Approximately 13 percent of the city’s population is Black, according to the most recent census. That amounts to approximately 1.2 million Black people, or roughly 70 percent of the country’s enslaved population. Like today’s young Black leaders who blazed the way for us as “leaders” our ancestors must not be forgotten. I learned first-hand from my grandparents, aunts and uncles how the past keeps its hold on Black Americans, and how today’s challenges can and will be overcome with the support of our strong communities.
While I was developing a solution to end black-on-black crime for the sake of our children, it was clear that I was fighting the wrong battle. African Americans are more likely to suffer violence than whites, because we have fewer resources.
The Richmond community could not allow my demographic study to ignore this reality; it would have been off-putting. What better cause than to uplift the impact of the history that surrounds us? I sought to address these problems through deep in-depth research while simultaneously seeking to empower communities through the natural and organic move toward change. My goal is to educate, empower and entertain our children. I intend to change the perception of what it means to live in Richmond, and I take pride in seeing our future generations grow up feeling great about who they are and where they come from.
Ironically, some of my community members are uncomfortable with a dual-role, where I have to be both an educator and a true activist. While serving as the executive director of the Capital Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, I also serve as a registered nurse by day, but feel compelled to be an inspiration to children after hours. I use this time to take stock of our unique history in addition to sharing my knowledge of scientific sciences such as infectious diseases, virology, microbiology, neurology, physical chemistry, neurobiology, pediatric medicine, infectious disease, and behavioral sciences.
Moreover, I’m a school board member in Richmond; a letter writer of a recent op-ed suggested the NAACP should not be on the Richmond school board. This push was precipitated by Black leader Ira Meir’s July article on race in the city.
I have enjoyed the year-long run of “Second Line for History,” and have received notes and calls from national media stating that I “deserve” a book deal. Right now, I am hoping the next step would be to offer an educational book to communities throughout America, and help our children better understand what it means to be African American. I envision both a history teacher’s toolkit and a text for parents who want their children to feel pride in their histories. I further believe that this work needs to be completed by African Americans within the community, not by outsiders.
My ultimate goal is to see Richmond’s history and culture incorporated into our schools, while at the same time continuing my healthcare career with a study abroad program available for high school and undergraduate students that will most likely serve students in their own community. I fully believe that when we reconnect our communities with the past, we will move forward into a brighter future with more economic opportunity and a better understanding of who we are as Americans. Our history in Richmond does not detract from our future, it brings us closer.
Preserving Richmond’s rich history through grassroots-based events has already resulted in 2.5 million visitors having an unforgettable Richmond experience that was like no other on the East Coast, and at the same time provided economic opportunity for my community. Richmond is not in crisis, but I am striving to move our community forward to become a more people-centered and equitable place to live. Now that I have a solid foundation for my plan, I invite others to join in with a tour of Richmond’s history. We need it as a community to continue building and re-building our future.
Black history focuses on Virginia, teaching students its power