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FPWA Hosts Intimate Discussion on Emerging Nonprofit Leadership featuring Brian Silva, Executive Director of Marriage Equality USA, and Moderated by New York Times Reporter Nikita Stewart

Press Release – (New York, NY) – The Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies (FPWA) convened its Personally Speaking speaker series on Wednesday, September 28, bringing Brian Silva, Executive Director of Marriage Equality USA (MEUSA), together with New York Times reporter Nikita Stewart and FPWA CEO Jennifer Jones Austin, for an intimate discussion on nonprofit leadership and building a platform around social justice issues.

FPWA’s Personally Speaking series, Sponsored by American Express, features prominent leaders who help to shape the nonprofit, philanthropic, civic and business sectors in New York City. This installment focused on Brian Silva, his journey to nonprofit leadership, and the fight for marriage equality.

Jennifer Jones Austin, CEO and Executive Director of FPWA kicked off the evening with welcoming remarks and shared FPWA’s goal for the evening to bring leaders and social activists to the forefront that have had a tremendous role in helping to shape and transform the city on important issues.

Attendees were engaged with an insightful conversation centered on nonprofit leadership, personal and professional challenges, LGBTQ discrimination today, and what’s next for MEUSA. Mr. Silva told his personal journey of becoming a leader, which began when he started a charity in high school for people living with HIV/AIDS. “My strong foundation for social justice came from this and it had a huge impact on me as a leader,” Mr. Silva said. He shared how he began phone banking in 2008 when Proposition 8 came to the fore, an experience which led him to volunteer at Marriage Equality New York. “We couldn’t win this as LGBTQ people. On a good day, we’re 10 percent of the population. We have to put ourselves out there and get people to know who we are. And every community has to do that. That’s why advocacy is so important. We have to step out and walk to you and then walk with you back over to where we want to start.”

Nikita Stewart artfully led the conversation and asked Mr. Silva about his role in getting Marriage Equality in New York on a national stage and the path he took to become a leader on this issue. She asked him about tactics he used and what he would have done differently. Mr. Silva believes it took losing many anti-marriage battles to make him stop and put some thought into what they were doing wrong. “We learned we had to invest money in testing advocacy with all communities because different messages resonated in different communities,” he said.

About FPWA

The Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies (FPWA) is an anti-poverty, policy, and advocacy nonprofit with a membership network of nearly 200 human-service and faith-based organizations. FPWA has been a prominent force in New York City’s social services system for more than 92 years, advocating for fair public policies, collaborating with partner agencies, and growing its community-based membership network to meet the needs of New Yorkers. Each year, through its network of member agencies, FPWA reaches close to 1.5 million New Yorkers of all ages, ethnicities, and denominations. FPWA strives to build a city of equal opportunity that reduces poverty, promotes upward mobility, and creates shared prosperity for all New Yorkers. Visit us at and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

About Brian Silva

Brian brings to Marriage Equality USA his experience leading other large, volunteer-driven organizations including the International Association of Emergency Managers – Student Council, a global organization comprised of 1400 members, plus chapters. He helped to lead and grow those groups, focusing on how to balance vision, strategy and tactics while supporting the volunteers that truly make the work successful. A passionate leader with a core commitment to diversity and the value of each individual, Brian has a steadfast dedication to LGBTQ equality, to non-profit work, and to collaboration with other organizations. Please visit Brian at

About Nikita Stewart

Nikita Stewart is a reporter at The New York Times where she covers social services with a focus on New York City Hall. Ms. Stewart has spent much of her career focused on local politics as a reporter previously at The Washington Post and The Star-Ledger in New Jersey. She has won several awards from state journalism associations and Investigative Reporters & Editors and was a Livingston Award finalist for a feature story on Cory Booker when he was an up-and-coming politician. She lives in Manhattan. You can find Nikita’s work at

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