I live in an amazing city. Richmond — a city I still haven’t completely explored. Most of the last 2 years I’ve been away from it at school…but now since I’ve returned, I’m meeting my roots all over again. But deeper. And better.
I guess, sometimes the longer you’re away from yourself and what makes you you, the better you know yourself when you come back to her.
So go lose yourself for a while…let the reward be finding yourself all over again.
In reference to African-American life and struggle, we hear people say things like “we’ve come a long way” and “times have changed.” Both statements are true – enormous strides have been made and great progress has resulted; however, we are still nowhere near where we need to be.
Racial profiling is virulent – in stores, in schools, on the streets and virtually everywhere else. Wealth and education disparities between African-Americans and other racial groups continue to widen, with African-Americans often lagging behind. Within the black community itself, a fair amount of negativity and distraction still chips away at the unity and collectiveness the ones before us fought so hard to create and promote in the first place.
To put it simply, the fight for our betterment is not over.
But this isn’t one of those ‘we’re not doing enough, so I’m going to complain about what we’re missing in the black community’ posts. I want to take this time to acknowledge the work that IS being done.
I live in Richmond, Virginia – statistics label it one of the worst cities in the nation for high crime and poverty rates, among other things. At the same time, Richmond, Virginia is where activists, artists, entrepreneurs, community organizers and other trailblazers who work to better the black community call home.
Yesterday, I had the first meet-up for my newest project called the RVA Black Image Collective. My mission for the Collective is to provide a forum for people to come together and talk about issues concerning Richmond’s black community in hopes that it will inspire and motivate us all in the work we do (or want to do) in the community. This month’s topic was the state of black youth in RVA. The meet-up couldn’t have gone any better. Some people at the meet-up organize yearly school supply and coat drives and others collect clothes for children in need all year around. Others are working in Richmond City schools and are fighting to serve the needs of each and every child in their classes, despite the constraints of the system and its curriculum. And yet, there were others who are working to make a difference using a political approach. And then there were those who choose to make a difference on a smaller, individual scale – from taking a child under their wing with an incarcerated parent to stopping a child in the street walking around in 20 degree weather just to zip his coat up.
The work is being done. We’ve got the ball rolling.
No matter how big or how small it may be, the work we do to improve our conditions is NEVER in vain. Any and everything matters. And it matters to acknowledge this right now, during the month of February, to further highlight the NEED for our work all year around, not just during 28 days in the winter.
In all honestly, this work commemorates the ones before us more than anything else could. They always did the work. They led. They toiled. They screamed. They whispered. They taught. They organized. They fought. They resisted. They stayed up late. They woke up early. They stayed in their hometown. They traveled the world. They raised their voices. They gave others a voice.
They kept their word. And in the work we do, we’re keeping their word, too.
In the summer of 1958, 57 distinguished jazz musician assembled in Harlem to take a picture in front of a brownstone in Harlem. The picture is very symbolic and has gone down in history as a major icon in jazz music. In the fall of 2014, a group of entrepreneurs, artists, writers, activists and other community leaders were called to take a photograph in front of the Black History Museum and Cultural Center in Richmond, Virginia to commemorate the original photo taken in Harlem back in 1958. It wasn’t only a call to take a photograph, it was also an ode to the trailblazers before us and affirmation for the folks working in the trenches of Richmond, trying to make the city a better place for us all. I am very humbled that I was invited to take part in this, as it will not only go down in history, but it will also serve as motivation for us all now and for our descendants in the future.
top: original 1958 photo, bottom: 2014 RVA replication
I’m so excited to feature Cheleah Jackson as a “Successful Sistah” at theBlackertheBerry.org! Jackson, a graduate student studying counselor education, feels that the greatest ill black children in Richmond face is the fact that many grow up not knowing their identity. “Not knowing who they are and what type of people they come from,” she explains. Through her hands-on work with Richmond’s youth, she looks to provide the affirmation needed to find one’s identity — the same affirmation her schooling experience failed to provide for her. Read more about Cheleah Jackson here.
Richmond: Looking for an upscale venue for your Friday night? Upscale Fridays at Infuzion is the move. Starting Friday, August 1st at Infuzion! Hosted by my cousin Tre’Realz and Ezzy J with music by PoloBrown. See the flyer below for more details.