Promoting Richmond’s Diversity to Visitors

Tourism in the Richmond region continues to grow at a fast pace. We’ve seen an explosion of culinary talent, the birth of the prolific and award-winning craft beverage scene, and tourism development from the ICA to the Capital Trail. All of this and more helps drive interest and visitors to RVA.

At Richmond Region Tourism, we believe that the Richmond Region is a welcoming destination for everyone, and we work toward sharing that message every day.

Ten years ago, Richmond Region Tourism partnered with a LGBTQ advisory committee to create a bold new campaign called OutRVA to position the region as welcoming and inclusive to LGBTQ travelers. The campaign has left a literal mark around Richmond now that hundreds of stores proudly display OutRVA stickers to highlight they are welcoming places for LGBTQ people.

Part of OutRVA’s appeal and success is its authenticity. The campaign leverages the experiences of LGBTQ residents. The website richmondisout.com is home to the OutRVA “Insiders” who share their favorites experiences around the region.

Thanks to the campaign’s outreach, the region has been praised in LGBTQ-focused outlets like NewNowNext.com, Metro Weekly, Curve Magazine, Passport and more. Momentum from OutRVA has also helped the region attract events like the Sports Diversity Jubilee, a multi-sport tournament featuring LGBTQ+ athletes from across the nation and international quidditch tournaments (a sport known for championing diversity and inclusion). Most importantly, OutRVA has positioned Richmond as a welcoming destination for LGBTQ travelers.

Over the last couple of years, the Richmond Region Tourism partnered with community members focused on developing unique ways to attract tourism while highlighting Richmond’s Black culture.  The work led to the development of BLK RVA, which launched locally in August. The new tourism campaign highlights and celebrates the Black cultural experience in the Richmond region.

BLK RVA provides opportunities for residents and tourists to support Black-owned businesses through in-person patronage and online engagement, while telling important stories of the historical landmarks that make the Richmond Region what it is today.

Similar to OutRVA, we leaned into the experiences of Richmond’s residents to shape the campaign over a two-year period. We were also excited to work with local businesses to launch the initiative. Richmond-based creative agency Ryano Graphics provided the graphic and web design, videography and digital strategy to bring the campaign to life. 

It’s been exciting to see the energy BLK RVA has generated so far, and we can’t wait to help the campaign grow.

BLK RVA and OutRVA share a connection with Leadership Metro Richmond: Both of the campaign’s advisory committees have LMR graduates that are personifying LMR’s mission to strengthen the region through their support of the tourism campaigns.

Our team is always looking for opportunities to convene leaders and spark conversations about diversity and inclusion. Richmond Region Tourism will host a panel discussion on Oct. 15 from 9-10 a.m. at the Science Museum with local experts to discuss disability etiquette and accessible design in the hospitality industry. If you’re interested in attending and learning how we can make Richmond more welcoming to visitors of all abilities, email Valerie Knorr on our team at vknorr@visitrichmondva.com.

Tourism makes our community better. It improves the quality of life for our residents by stimulating the economy and generating jobs. Tourism also supports the restaurants, attractions and shops that we all love to support and frequent.

Richmond’s diversity is one of our best assets. The Richmond Region Tourism team is committed to celebrating that diversity and welcoming all visitors.

Katherine O’Donnell
Executive Vice President, Richmond Region Tourism
Class of 2016

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

A Growing Community of Collaboration

Leadership Metro Richmond (LMR) is proud once again to partner with the Valentine and the Capital Region Collaborative to select and honor Richmond History Makers. This partnership began in 2005 and continues to this day as an excellent example of community collaboration.

I am pleased to co-chair the Selection Committee with Mary Brown (LMR ‘14). This will be our second year to lead this process. We are fortunate and energized to work with our partners on this project – our CEO, Myra Smith (LMR ‘06), and Bill Martin (LMR ‘07 – best class ever!), Director of the Valentine.

Now, back to the word ‘collaboration.’ It’s a word we use frequently in the non-profit sector. It’s not a new idea or the latest trend in effective management. But, it’s a word that is taking on a new meaning in our regional community.

I (and many others) think we are at the beginning of a peak of public collaboration. The Mayor of the City of Richmond has created a new beginning with other jurisdictions. City officials are working more closely with appointed and elected officials in the counties of Henrico, Chesterfield, Goochland, and Hanover. Challenges in our community know no geographic bounds. For example, the East End of Richmond combats the same challenges as Eastern Henrico. Both areas need better school facilities and academic support, both need affordable and sustainable housing, and both need access to good jobs that pay a living wage.

Many of these issues require significant and long-term funding. Housing and schools are complex issues that require a mix of public and private funding. I am honored to work for the Community Foundation for a greater Richmond. We work closely with other funders - for example, the Robins Foundation and Richmond Memorial Health Foundation. Local foundations are collaborating with corporate funders – Altria, Bank of America, CarMax, and Genworth are among the many corporate leaders in this partnership.

Our regional nonprofit organizations are collaborating in exciting and efficient new ways. Silos of programming and activity are not as effective as solutions that address the multiple layers of needs for an at-risk child or adult in our community. CARITAS addresses both substance abuse and preparing adults for the workforce by collaborating with health providers and local employers. The Better Housing Coalition tackles both the need for affordable housing and an enhanced quality of life; as an example, their work involves partnership with the Children’s Home Society as they house young adults who are moving from the foster system to independent living. And, NextUp provides after-school activities for hundreds of middle school students in the City of Richmond. Their work involves collaborating on service delivery with approximately 35 other nonprofits, such as ART180, Blue Sky, the YMCA, and Communities in Schools.

Collaborators are front-runners for recognition, at least in my opinion. Think about this as you consider making a nomination for the History Maker Award, due by October 22. Please visit the History Makers website to learn more about the award categories, as well past recipients, many of whom are highly collaborative LMR graduates. The event will be held on March 12, 2019, at Virginia Union University.

Please join in this process or attend the event so that you too can participate in the growing collaboration in our region.

Scott Blackwell
Chief Community Engagement Officer
Community Foundation for a greater Richmond
LMR Class of 2007

A Bridge into Board Service

Recently, I celebrated my 15-year LMR class reunion. I and many of my classmates gathered to reminisce about our time together during the Fall of 2002 and Spring of 2003.  I was one of two classmates on the agenda asked to share how the experience had shaped us.

I pointed out how prior to LMR, I had no board service.  My classmate, Lee Reeves, was the Executive Director of a very successful nonprofit he started called Team UP Richmond.  During our graduation ceremony back then, Lee asked if I would serve on his board. I shared with him my reservations about having no prior board experience, but Lee said “Ken, you'll be fine”. That exchange started my career of servant leadership in the Richmond non-profit community and beyond.

Soon thereafter, Rita Ricks (LMR ’89), who had recommended LMR to me, also recommended me for the Board of the Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce; known today as ChamberRVA.  Rita later shared that when she originally mentioned my name, the leadership of the Chamber indicated that they had no idea who I was.  But once she stated I had just completed LMR, their eyes widened, and I was welcomed to the board.

Several other boards soon followed as news of my status as an LMR alumnus made the rounds.  Such that, when the then President of Old Dominion University nominated me to serve on the Board of my alma mater, there was plenty of board experience on my resume.  Appointment to the Board of Visitors of ODU by Governor Warner was the first of now 5 gubernatorial appointments.  Since 2003, in all, I’ve served on 20 boards; and have turned down numerous others in light of my day job.

LMR is the place where I learned the principles of facilitation and collaboration; where I learned a greater understanding of social issues of the Richmond region; and where I was first exposed to the concept of servant leadership.  All of these traits have become the foundation for my years of community involvement at a leadership level.  Participation in THE BEST CLASS EVER instilled the desire in me to leave the world a better place then how I found it.  John F. Kennedy once said, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other”.  Thanks to LMR, we learn how to lead.

Ken Ampy, Astyra Corporation
LMR Class of 2003

Joining Forces for Tomorrow’s Leaders

As I take a moment to reflect on my career path, I am thankful for the opportunities that I have received. Opportunities to grow, try new things, and step out of my comfort zone. Throughout my formative years and into college, there was always an adult “pouring into my life.” My family cheered me on from the sidelines and my mentors gave me that extra push. As you think about your career, can you name the mentor(s) who encouraged you?

If you were able to name at least one person who served as your mentor/coach, consider yourself lucky. Unfortunately, not every person in their developmental years has the chance to cultivate relationships with instrumental figures like mentors. That reality led to Partnership for the Future (PFF) and Leadership Metro Richmond joining forces to help our future workforce. Founded in 1994, PFF began as a college access organization with the focus on preparing students with limited resources for the college process. Fast forward to 2014, PFF realized that we needed to ensure that our students were persisting through, graduating from college, and finding meaningful work experiences…that’s where LMR comes in.

The COACHES RVA program was created to help PFF students build their network of individuals who can help guide them through important transitions into adulthood. COACHES have been instrumental in assisting students with life challenges. For instance, a PFF graduate was recently faced with a severe situation where her lack of confidence (stemming from abandonment issues) and a lack of familial support led to her inability to focus on her school work. Ultimately, this student was placed on academic probation and forced to leave campus without a place to go. While PFF did all that we could for this bright student, it was the LMR Coach who had the biggest impact in connecting her with resources outside of college, helping her find a job and a place to stay, and even reengaging the college (since it was the Coach’s alma mater). Thanks to the diligence of this wonderful Coach, this young lady recently returned to school and now has another identified mentor on her campus. It is because of this Coach, that this young lady will be able to finish her college degree and create a better life for herself.

While not every coaching story will sound like this one, it is important to understand that you serving as a mentor, coach, and door opener can make all of the difference. You can help our region by ensuring that our next generation of talented leaders are connected to the right people locally and developed for further greatness. Mentor a child and become a part of the army of leaders working for the greater good of our young people.

Charleita Richardson
LMR Class of 2008

“In This Place, They Have a Face”

They are the faceless individuals you don’t see standing on the corner when you’re stopped at a traffic light. They don’t want to work. They are shiftless and lazy. They are to be avoided. They are to be mistrusted. They are to be arrested for trespassing, for panhandling, for bizarre behavior. They are dirty and dangerous. They are the homeless.

Sadly, this has been and remains the opinion of many Richmond residents. The reality is that being homeless is a lonely and scary experience—ask anyone who has faced the frightening reality of being one paycheck, one sickness, one injury or accident away from losing one of life’s most basic needs: shelter. The challenge is to create environments which foster enriched, stable and healthy lives, instead of ignoring these individuals and viewing them as a malignancy.

In 2000, a group of nine LMR rookies came together to form and to storm. Back in the day, teams selected their LMR project from proposals submitted by local nonprofits. Team TGFKAX as we were known, began to educate ourselves about community perceptions surrounding homelessness and specifically those related to a community housing environment which offered shelter in South Richmond to eight chronically homeless individuals with severe mental illness. What we learned was transformational for us and what we were able to accomplish was transformational for the nonprofit with whom we were partnered, The Daily Planet. Team TGFKAX spent our next 10 months working in collaboration to address and resolve some of those misconceptions.

We were fortunate to convince HUD to reserve federal funds for the re-establishing and relocating of a special and unique transitional housing facility/program (Safe Haven). The program once located at 316 East Clay Street was forced to move to make way for the Richmond Convention Center expansion. After meeting individually with the Mayor (now Senator Kaine) as well as all district representatives AND confronting attitudes of NIMBY from many in the community, the team was instrumental in getting the approval of City Council for a special use permit allowing a new facility to be built.

Daily Planet Health Services continues to embrace innovative ways to motivate homeless clients out of their disenfranchisement by redeveloping the social inclusion and community they have lost. After 18 years, how would I know this? Because two members of that LMR team are still involved today! One of our team members joined the board following our graduation, and I became a volunteer on a board committee (thanks to that board member reminding me that we always “make a good team” and that I had a skill set that was desperately needed). After serving on the board fund development committee for 5 years, I received a recruitment call asking if I’d consider becoming a “Planeteer” (employee) and devote my fund-raising skills full-time on behalf of the organization.

Fast forward eleven years, that board member and I are still inspired to advocate as a team for the at-risk populations served by Daily Planet and still applying the lessons learned during our LMR experience.

Maureen Neal, CFRE
COO, Advancement, The Daily Planet
LMR Class of 2001

Programming notes:

The title of this blog post refers to Safe Haven and was also the title of the poem written specifically for our 2001 LMR project presentation.

The photo above is from the cover of Daily Planet’s 2000-2001 Annual Report reveals some of the City Council representatives we worked so hard to convince they were making the right choice. Recognize any recent VP candidates?

Communities Need Constructive Conversation

Avoidance. Having conversations that challenge our beliefs, values, biases and perceptions is seen by many as stressful. Who is looking for more stress? Some of the most committed community leaders I know will step away from a group conversation of key importance if they believe it will lead to nowhere or cause an emotional debate. Many go silent. Have you heard the statement, “I just can’t go there?” If you are truly committed to creating change in our communities, you must be willing to step out of your comfort zone.

Since our beginning, LMR has encouraged dialogue amongst our community leaders by creating a “safe space” for open and honest conversations that reflect a myriad of diverse perspectives which often do not appear to stand on the same side of the issue. However, no issue has just two sides. The conversation should not be about right or wrong, instead it should increase our understanding about each other and the experiences that inform our values, priorities, and opinions. It is through listening to others that we can elevate our levels of personal knowledge to start us down a path towards collaboration and problem-solving.

Social media has provided a variety of digital platforms on which individuals now feel safer, more confident and empowered to share their opinions with the world. However, while absent from digital communications, voice tone, physical gestures and body language play an important role in how we communicate with one another in person. They reveal emotion and passion which add depth to words, thus building deeper understanding. In this digital age, it is important that we take these conversations offline and sit face-to-face with one another for these difficult but necessary interactions. This could be about anything from politics to religion to monuments…whatever is weighing heavy on the hearts and in the minds of the community around us.

Next Tuesday LMR will host a facilitation training for members, where they can learn the tools necessary to manage open and honest group dialogue. What are tactics to alleviate tension in the room? What do you do when one person is dominating the conversation? How do you keep the conversation on topic? These are just a few of the questions we will address with Jonathan Zur (LMR ’08), President & CEO of the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities.

Over the holiday weekend as you converse with your loved ones, take note of the way you converse with one another and consider if your approach to those conversations mirrors how you converse outside of the home in your day-to-day interactions. Imagine the possibilities if everyone would listen with the same interest and intent to understand as you do with your loved ones. At LMR, we are thankful for the opportunity to strengthen ties and build understanding in our communities. We are thankful for the dedication and passion our members have for this region and excited to engage with the future leaders they are influencing every day.

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

What We Give

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” - Winston Churchill

With Giving Tuesday just a few weeks away, we would like to highlight how one of our members has chosen to uplift the importance of giving back to the community by honoring exceptional volunteers who support a variety of worthy causes throughout the region at their annual “Carreras Gives Thanks” event. Rejena Carreras (LMR ’93) expressed to us on a call earlier this week that “LMR’s mission of inclusiveness and making a difference in the community is also a part of the mission of Carreras Jewelers.” Below, we asked Rejena to provide some inspiration for this Giving Tuesday (November 29, 2017) by sharing with us what motivated her to create the “Carreras Gives Thanks” awards:

As Carreras Jewelers celebrates our 50th year we are keenly aware that we would not be celebrating this golden anniversary without our loyal customers and our amazing community.

It has always important to our company to give back to the community that gives so much to us. Four years ago, we started “Carreras Cares”. During the month of December we invited 12 non-profits that we either had relationships with as a store or that were organizations my employees personally supported, to each nominate a volunteer that went “above and beyond” for their organization for us to honor. The volunteers were invited to come in during store hours where we showered them with excitement, honored them with a piece of jewelry, and snapped pictures for our social media.

The volunteers were appreciative but my staff did not feel that it was enough. My staff wanted to be able to spend more time with the volunteers and hear more about why they were nominated. But, as many of us know, the holiday season in a retail store is hectic.

Two years ago, we started “Carreras Gives Thanks”, a way to continue honoring volunteers and giving them the recognition and appreciation they deserve. But instead of inviting the honorees to come in individually throughout December, we combined it into a single fun cocktail event in the beginning of November.

This year, on November 1st, we honored 11 volunteers from 11 different non-profits: HandsOn Greater Richmond, The Links Incorporated, Richmond (VA) Chapter, Big Brothers Big Sisters, The Reinhart House, Sheltering Arms, Richmond Triangle Players, VCU Massey Cancer Center, Children’s Hospital Foundation, Thrifty Sisters, Make-A-Wish Greater Virginia, and SPARC. Volunteers, their friends and family, and members from the organizations enjoyed an evening of celebrating each other’s achievements. Carreras’ staff members read “bios” about each volunteer written by their organization, while everyone cheered and clapped. Each volunteer was presented with a yellow rose and a piece of diamond jewelry from Carreras.

“Carreras Gives Thanks” has become one of the staff members’ and my favorite events. We enjoy meeting everyone who attends and recognizing the amazing and dedicated local volunteers. We look forward to continuing this event for years to come!

Rejena Carreras
President, Carreras Jewelers
LMR Class of 1993

The Quest for Public Leadership

In 2005, I became a member of Leadership Metro Richmond because I believed that leadership was more than an ascension to a position or title. I believed that it was the essence of being an active part of a network of people who cared about and accepted the responsibility of the future of the City of Richmond and surrounding jurisdictions.

Through our leadership quest, we embrace being an effective part of leadership in a diversified group with varying and sometimes opposing interests and beliefs. However, we came away from our quest understanding that leadership is about having the personal resolve to be inclusive rather than exclusive. Leadership Metro Richmond is a tremendous resource comprised of Richmond’s most talented network of individuals who care and want to be a part of community solutions which we so desperately need.

When I think about Richmond, I think about our LMR family which represent the public and private sector of our community. When seeking individuals for projects, councils and board appointments, LMR provides access to a vetted compendium of talented capable individuals.

Most recently, the Office of Minority Business Development needed several individuals to become members of the Mayor/Council appointed Emerging and Small Business Advisory Board. As a member of LMR, it was a natural and first choice resource in soliciting individuals who might be interested in serving in this capacity because the overall mission of the organization is clear. Preparing leaders and offering them opportunities to lead in RVA and surrounding areas! A big THANK YOU to Myra Smith and her staff for continuing to find and provide the best leadership talent that Richmond Region has to offer!

Angelia Yancey
LMR Class of 2005

Charlottesville’s Call to Action

People often feel compelled to take swift action after events of enormous impact, such as what took place in Charlottesville over the weekend.  That demonstration of divisive behavior fueled by hatred was seen and heard around the world.  This is bigger than a single community, a state, or even our nation.  Hate rooted in unfounded prejudice has created a long history of battles all over the globe and that war continues.  So what do we do as community leaders?

After watching several news reports, reading the chatter on social media, and talking with family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors it is clear that there is a lot of blame thrown around and not enough conversation getting to the roots of issues.  Historically there have been decisions made based on biases and gaps in access of all kinds that continue to divide us (education, economic prosperity, healthcare, basic social services).  Those gaps have led to an even greater divide in communication, which has led us to a place of misunderstanding.

Leadership Metro Richmond (LMR) was created to be a catalyst to close those gaps in the Richmond region. Tiffany Jana and Matthew Freeman wrote in their recent book, Overcoming Bias: Building Authentic Relationships Across Differences, "Leadership Metro Richmond offers exactly the type of opportunity for bias reduction that contact theory suggests."  Each annual LMR class is a group that reflects the diversity in race, gender, profession, industry, and economic status across our region.  We bring together diverse leaders to broaden perspectives and connect those who are working towards the same goal of a better and brighter future for our communities.   However, while we continue on that mission today, our annual program is just the beginning.  We continue to urge our members/graduates to take the knowledge, experience and connections they have to create positive impact. We want them to keep building bridges of understanding and engage in inquiry to heighten their own understanding.

This fall we will host a facilitation training for our members through the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities so that the tough conversations we are able to have within our membership can continue outside of our doors.  We want our community leaders to not only talk to each other, but also facilitate challenging conversations in their own communities.  We desire for our members to continue to push for diversity and inclusion in leadership so that many voices are present at the table.  Encourage diversity within mission driven and public service boards and councils.  We envision a future where we can look around at those with decision making power and smile with pride at the fact that they reflect the culture, best interests, and values of many.