 2016. Mr. Pottinger has contributed significantly to the Airpower Foundation over the years with his guidance from his military background. We look forward to his leadership as Vice Chairman in the years to come, in addition to his newly appointed role as the Chairman of the Grants Review Committee.

USBLN Rising Leadership & Disability Equality Index Registration is Now Open!


The Rising Leaders Mentoring Program is a six-month career mentoring opportunity to at least 100 college students and recent graduates with disabilities through linkages to business professionals from USBLN partner companies.

The Rising Leaders Mentoring Program brings together employers and college students and recent graduates with disabilities, including veterans, in a mutually beneficial way. Mentees meet and interact with business professionals in their field of study or area of interest and whom they would not otherwise have access to.

Applications for 2018 Rising Leader Mentees and the 2018 Rising Leadership Academy are now open! If you are a college student or recent graduate with a disability that has questions about transitioning into employment in the business sector, we highly encourage you to apply for the Rising Leaders Mentoring Program. Our mentoring program is designed to support students and recent graduates as you navigate what is means to be successful and even unique questions that relate to being a person with a disability in the workforce. The RLMP also gives students and recent graduates a network of business partners to connect with! The USBLN especially encourages STEM majors, veterans, students of color, and LGBTQ+ students to apply.

Click here to view benefits and opportunities!

Click here to learn more about the initiative and to apply to this unique program!

The Disability Equality Index (DEI) is a unique, joint initiative of USBLN (US Business Leadership Network) and the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD). It serves as the nation’s most trusted annual benchmarking tool allowing America’s leading corporations to self-report their disability policies and practices.

The DEI is an aspirational, educational, recognition tool that is intended to help companies identify opportunities for continued improvement and help build a company’s reputation as an employer of choice.

Companies that take the DEI self–report on a wide variety of criteria within four categories: Culture & Leadership, Enterprise–Wide Access, Employment Practices, and Community Engagement & Support Services.

The registration for the 2018 DEI is now open– click here to apply.

Click here to view the DEI brochure

United Nations declared 23 September as International Day of Sign Languages


The United Nations General Assembly has declared 23 September as International Day of Sign Languages. The resolution (A/C.3/72/L.36/Rev.1 – International Sign version here) was initially adopted by consensus during the 48th meeting of the Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday, 16 November 2017 and officially adopted today at the 72nd United Nations General Assembly.

The resolution was proposed, or sponsored, through the Permanent Mission of Antigua and Barbuda to the United Nations, following an original request by the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD). The WFD worked with its country members to garner support from their respective Permanent Missions to the United Nations, who have the power at the United Nations General Assembly to vote for adoption of the resolution as co-sponsors. The resolution was co-sponsored by 97 United Nations Member States and adopted by consensus.

Ambassador Walton Webson of the Permanent Mission of Antigua and Barbuda to the United Nations: ´This resolution is an important milestone in our international promise “to leave no one behind”. The acclimation of 23 September as the international day of sign languages is a significant step in the universalization of all communities to recognize the objectives set out in article 21 of the UNCRPD to meet our universal goal of inclusion. The Government of Antigua and Barbuda is pleased to be part of this international day that will focus the world’s attention on the principles of the UNCRPD in calling for equality, especially in terms of accessibility, that allows an individual freedom of choice, dignity and independence of self without discrimination.´

The choice of 23 September commemorates the date that the WFD was established in 1951. This day marks the birth of an advocacy organisation, which has as one of its main goals, the preservation of sign languages and deaf culture as pre-requisites to the realisation of the human rights of deaf people.

The first International Day of Sign Languages will be celebrated on 23 September 2018 as part of the International Week of the Deaf.

World Federation of the Deaf President Colin Allen: ‘This resolution recognises the importance of sign language and services in sign language being available to deaf people as early in life as possible. It also emphasises the principle of “nothing about us without us” in terms of working with Deaf Communities. With effect from year 2018, the WFD is overjoyed at the prospect of observing and celebrating this day annually.’

The International Week of the Deaf was first celebrated in September 1958 and has since evolved into a global movement of deaf unity and concerted advocacy to raise awareness of the issues deaf people face in their everyday lives. The WFD strongly believes that the present United Nations resolution is a valuable extension of this tradition and has the potential to increase the understanding of United Nations member states, the private sector and the United Nations’ system in closing existing gaps in the achievement of human rights for deaf people.

Continue onto the UN to read more about this significant day.

NGLCC Renamed “National LGBT Chamber of Commerce”, Reaffirms Mission as Business Voice of the LGBT Community


The business voice of the LGBT community, formerly known as the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, has announced that the organization will formally shorten its name to its acronym “NGLCC” and be known as the, “National LGBT Chamber of Commerce.”This change, which is accompanied by an organizational visual rebranding, moves to better include the bisexual and transgender members of the LGBT business community for which NGLCC has fiercely advocated over the past 15 years.

As NGLCC marked its fifteenth anniversary at its 2017 National Dinner awards gala on Friday, November 17, NGLCC co-founders Justin Nelson and Chance Mitchell were joined on stage by transgender business leaders as they reiterated the organization’s pledge to advancing economic opportunities for all members of the LGBT community.

“The LGBT business community is stronger than ever and our organization must continue to evolve to be the best champion we can be for our businesses. That starts with ensuring every element of our brand demonstrates our commitment to all lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender entrepreneurs, as our new moniker of ‘NGLCC: The National LGBT Chamber of Commerce’ shows,” said NGLCC Co-Founder & President Justin Nelson. “As we continue to assert our community’s presence and importance in the American and global economies, it is essential that NGLCC lead boldly with a vision for the future of LGBT business that is not only inclusive of all members the LGBT community but also celebrates diversity in all of its forms.”

Under its new name, NGLCC will continue to advance the interests of LGBT business owners, which now number at an estimated 1.4 million in the United States and boast a combined estimated economic impact of over $1.7 trillion, per NGLCC’s groundbreaking America’s LGBT Economy report.  Additionally, the NGLCC Global program will continue expanding the important connection between LGBTI human rights and economic opportunity around the world.

“In the fifteen years NGLCC has been increasing opportunities by certifying and networking LGBT business owners we have witnessed countless shifts toward greater inclusion and recognition of the diversity that makes our community so dynamic and vital.  While our name may change, our mission remains constant: ensuring economic opportunity and prosperity for the LGBT business community in the United States, and around the world,” said NGLCC Co-Founder & CEO Chance Mitchell.

NGLCC expects to see support for the LGBT business community continue to grow, particularly with the recent inclusion of LGBT-owned businesses as an application criterion for the Billion Dollar Roundtable and to a company’s survey on the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index. NGLCC recently certified its 1000th LGBTBE and plans to double that number by 2020.

Read more here

National Down Syndrome Society Launching National Campaign to Spotlight Laws that Hinder Fulfilling Lives for Individuals with Down Syndrome


New NDSS “Law Syndrome” Campaign Aimed at Breaking Down Barriers 

The National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS), the leading human rights organization for all individuals with Down syndrome, will bring community leaders, self-advocates, parents and employers to the nation’s capitol to launch its latest campaign – “Law Syndrome.”

“Law Syndrome” addresses the challenges people with Down syndrome confront when they want to follow their career dreams, get married and live independent, productive lives, yet face jeopardizing the critical government supports they rely on heavily, such as health care. Outdated laws discourage all people with Down syndrome from fulfilling their potential.

The campaign, created in partnership with creative agency Saatchi & Saatchi New York, will help mark October as Down Syndrome Awareness Month and National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

“NDSS is leading this historic national effort by showcasing to the world that Down syndrome doesn’t stop people with Down syndrome — it’s ‘Law Syndrome’ that holds them back,” said NDSS President and CEO Sara Hart Weir. “By launching this campaign, we are calling on our leaders in Congress to join our efforts to reform these complex but misguided laws — and to help us change #LawSyndrome.”

The poverty rate for working-age people with disabilities is 22.3 percent higher than those without disabilities. Despite the efforts of key civil rights laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Stephen Beck Jr., Achieving a Better Life Experience Act, individuals with Down syndrome still face barriers to living as full members of their communities.

The new campaign aims to shed light on misconceptions that current federal public policy does not address. These laws affect individuals with Down syndrome as well as their families. NDSS’ “Law Syndrome” campaign will give all individuals with Down syndrome, their families, the larger disability community and the general public a voice in confronting these dated beliefs and further provide a platform to encourage congressional leaders to act.

NDSS has produced a multifaceted public service announcement complete with a video, creative pieces and a website.

People with Down syndrome are living longer, healthier and more productive lives; attending post-secondary education programs; getting married; are obtaining gainful employment; and are also more integrated into the fabric of society than ever before. NDSS’ “Law Syndrome campaign” will break down barriers that unjustly prevent people with Down syndrome from living their American dream.

Learn More About the Law Syndrome Campaign and How You Can Get Involved

The LGBT Asylum Project


The LGBT Asylum Project is non-profit organization exclusively dedicated to providing pro-bono legal representation for LGBT immigrants who are fleeing persecution and seeking asylum in the United States.

Immigration attorneys Okan Sengun and Brooke Westling founded the San Francisco based organization, which had its official public launch in June 2016.

The Board of Directors includes experts in immigration, law, business, finance, LGBT advocacy, and most recently, LGBT immigrants who have successfully completed the asylum process.

The organization was recently honored by BALIF (Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom) with the 2017 Legal Service Award.

Upcoming events include:

2nd Annual Friendraiser – Sunday, April 30 from 4:00-7:00 pm at Qbar, 456 Castro St., San Francisco. Celebrate our first year of success, learn more about what’s to come, and get to know our international LGBT community.

The LGBT Asylum Project will be a beneficiary of San Francisco’s premier Pride event, The Juanita MORE! Pride Party – Sunday, June 25 from noon to 10:00 pm at 620 Jones St., San Francisco. Purchase tickets or become a sponsor at:

For more information about The LGBT Asylum Project, go to:

Join The LGBT Asylum Project Facebook community at:

The LGBT Asylum Project video: