This month, we are focusing on giving back to the community, and there are many different ways of doing that. Dakerri Barber-Rhone is a familiar advocate in the Nashville community—many will have encountered her work for at least one of her various causes or issues, be they LGBTQ or broader. Last month Dakerri joined the Elizabeth Warren campaign as an LGBTQ+ community leader (one of five!), and so we thought it would be interesting to talk with her about her evolution as an advocate.
How did you become involved in community advocacy, particularly for the LGBTQ community?
Barber-Rhone: I came out at the age of 18, and although I was secure in who I was, I was terrified because I was raised southern Baptist and I knew it wouldn’t go over well with my family. I didn’t know of any resources or support systems outside of my close circle of friends. It was a lonely feeling, and I knew that I had to be one of the voices advocating for those who felt like I did or even worse.
In 2013, I really started to take on more of a leadership role within the community. I organized a National Gay Blood Drive in Nashville in 2013 and 2014 and partnered with Nashville CARES for free HIV testing.
Did marriage equality, or lack thereof, play any part in your development?
Barber-Rhone: After 9 years of domestic partnership, in 2012 I married my wife Sondra in Washington, D.C., but when we came back to TN our marriage wasn’t recognized. I almost immediately hyphenated my last name and started experiencing the challenges of having legal documents and identification with names that did not match.
Around this same time, we also started trying to get pregnant, and, after researching, discovered the [extra] legal steps we would have to take depending on which method we chose to get pregnant. Experiencing these challenges and extra expenses because we didn’t have marriage equality motivated me to get involved, and so I attend a rally that the Tennessee Equality Project (TEP) held and met Chris Sanders and became a volunteer for TEP.
I know that the challenges of becoming parents played an increasing role in shaping your work. Can you say a bit more about that?
Barber-Rhone: In 2014 my wife and I started a vlog on YouTube called Two Mom Diaries to document our journey to conceive our son. We had our son in April 2016. We used our journey to help educate other LGBTQ+ couples who were looking to start families. During this time, I also joined the Southern Advisory Board of the Family Equality Council. I began planning annual International Family Equality Day (IFED) celebrations in Nashville. I also partnered with the Family Equality Council to host Pathway to Parenthood family planning seminars here in Nashville.
Where did you go from there?
Barber-Rhone: In 2017 I joined a national community-based sorority for queer women (we accept all women regardless of orientation) called Beta Phi Omega Sorority Incorporated.
And In March 2018 I joined the Human Rights Campaign Nashville Steering Committee and I co-chair the political and digital committees. I continue to volunteer with the TEP and joined the board in July of this year. I have served as a district captain for Advancing Equality on the Hill days each year since I’ve been a volunteer.
Last year, I started my own non-profit called The STAND Movement. We focus on students (making schools safer and more inclusive for LGBTQ+ students, in particular), mental health, gun safety and reform, and voter registration.
What motivated you to join the Warren campaign?
Barber-Rhone: I cried election night in 2016, and I looked at my then-newborn son and promised him I’d do whatever I could in my power to ensure Trump was not re-elected. I had been Team Warren for a while and was watching and hoping she’d announce she was running for President.
When she announced and gave her speech, she spoke to me. I went on Facebook and posted in a group that I wanted to volunteer with the campaign. I met the Middle Tennessee organizer Liv Carter and joined the Nashville for Warren team as a team lead.
I wanted to get more involved and the opportunity arose to interview for the LGBTQ+ community leader position for the All In for Warren platform. We moderate the LGBTQ+ group on the online platform, attend weekly meetings with the campaign, prepare written material detailing Elizabeth Warren’s plans and events and we organize events and recruit volunteers.
Thank you, Dakerri, for all you do, and we look forward to hearing about your work during the long election season!