Boston Spirit’s Top 25 LGBT Power Players of New England for 2015

Power Player 2015 CherryElyse Cherry
CEO, Boston Community Capital
According to Elyse Cherry, members of the LGBTQ community often have a different relationship to the larger world than straight friends and allies. She reminds that circumstances that others take for granted—the ability to be open about our lives and our relationships, for example—historically were not available to us.
“As a result, many of us have developed a unique perspective, an independence of thought and an openness to and respect for difference, that allows us to accept and contribute to diversity of views in the workplace and in the larger world,” she says. “By promoting and pushing for a culture respectful of that diversity, I’m able not only to advance issues of particular importance to the LGBTQ community but also to strengthen the larger overall community in which we participate. And that benefits everyone.”
Talk about a unique perspective and a body of work to match. Cherry, an attorney and a former partner at the law firm of Hale, now serves as Chief Executive Officer of Boston Community Capital, and President of its affiliates, Boston Venture Fund, Aura Mortgage Advisors and NSP Residential. There, she leads a national tax credit program, a mortgage brokerage, a mortgage lender aimed at stabilizing urban neighborhoods, a real estate acquisition entity, and an alternative energy initiative focused on controlling utility costs in multi-family affordable housing developments.
Her spare time work on marriage equality as well as other LGBT and women’s issues has not gone unnoticed. This year alone she picked up the Susan M. Love Award from Fenway Health in recognition of her commitment to championing LGBT concerns in healthcare and was placed on the UK-based network OUTstanding’s international “Top 100 LGBT Business Leaders” list for her work to promote LGBT equality in the workplace.
“Fortunately, I am happiest when I stand with a foot in many worlds, at the intersection of many communities, in the traffic of ideas,” says Cherry. “But no matter where I stand, the goal is always the same—to help build the world we want, to pursue economic, social and political justice not just for LGBTQ people but for everyone, to further the ideals of justice and the public good rather than to be subject to someone else’s idea of a less inclusive world.”
Power Player 2015 ChestnutWendell Chestnut
Senior Vice President, Bank of America Merrill Lynch
Wendell Chestnut could be a professional glass ceiling crasher for all we know! After all, as an openly gay African American leader of in the world of finance, he’s a rare figure of prominence having served as a senior Vice President in various functions at Bank of America for nearly 15 years at Bank Of America.
But, his influence never stopped there. In fact, to review his resume is like absorbing a what’s what of finance and LGBT organizations (and often where those two roads meet in the form of internal inclusion programs)—and Chestnut is most often much more than just a member. A sample? How about Co-Founder of the Pride in Our Workplace LGBT Network organization from 2007 to the present; Board of Overseers Member for Beth Israel Hospital, serving on the Finance Committee from 2007 to 2010; Co-Chair of the Bank of America Northeast Executive Council from 2009 to 2010; and Board of Directors’ Member for GLSEN-Boston from 2004 to 2008.
“Having power means that I have a chance to give all LGBT individuals a ‘voice’ and ‘power’ so they can achieve any goal that they set their minds to without feeling or fearing that sexual orientation matters to their success,” he says. “My responsibility is to listen and make sure that I pass on the message(s) that I have learned from those leaders before me, but I also take the messages that I hear from the LGBT community and share with the hope that they are thought about and built off of by those who I came in contact with in the community.”