Richard Stevens is a progressive thinker who hails from Hampton Roads, Virginia. A Tide Water Community College graduate, he is currently working on an additional degree in Business Administration.
Stevens relocated to the Charlotte area in the midst of the COVID Pandemic. Initially landing in Charlotte’s NoDa area, this multi-talented community member has the mind of a mathematician and the soul of a philanthropist; skill sets he willingly puts to use in his efforts to assist and empower the LGBTQ+ community.
During a chat with Stevens, Qnotes learned more about Stevens, his motivation and his dreams for a future we all hope will be brighter and more equitable.
L’Monique King: How are you finding Charlotte?
Richard Stevens: We actually moved here during the summer of the pandemic. We moved when Charlotte was asleep. Now that Charlotte is awake [post pandemic] my commute to work is much longer – but I love Charlotte.
LMK: I bet! NoDa is an awesome neighborhood.
RS: Yes, it is. We originally moved to NoDa but now I live in Steele Creek. The primary reason [for our move from NoDa] was that we wanted a sense of home. In NoDa we were always on the go. We also wanted to give our dogs their own space, a yard.
LMK: Who is we? Who are you referring to when you say we?
RS: My partner and I. We’ve been together for almost eight years.
LMK: You sound happy. What pleases you about your relationship?
RS: The biggest thing for me, is he loves me for me. I’ve never experienced someone, [a partner] who genuinely cares and communicates that caring so well.
LMK: What about family? Do you have any siblings?
RS: Yes, my mom had two children – I have a sister. I’m the oldest, the original, the best. <bursting into laughter> just kidding, just kidding. My sister is six years younger than me. When we were younger, we were like oil and water. But now, she’s one of my best allies, best friends and she’s always supported me. My sister is awesome! I think especially this year, she has truly been one of my rocks, kept me going. When I think about what gets me out of bed in the morning, my purpose, my sister cheering me on is a big motivator.
LMK: Glad to hear it. We can use all the support we can get while life can often be quite challenging. What do you do for a living?
RS: I work in finance. I’m a branch leader for Truist Bank.
LMK: What led you to the field of finance?
RS: I’ve done many things. I used to work as a jack of all trades, doing work as a mechanic, an auto parts sales person and I worked in retail as well. I had a friend who said I was good at listening to people and determining their needs. The ability to help my clients succeed financially is what ultimately led me to the field. Helping others is what’s most fulfilling for me. Outside of work in the financial arena, I do a lot in LGBTQ spaces.
LMK: Would you mind sharing a little financial advice with our readers? What’s the number one thing you’d like people to know when it comes to personal finance?
RS: A lot of people believe that the CashApps and Chimes are real banks, when in actuality they may make it harder for you to advance financially. A lot of the transactions that your checking and savings account can do, your finance Apps can’t. What you need to think about is how the bank is going to scale your business. Are the products and services limiting? Will you be provided with services that you need to grow?
LMK: What would you say is the biggest financial management mistake most people make?
RS: Thinking that paying utility bills will help your credit. Paying your electric bill on time doesn’t help your credit or get you a pat on the back. The only time it’s reported to your credit is when you’re delinquent. What does help is having a good relationship with the banker of your choice at a financial institution you trust. Having a good relationship means trusting the information you’re given and being vocal enough to ask for help and solutions.
LMK: What about building business credit? Do the same rules apply?
RS: When you’re a small business owner looking to get credit under your business name, know that banks see you as the guarantor. They want to make sure they get their money back and that you’re not put in a situation that can cause you [financial] harm. Until your business gets to the point where it can basically run itself, your business credit will be attached to your personal credit. So, work on building your personal credit first and seek financial guidance from your banker or a reputable financial organization [on eventually building business credit independent of your personal credit].
LMK: You mentioned earlier that you are active in LGBTQ spaces. Tell us a little about that.
RS: I’m pretty vocal and often share my stories about growing up in southern Baptist spaces, as an African American Gay Male. It’s about people hearing it and thinking, “If he can do it, I can do it.” We all have our own coming out stories, but I want us to get to a point where we don’t have to do that. I’d like to see us at a point in time where you don’t have to come out, where you can just be your best authentic self, living freely each and every day. So, if sharing my past traumas, my stories, helps someone else, I don’t mind sharing my story at all.
LMK: Any thoughts on the current legislation impacting the LGBTQ+ community?
RS: The first thought that comes to mind is, my grandmother always told us (particularly when Obama was in office), “We fought hard, at the polls, in community centers of influence, in churches, at nonprofits to get to where we are today, so you don’t have to fight.” Well, in the last year or so, I’ve said to her and my mother, “Looking at the state of our community and country right now, we have to fight.” It’s almost as if we’ve stepped back several years. To be quite honest it’s very scary to think about – to just exist. The [U.S.] Supreme Court is literally ripping away our rights as we know them.
LMK: What does ‘we have to fight’ mean to you?
RS: That we can’t sit by idly, twiddling our fingers. We’ve got to call it out as we see it, the oppression, the draconian tactics, all of it.
LMK: With so much going on in the world to be concerned about, what makes you smile?
RS: Hmmmm, there’s a lot. I’m a big joker. I use a lot of humor to defuse a lot of things. My family, my partner, my dogs, my friends and the relationships I’ve built – they make me smile. But mostly, progress. I think back to 2015 when gay marriage became legal across the board – I was at my happiest.
LMK: When you find time to relax, how do you spend it?
RS: You could say I’m a bit of a gamer. I love Grand Theft Auto. It’s a horrible game where you get to do all the things you can’t do in real life. I also like games like Uncharted, an all-time favorite, and Jedi Survivor. Between relaxing, gaming and watching television [shows like Game of Thrones and The Originals), another thing I love doing is playing with our dogs, getting them all excited and riled up. It drives my partner crazy, in the biggest way. <Chuckling>
LMK: Fast forwarding, what do you imagine life will be like for you 20 years from now?
RS: Oh Chile! Twenty years from now I’d like to see myself living my purpose in my community. I’d like to start a nonprofit that serves the LGBT community, assisting people in using their gifts and feeling comfortable with who they are.
LMK: Sounds wonderful. Our community can always use greater support in navigating our journeys of identity and self-esteem. If you could offer any words of advice to the LGBTQ+ youth community, what would you say?
RS: You matter! I wish I could say growing up gay is easy, it’s not. Especially with everything that’s going on now, especially with the laws specifically targeting and attacking us. It can make you feel like you don’t matter. Like you don’t deserve to exist, but you do. You have every reason to be here, and you matter.