The Making of a Unique Recipe

It started with Sunday brunches at Suja’s house. We looked forward to her French toast and Moroccan lamb merguez ragout...mmm, a favorite! Food is magical. It's universal. It brings people together no matter where you're from, what language you speak, or what religion you practice. You know what else does too? A passion to make a difference.

We were leaders and advocates from the Asian and Latino communities here in the Commonwealth, yet we continued to face common challenges, such as the lack of equitable representation and access to resources. By working together, we believed we could be stronger so several of us formed the Asian & Latino Solidarity Alliance (ALSA). Our mission is to advance the common objectives impacting the Asian and Latino communities in Central Virginia; one of which is to empower and advocate for current and future leaders.

Modeled after a Nashville program, inspired by Leadership Metro Richmond’s (LMR) Quest program, and spearheaded by Eric Lin (LMR ‘06), we launched our My Academy Programs last month. These orientation programs, the first of their kind in the Commonwealth of Virginia, were developed in partnership with Henrico and Chesterfield counties to help new Virginians,
particularly those from multicultural immigrant communities, understand how to navigate their local government resources.

Over 40 participants from over a dozen different racial and ethnic backgrounds make up the inaugural classes of My Henrico Academy (MHA) and My Chesterfield Academy (MCA). Over the course of the 7-month programs, our goal is for participants to learn about the resources and contacts available to them and take this knowledge back to their families and
communities. Thus, giving immigrant communities every opportunity to be self-reliant, knowledgeable, and actively engaged.

To that end, we want Academy graduates to engage and give back...be stronger community leaders and advocates to not only enhance their own well-being but that of their communities. We will unite both classes after graduation to create a network with which graduates can look to each other for help and opportunities, cultivate relationships, and identify and address common concerns. We can be stronger together!

That's the recipe. That's the story...the impact of LMR inspires servant leadership and encourage collaboration to better our communities.

ALSA Board of Directors

  • Suja Amir (LMR '20), Secretary, MHA Participant
  • Gustavo Angeles, Director
  • Angela Chiang (LMR '10), Treasurer, MHA and MCA Participant
  • Eric Lin (LMR '06), Community Engagement Director, MHA and MCA Participant
  • Vicki Mirandah (LMR '13), Director and MHA Participant
  • May Nivar (LMR '17), Chair and MCA Participant
  • Aida Pacheco, Community Engagement Director
  • Carmen B. Williams, Director

LMR Graduates Supporting MCA

  • Joe Casey (LMR '00), County Administrator
  • Chris Winslow (LMR '17), County Board Supervisor (Clover Hill District) and Session 1 Speaker
  • Chinsuk Henshaw (LMR '10), MCA Participant

LMR Graduates Supporting MHA

  • John Vithoulkas (LMR '03), County Manager
  • Paula Reid (LMR '07) County Human Resources

May Nivar
Regulatory Affairs, Altria
Class of 2017

Remembering RVA Sheroes

March is Women's History Month, an annual declared month that highlights the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society. Throughout my lifetime, I have had the pleasure to meet and talk with remarkable women whose contributions are known nationally.  Amongst them is Dr. Johnnetta Cole, whom I first met in 1993 at a luncheon in Richmond, followed by encounters at United Way Worldwide, where she was the first African America Board Chair.  At that time, Dr. Cole, a respected anthropologist and educator, was the President of Spelman College and had just released her new book, Conversations: Straight Talk with America’s Sister President.  Her keynote focused on her book which “speaks to America’s Black women, calling out to them to take an active role – as she is doing – to help make our world a better place.” During her comments she gave examples of women that have made great strives to create positive impact in the lives of others.  She called them “Sheroes”, women that are admired or idealized for their courage, outstanding achievements or noble qualities. That was the first time I had heard the term.

There are many national sheroes that are remembered fondly for the impact they have made, but we do not have to look far outside of RVA to embrace the memories of local women who touched the lives of many.  In recognition of Women’s History Month, I remember two local sheroes whom I have known for years and marveled on how they worked unselfishly for their neighbors. The late Barbara Abernathy (LMR ’06) battled for the survival of the Carver community and the late Yvonne Spain (LMR ’90) fought for the betterment of the Swansboro community. Both from humble beginnings, stood tall and spoke what needed to be said.  They were disrupters in the name of service. Barbara and Yvonne have been gone in less than a year.  They will be greatly missed and their absence begs the question, who will be the future sheroes of Carver and Swansboro?  What examples to follow and shoes to fill.

Myra Goodman Smith
President & CEO, Leadership Metro Richmond
LMR Class of 2006

**Please note that on April 13, 2019, the 100 block of Larne Avenue in the Swansboro community, will be honorarily named on behalf of the late Yvonne Spain.

 

Leading Though This

Conversations fill the air and air waves with stories about the top leadership of the Commonwealth of Virginia.   The responses, opinions and feelings of our region’s community leaders are as diverse as Leadership Metro Richmond’s network.  As an organization that supports the development of community leaders, we will not attempt to tell you what to think or how to respond to the current news surrounding our state’s leadership.  Instead we want to provide you with a few thoughts on how you, as a leader, can serve by modeling the way going forward.

At Leadership Metro Richmond, our development of community leaders is based on the principles of servant leadership.  Leaders that serve focus on the needs of others first.  Leaders that serve listen first. Your opinions and feelings may not align with those around you, yet as a leader, we must tap into that and seek understanding.   Emotions are high and listening ears alongside open hearts are imperative.

Leaders that serve always empathize.  We are simply asking you to consider what those involved are going through at this time. Empathy does not eliminate accountability, but it allows us to project our own consciousness into another person.  It provides us with clearer focus on what matters most.

In these challenging times we must build and rebuild trust among our community leadership.  Trust comes through communication.  Consider the servant leader examples we will set by the way we talk, act, decide and interact with one another[i] in the days to come.  As we continue to construct our opinions and responses, let us listen to various perspectives with ears of empathy.  The world is watching and the way in which we move forward matters.

Myra Goodman Smith
President & CEO, Leadership Metro Richmond
LMR Class of 2006

&

Patricia Bradby
Director of Communications and Programs, Leadership Metro Richmond
LMR Class of 2019

[i] Civic Engagement and Economic Development, The ECDI Blog,  Joseph Sumner, Ph.D.

A Refreshing Perspective

The Lora M. Robins Speaker Series is an event I look forward to each year, especially this year’s session on “The Crisis of Urban Education” featuring Dr. Chris Emdin. Charged with leading the Virginia Department of Education’s efforts aimed at advancing equity, closing achievement gaps, and decreasing disproportionality in student outcomes – I was intrigued to hear from the professor who wrote the book For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood... and the Rest of Y'all Too: Reality Pedagogy and Urban Education. In my work at the VDOE, we had recently received recommendations from The Taskforce to Diversify Virginia’s Educator Pipeline and held a statewide convening on minority teacher recruitment.

The timing was perfect. What could we learn from Dr. Emdin about delivering engaging and culturally relevant instruction that supports learning and success for students of color? All I can say is – I. Was. Not. Ready! Dr. Emdin was a refreshing perspective. His remarks were compelling, honest, inspirational, and provocative. Chris challenged our traditional thinking about teaching, and student learning. Reality Pedagogy needed a larger audience – and I knew just the forum.

We were in the early stages of planning a statewide conference on equity. I knew that we needed to incorporate Reality Pedagogy into our convening. LMR and the Robins Foundation were instrumental in making the connection that allowed us to secure Dr. Emdin as a keynote for the inaugural Virginia is for All Learners: Education Equity Summer Institute – a convening of more than 500 educators from across the Commonwealth. Our overarching goal was to explore the implications of institutional racism in public education and raise state discourse around policy and practices that positively affect equity outcomes for Virginia’s public school students (K-12). Our conference focused on public policies influencing equitable outcomes for students; how social-emotional learning and trauma-informed care are essential strategies to addressing achievement gaps; and finally, how educator preparation programs must engage in the equity conversation to affect student outcomes across the state.

I was so excited to bring Dr. Emdin to our conference where he was able to share his research and pedagogical practice with educators and education leaders from across the state. Chris made quite the impression on our conference attendees who shared their enthusiasm for #HipHopEd and #EdEquityVA all over social media. Many superintendents and school division leaders expressed appreciation.

While our work to advance education equity across the state continues, we have a new spark in our step thanks to Chris’ thoughtful keynote and ongoing support of our work. Kudos to LMR and Robins Foundation for bringing this outstanding scholar and practitioner to our attention!

Leah Dozier Walker, MPA
Director, Office of Equity and Engagement
Division of School Quality, Equity, and Instruction
Virginia Department of Education

From Immersion to Action

Maggie Walker Community Land Trust as a Solution to Neighborhood Gentrification

Many LMR Quest alumni no doubt recall that initial seminar day when participants first broke out into their “immersion groups” to analyze and report on a topic of general interest to the region.  Confronted with such broad subjects as “transportation” or “housing”, the first step was narrowing to something manageable.  As wet-behind-the-ears members of the (best!) Class of 2016, our group tackled the housing topic by drilling down on a very specific but innovative solution being brought to bear on the expansive affordable housing challenge our region faced.  The specific challenge was gentrification, i.e. the pricing out of existing residents due to rising home values, and the potential solution was the use of a “community land trust.”  Here, we figured, was something innovative worth spotlighting to our classmates.  We never could have predicted how quickly this nascent idea would blossom into one of the region’s most potent tools for affordable homebuying!

Since the last census, many neighborhoods across RVA have undergone growth and revitalization.  While this is good news, it can produce the side effect of placing an increased burden on existing residents.  Our rising rents and home purchase prices have decreased the supply of affordable housing, which is struggling to keep pace.  In the context of homebuying, a common affordability solution is to provide grants or forgivable/low-interest loans.  One limitation to this approach is that the benefit must be replicated each time a property changes hands, as there is no longer-term protection to preserve affordability, or more importantly, to prevent displacement.

The concept of a community land trust takes a different approach.  The CLT is typically a non-profit that acquires land and either constructs or rehabilitates homes in neighborhoods confronting a dramatic rise in property values.  When a CLT home is “sold” to a qualifying homebuyer for an affordable price, the CLT retains ownership of the land and imposes restrictions on the future sale of the property, including a resale formula that ensures future affordability on each successive sale.  This ensures that the benefit of the affordability is passed on into the future.

Around the same time as our Quest immersion research in 2016, a group of affordable housing thought-leaders convened to explore a possible CLT in RVA.  This effort stemmed in part from the seminal 2015 Housing the Richmond Region Report by the Partnership for Housing Affordability, closely affiliated with the Richmond Association of Realtors and its CEO, Laura Lafayette.  This group leveraged the expertise and commitment of pillars in the non-profit affordable housing community such as Metropolitan Richmond Habitat for Humanity, project:HOMES, and others, to strategize how to implement a CLT for this region.  Soon the Maggie Walker Community Land Trust was born!

What began as a glimmer of an idea has over time become an important tool in the effort to preserve affordability in neighborhoods undergoing acute home value appreciation.  The organization started small, beginning with the acquisition of a single parcel and groundbreaking on its construction of a new home in Church Hill on June 5, 2017.  Today, the MWCLT expects to acquire over fifty properties a year for the next several years.  There are several essential ingredients to the immediate success of the organization.

  • Controlling Acquisition/Construction Costs. For the model to succeed, the CLT must have an inexpensive means of acquiring land and constructing or rehabilitating residences.  Thanks to a partnership with the City of Richmond, the MWCLT has been designated as a land bank for the City’s formerly tax delinquent and City-owned vacant properties, offering an important pipeline of properties without the burden of significant acquisition costs.  This innovate approach marks the first combined CLT and land bank in the nation.  Likewise, partnerships with Habitat and Project:HOMES provide an affordable means of securing quality rehabilitation and construction on these parcels.
  • Funding Partners. Private partners such as the Virginia Credit Union and Bon Secours have provided essential support in the form of unrestricted operating funds to facilitate the acquisitions and construction, as well as other support.  Over the long term, cultivating a dedicated group of corporate and individual support will remain critical.
  • Professional Expertise. Since its inception, the MWCLT has relied upon the indispensable strategic guidance of HDAdvisors, its president, Bob Adams, and his team, who have set the organization on a path for sustainability.  Similarly, the MWCLT brought on Nikki D’Amado-Damery to serve as Community Coordinator, with an office located in Church Hill, one of the organization’s priority neighborhoods.

While our immersion group cannot claim any special impact on the MWCLT’s early efforts, our goal was to illuminate to our peers the depth of the gentrification challenge and the unrealized potential we saw in the CLT model.  The implementation of that model, which has expanded from Church Hill to Randolph to even 9 homes in Chesterfield, offers a compelling solution to a vexing problem facing many in our community.  While much remains to be done, the MWCLT and its partners deserve to be recognized as innovative leaders in the fight to preserve housing affordability in greater Richmond.

For more information about the Maggie Walker Community Land Trust, please visit their website at maggiewalkerclt.org.

Preston Lloyd, Williams Mullen
Class of 2016

Learnings from RVA Leaders

I am often teased about having a large network, that I know “everyone”. That is extreme, yet my life long adventures and engagements in RVA have yielded me linkages that are wide and diverse. The individuals, the leaders that I encountered over four decades in RVA provided me with my own personal leadership lab. I cannot remember all of the conversations I had with community leaders, but I do remember how they impacted me and the lessons learned from their actions and interactions. The following is one of many stories from my leadership lab.

ALMA MARIE

In 1977, I had the unique experience to engage with the new leaders in Richmond history. I was the intern for newly elected Councilwomen for the 8th district Claudette Black McDaniel and 3rd district Willie Dell, the first black female councilwoman. At that time, as a seventeen-year-old, I did not realize I was in the midst of history.

One of my roles as an intern was to attend council meetings. I would sit in the audience, chat with residents and take notes for the Councilwomen. At one meeting, I met Mrs. Alma Marie Barlow. As a resident of Fairfield Court, she saw an opportunity to bring about change and created the Richmond Tenants Association, giving a heighten and collective voice for residents living in public housing. On numerous occasions, she spoke during the council’s public comment period. Mrs. Barlow had a posture of confidence and influence as she shared with city council the needs of residents. As a teenager, I was shocked and disappointed to hear the whispers of leaders in the audience making comments, not on what she was saying, but how she was saying it. They focused more on the delivery of her message rather than the message itself. Did they not think what she had to say was important? Did their biases cause them to miss an opportunity to gain new knowledge and/or perspectives different than their own?

Four years later, while working on my degree in planning at VCU, I wrote a paper on public housing in Richmond. I wanted to include the voices of the tenants. I called Mrs. Barlow and she invited me into her home. We sat in her living room and talked for a few hours. I cannot say exactly what she said, but I remember feeling that the residents had a leader that believed in their community. I do remember being interrupted often by knocks on the door by neighbors who needed to talk to Mrs. Barlow. It was a visit that I think of often.

Mrs. Barlow touched many lives, she made a difference beyond the tenants of the public housing “courts”. In an interview with VA Lawyers Weekly, Henry McLaughlin, former CEO of Central Virginia Legal Aid Society was asked, “Who was your most important mentor and how did he/she impact your career?” He answered “Alma Marie Barlow, executive president of the Richmond Tenants (Association). She taught me that differences are important and should be respected, but that those things that bring us together are more important. She changed the way I’ve interacted with clients.”

After many years of speaking for and working for the rights of residents, Mrs. Barlow died in 1993. I am proud to say that she was a member of the Leadership Metro Richmond Class of 1990. Her work in RVA was recognized, including being named to the first class of the YWCA Outstanding Women Award recipients, just three years after creating the Tenants Association.

Upon her death, the Virginia General Assembly agreed in a House Joint Resolution that “Whereas , never one to suffer injustice silently, Alma Barlow rose to prominence as the head of the tenants association and became an exceptional influential and respected advocate for the rights of the less fortunate and Whereas, her rise from humble beginnings gave proof, in the words of Governor Wilder, to the notion that a person’s ability to bring about meaningful change is not dictated by personal wealth or status in life, but by a genuine concern for the common good”

I am glad I was listening, not whispering. I would have missed history!

Myra Goodman Smith
LMR President & CEO
LMR Class of 2006

It’s Time for a New Word

As we begin 2018, we will hear announcements from Oxford Dictionary, Merriam-Webster and other credible sources about the most important word from 2017.  We do not have agreement among the experts as to the ultimate word of the year; however, reviewing the top words on their respective lists does remind us about the tone of our society, both nationally and globally, during the past year.

Locally, a small group of leaders in the nonprofit and public sectors spent some time talking about words last year too:  words that we habitually use in speeches, meetings and grant applications.  More specifically, the words and terminology we use to describe the people who we help.   We challenged ourselves about the tone and messages relayed by the use of certain words.  The conversations were uncomfortable, yet necessary.  We all agreed that it is time for a new word.

In an era where we are intentional about highlighting the assets of all members of our community, it feels antiquated to refer to large segments of our community as disadvantaged or underprivileged.  Although those terms might have been appropriately descriptive at some point in the past, we now have a more evolved understanding of the damage that can be caused to the psyche of a child, or even an adult, by labeling them as “less than” or “under” the rest of us.  We need to find more respectful terminology.

I made up my own litmus test to confirm that it is time to retire those words from my vocabulary.  I imagine standing in front of a room facing a crowd of people who need the services that I have to offer. Then I assess if I would feel any discomfort, or if I would think that I sounded condescending, if I looked them in their eyes and called them disadvantaged or underprivileged.  I realized that I would not be able to call them by either word to their faces.  Therefore, I will not do it behind their backs.  I am now trying to use phrases like “children with untapped potential” or “individuals who are struggling financially.”  Yes, these are more words, but they pass my litmus test.

I encourage LMR members and all of our community leaders to be mindful of your word choice.  I am hopeful that the local conversations about changing the words we use to describe the people we help will continue and broaden to include more community leaders in 2018.  The time is right.

Reggie Gordon
LMR Class of 2002

Data Makes a Difference

Just prior to Thanksgiving I led the Homeward staff in hosting our 11th annual Project Homeless Connect (PHC). This event matches clients with volunteers in a partnership to connect adults experiencing homelessness to as many on-site services as possible in one day. This year at PHC we saw over 400 volunteers connect 552 people from our community to services offered by nearly 50 providers in areas such as health, housing, dental, employment, and benefits.

As Executive Director of Homeward and an LMR Member (Class of 2011), I understand the value of connecting and educating community leaders to serve the greater community. One idea our organization would like to share with community leaders, is the importance of data to drive impact and achieve results. To best serve the needs of our community we need to listen but we also need to observe and analyze what the data tells us. Though our organization’s process of data collection, analysis, and responsive planning, we continue to reimagine how we can use Project Homeless Connect to collectively meet the needs of people experiencing homelessness. Our recent work revealed that 80% of people experiencing homelessness are unemployed or underemployed. In response to this data we added new employment service providers to PHC and continue to build partnerships with workforce development organizations throughout the region.

One of our upcoming events that provides community-level data on homelessness is our winter Point-in-Time count. This periodic count of people experiencing homelessness in Greater Richmond helps Homeward, our partners, and community volunteers understand the changing nature of homelessness in our region. The data collected from this event is compiled both locally and nationally to inform programs, planning, and funding. You can see first-hand how we collect the data that informs our work by volunteering at our winter Point-in-Time count. Join us in our efforts to prevent, reduce and end homelessness, but also use this as an opportunity to think about how your own organizations and businesses can collect and better utilize data. For more information about this event, please contact our Community Engagement Coordinator Michael Rogers at mrogers@homewardva.org.

Kelly King Horne
LMR Class of 2011

Legacy of Leaders

Every fall as we usher in a new class of community leaders, we establish a theme for the year ahead to guide not just our current class members but alumni of the program as well as the community at large. This theme appears on the cover of our printed member directory and influences the direction of programming for the year. In FY2017 we focused on “Leading Responsibly,” which requires staying informed and continuously learning. We looked for innovative ways to update our community leaders on understanding the needs of those they serve while considering what means the most to them and the issues we face. Events ranged from an update on the riverfront plan from James River Association as we paddled along the James River, to a courageous conversation with Linda Hancock from The Well at VCU around the effects of Heroin and Prescription Narcotics in our communities. Our keynote for the Spring Luncheon was a moderated discussion between LMR members VA Senator Jennifer McClellan (D) and VA Delegate Chris Peace (R) around how to lead responsibly as elected officials by bridging the partisan divide.

As we launch into FY2018, our theme of focus for the year is the “Legacy of Leaders.” Respected leadership expert John Maxwell stated, “The greatest legacy a leader can leave is having developed other leaders. Develop them as widely and as deeply as you can.” LMR selects a group of diverse individuals each year for the purpose of enhancing their knowledge and developing their abilities to be impactful community leaders. We then encourage them to become engaged by modeling the way for those that will follow. This year we identified a number of families that exist within our membership; parents and children who decades apart felt led to go through our Leadership Quest program and connect to a network of diverse community leaders in our region.

In a very unique case, we found a husband, wife, and daughter who all went through the LMR journey in 1989, 1992, and 2012 respectively. They inspired one another into a life of service and leadership, and continue to inspire those around them to this day. The daughter of the family was just appointed to serve on the LMR board of directors and her mother previously served as chairman of the board in 2006. It’s not just our children who are watching, but it is also our spouses, siblings, parents, neighbors, friends, and in the age of social media, it is even complete strangers. As LMR President and CEO Myra Goodman Smith often says, “all eyes are on you” as we work towards a better region, and hopefully your example will encourage others to join in and continue this work for the sake of future generations.

Are we prepared?

This past February we cancelled an event titled Convening Leaders: Emergency Preparedness. Our intent was to bring together LMR members with those serving in Fire & Emergency Services alongside the Central Virginia Emergency Management Alliance (CVEMA) to discuss what community leaders should be prepared to do in case of a major emergency in the Richmond region. This event was cancelled as a result of low registration but after the recent devastation from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma we would like to bring this topic forward once again and ask, are you ready?

An evacuation of the Virginia coastline would send many people to and through the Richmond region. What resources do you have available to potentially support evacuees? How could you step up to the challenge and set an example for future leaders to follow? Should the Richmond region also be evacuated, where will you go and how will you get there? Which of your neighbors may need assistance and how would you help?

To learn more about your locality’s emergency plan, visit the
CVEMA website and click on your locality. There you will find information on how to contact your local emergency management team as well as more information on your locality’s emergency management program. Be sure to look for links to their social media pages and sign up forms for their local notification system. Get ahead of the storms, and for the safety of your loved ones create and communicate your own emergency plan today.