Paul has over 30 years in both nonprofit administration and LGBTQ+ activism and currently serves as the Founding Executive Director of Stonewall Community Development Corporation (Stonewall CDC) since 2015.
Before joining Stonewall CDC, Paul was the Founding Director of Cultural Strategies Initiative Inc. (CSI), established with a major grant from the Rockefeller Cultural Innovation Fund. The mission of this project was to strengthen art’s central role in civic life, in order to enhance cultural, community, and environmental sustainability. Originally envisioned as a two-year project, it operated for four years, with one of its projects, Musicians United to Protect Bristol Bay, lasting six years, and playing a role in helping to defeat the creation of the Pebble Mine in Alaska.
Before that, as Director of Communications & Cultural Policy for NYC Councilmember Alan Gerson (2002-2010), Paul organized the hard-hit cultural community in District 1 and engaged them in crafting strategies to help preserve and revitalize the arts in Lower Manhattan in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. The community-generated plan, Campuses & Corridors, served as the blueprint for a partnership between the Mayor, the Council Speaker and the Councilmember that was very successful in providing targeted capital and programmatic investments to restore the sector.
During that time, Paul also volunteered as the original development director and fundraiser (with several of the same members of the Stonewall CDC founding team) to create the Brooklyn Community Pride Center, which has grown from a small group working out of a donated office space in the Borough President’s office to a thriving organization with two community centers serving the borough.
Paul earned both of his degrees from the Gallatin School at New York University, graduating summa cum laude from the bachelor’s program. He earned his masters’ degree at age 49. An abridged version of his master’s thesis, Room for Creativity – the Role of Artists’ Live/work Space in the New Economy, was published in The International Journal of the Arts in Society.
Sayief Leshaw, a native new Yorker raised in The Bronx, serves as the Program Director for Stonewall Community Development Corporation. He joined the organization in 2015 as an intern, motivated by realizing that the LGBTQ+ older adults that trail blazed for his right to be out were forced to go back into the closet to safely access senior programs service. He continues this work driven by a desire to build a truly inclusive and supportive community.
On behalf of Stonewall CDC he serves on the Bronx Borough President’s LGBTQ+ Policy Task Force, the South Bronx Impact Coalition and as liaison to the Walking While Trans Coalition. Sayief was included as one of Crain’s NY Business Magazine’s “Twenty in their 20s – Class of 2020.” He is also member of the New York chapter of the Habitat Young Professionals (Habitat for Humanity), the Stonewall Quarter Share Board and sits grant committee (Stonewall Community Foundation, former member of the NYTAG Junior Board (New York Transgender Advocacy Group) and former chair of the Dorill Young Professionals (The Dorill Initiative).
Kai Usher (They/Them)
Born and raised in the Bronx, Kai is a Black, queer nonbinary documentarian, visual artist, multifaceted creative, and alumni of The City College of New York (CCNY). Through the combination of their B.A. in history & sociology and self-taught creative endeavors, Kai aspires to employ their passion for the arts, self-entrepreneurship, and community engagement in service of providing another avenue of flourishment for the existence of under-served communities and individuals. Their work and research discusses themes involving the Black queer diaspora, the queer diaspora, art & mental health, the hypocrisy & gatekeeping within academia, the importance of understanding one’s positionality in regards to building community, and more.