Chamber Chat with Verniss McFarland III (she/her/they/them), Founder & Executive Director, The Mahogany Project
Chamber Chat with Verniss L. McFarland III (she/her/they/them), Founder & Executive Director, The Mahogany Project.
The Chamber is committed to telling the stories of our members. Chamber Chat is a regular series profiling our members.
In this Chamber Chat, read about one of our Chamber members, Verniss L. McFarland III (she/her/they/them), who is the Founder & Executive Director with The Mahogany Project. The Chamber is proud to call The Mahogany Project one of our nonprofit members!
The Mahogany Project, under Verniss’ leadership, is advocating for TQLGB+ Communities of Color. In fact, the organization, born out of a tragedy, is the first Black trans-led and founded physical space in Houston.
The Chamber is committed to lifting up the mission of our nonprofit members in the community. With this blog, readers will have an opportunity to learn about a remarkable leader who is making a difference in Houston and an organization that is doing critical work for TQLGB+ Communities of Color.
Also, learn some fun facts about Verniss including their first app checked in the morning. (hint: it has to do with shoes.) 🙂👟
Thank you, Verniss, for sharing your insight and story!
Please give us an overview of The Mahogany Project.
The Mahogany Project aims to reduce social isolation, stigma, and acts of injustice in TQLGB+ Communities of Color.
As the Founder, what led you to launch The Mahogany Project?
The death of Chyna Gibson, a Black woman of trans-experience who was shot in New Orleans on February 25. Chyna was a much-loved performer in the pageantry community who was visiting friends and family in New Orleans at the time of her death.
What led you to do the work you do today?
Believe it or not, I’ve always wanted to work in community since with was little kid.
Tell us more about your day-to-day role at The Mahogany Project.
In the day-to-day operations of The Mahogany Project, my roles are to ensure that organization moves a like a well-oiled machine and that the staff and The Mahogany Center is accessible to community. I also work to highlight our work and mission to our sponsors and donors to galvanize critical resources needed to build human suitability.
What does The Mahogany Project have planned for the rest of this year? What about 2023?
The Mahogany Project plans on ending the year strong by producing our 4th Annual Black Trans Empowerment Week (BTEW) Nov.15-21, 2022, and onboarding two new staff members. But no worries, BTEW is an annual event so it will return in 2023 and we’re looking to move the event to a conference-style event.
Additionally, we will continue to host events like Folx-Tales (in observation of Transgender Day of Visibility), We Got Pride (June-July), and provide free quarterly based seminars. This is just a few things; we have some other major plans in the works.
Since The Mahogany Project launched, what has been some of your biggest successes?
Some of the biggest include sustaining a grassroots organization for over five years. However, I think the true success story is founding the first Black trans-led and founded physical space here in Houston. Working nationally with other transgender lead organization and leaders.
What is the one thing you want the community to know about The Mahogany Project?
The Mahogany Project is committed to building a safer and more inclusive Houston for all citizens, while operating as the primary organization for Black trans and gender-diverse individuals.
We are proud to call The Mahogany Project one of our Chamber members. Why is it important that your organization is part of the Greater Houston LGBT Chamber of Commerce?
For us at The Mahogany Project, we joined the Chamber to grow our connection and visibility with Houston area business owners, to increase our community engagement, partnerships, volunteerism, and connect with individuals who are willing to invest in our work.
What has been key to your success as a non-profit leader?
Creating opportunities and resources for Black trans and gender-diverse people here in the greater Houston area.
What’s the best advice you ever received?
Never enter a new space alone, take somebody with you. – Crystal Townsend
Speaking of advice, what advice would you give someone who is trying to navigate the TQLGB+ community in Houston?
Finding your tribe can be a scary and lonely time, however, take your time. Our community offers something for everyone, take your time and explore, find yourself and community will be standing right behind you.
What are the ways that the community can support The Mahogany Project?
The community can support The Mahogany Project by donating human capital at events, during programing, or via direct connection as way to grow the organization sustainability.
Donating to the organization cause(s) and even committing to recurring donations. Attending community opportunities presented by the organization and following our social media accounts. Visit the center!
Now for some fun…ready?!?!
What's your favorite thing to do in HTX when you're not working?
Enjoying the seafood!
Barbeque or Mexican, and where do you go for it?
Native Houstonian or got here as fast as you could and from where?
Native, wouldn’t have it any other way!
First app checked in the morning?
Nike, I like shoes.
Most used app?
Person you FaceTime most often?
Chevelle Brooks, she normally calls me.
Most listened-to track?
Café Du Mount – Tank and The Bangas
Is there anything else you want to mention about The Mahogany Project?
September 20th, marked one year of The Mahogany Center service to the greater Houston area transgender and gender-diverse community.
Learn More about The Mahogany Project