RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR)—Think of the city as a person, and time as a tattoo artist. There are certainly some embarrassing marks, the works of a shaky hand and dated mindset. These days the eyes are more easily drawn to the vivid colors of finer designs.
It’s certainly all breathtakingly intertwined on the same canvas, body, or legacy of a city as old as Richmond. It all exists together; the beauty and disgrace along with the progress and oppression.
It’s a city where fruits and vegetables are sold in a place that three centuries ago housed 40 slave auction houses.
In the east end of the city sits the densest concentration of poverty and public housing south of New York City. It’s a place where poverty and illiteracy are handed down, like genetics or heirlooms, to the children throughout generations.
It’s also a city recognized for its affluence, philanthropy, education, dining and creativity. It’s a city not just beginning to demand that everyone have a seat at the table, but saying heck, let’s build new tables and seats as well.
Close to 140 people converged upon the Richmond Times-Dispatch headquarters on Friday, ready to talk about what’s next for Richmond. They weren’t there to simply cheerlead for the city, but to also troubleshoot the city’s many gritty truths.
Basically, all around the world on September 20, stories of urban ingenuity were surfacing and critically-thinking brains were asking questions like “how do we sculpt a better future city?” and “how do we get everyone to the table to talk about needed change?”
John Sarvay and Wren Lanier organized the local, stripped-down event, whose “DNA was different” than the 2012 all-day TEDxRVA event that cost $100 a ticket. Seventy-five tickets were offered free to local non-profits, and 75 tickets were sold for $25 each. The event started on time, finished a little early, and was never short on content.
There were twelve speakers, not all very well-known, but all very passionate to talk about Richmond and community.
Listed below are excerpts or powerful quotes from their presentations, in order, and some of the Twitter reception for each speaker. The entire video for the event will be uploaded eventually to the TEDxGraceStreet site.
What do you envision for the City of Richmond’s future? Share your comments at the bottom, or on our Facebook page.
1. Angela Patton, CEO Girls for a Change and Founder of Camp Diva.
Patton spoke about taking a leap into the unknown, crumbling race barriers and ultimately better serving young African American girls in the Richmond Region.
“None of us like change until we see the good in it,” Patton said as she shared a story about learning to recognize shared goals. She encouraged the crowd to do “more communicating and less talking.”
2. Giles Harnesberger is a urban planner, architect and former executive director of the Storefront for Community Design.
Harnesberger shared about voting down the Tredgar amphitheater project and emphasized the importance of projects coming out from behind closed doors. She’s asking how do we create the city we live in everyday and are there resources to empower residents to help shape city design.
“Visions don’t always agree and must be approximated.”
3. Laura Browder is a University of Richmond teacher. She put together “Driving Richmond: Stories and Portraits of GRTC BusDrivers.”
In 1888 Richmond transit workers were unionized. Read that again. In 1888 there was public transportation on the road. One would think by now they had figured out how to get buses to Short Pump or Chesterfield, but based on Browder’s talk, buses actually used to run all night. And when the first black bus driver took the wheel in the 1970s, people would phone police to report a stolen bus.
The other takeaway from her talk was that many drivers, at least the 16 she talked to, really love their jobs. And the CEO of GRTC, who started off on the back of the bus 46 years ago, really wants the bus routes to leave the city.
4. Ross Catrow
The founder of RVA News talked about the importance of realistic dreams and keeping things “small.”
His dream of having the job title “astronaut”, a title around 40 people can claim, might not be the dream that best serves him, or his community. He drove it home that “Richmond is overwhelmed with big ideas,” and yet our psyche is “tainted” by the Sixth Street Marketplace failure.
5. Domenick Casuccio works with Valentine Richmond History Center.
He connected the importance of investing in non-profits with the 4-H pillars, one being To Make the Best Better. Also made a call to volunteerism and dedicating just a few hours to help improve your community.
6. Damon Jiggetts is the executive director of the Peter Paul Development Center in Church Hill.
Jiggets said that the community’s giving can enable impoverished recipients, and strip them of self-worth. He likened the cycle of poverty to feeding a caged animal for years and then turning it loose and expecting it to hunt on its own.
“You will see them on the evening news,” he said.
He challenged the city to collectively find ways to contribute back to communities, help re-instill pride and self-worth.
7. Prabir Mehta is a singer and performer in Goldrush
Discussed the importance of music and its influence on the brain and community.
8. Bruce Lyle is a Westover Hills School advocate
He moved back to the Westover Hills neighborhood that he grew up in and was surprised to find that people were hesitant about sending kids to Westover Hills school, but really wanted to be able to take pride in the neighborhood school.
“The way to get excited about your school is to go meet the people there,” Lyle said.
9. Mike Mackenzie
He brought the maps to show how racially divided Richmond remains and challenged people to figure out how to stop excluding different races.
10. Dr. Elsie Harper-Anderson is an assistant professor at VCU’s L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs.
Dr. Harper-Anderson emphasized the need to invest in entrepreneurs from all corners of the community to create a dynamic collective, so that transformation hit the ground “in different places.”
So that it’s not “his land, her land but our land.”
11. Marc Cheatham is a music and culture blogger, known as Cheats, in the Cheats Movement.
In March “Cheats” gathered over 50 definitions of community from a diverse group of Richmonders, including the mayor.
There were many common themes in the definitions, and the conclusion that change is hard to confront.
“No city wants to move forward and stay exactly the same.”
“It is in the act of communicating that we have become a community.”
12. Christy Coleman is the President of the American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar.
She taught the group about milking the sacred cow.
“A sacred cow can provide you with incredible nourishment if you just milk it every once in awhile.”
Coleman put into perspective how many variations of history and institutions there are in the state. “The conversation is lopsided.”
She came to Richmond when the museum opened, because it was to be the first museum to put all three perspectives involved in the Civil War together under one roof.
“It ain’t pretty, but it’s sacred,” Coleman said.
She shared the story told to her, that Richmond was formed on two lies. One, that “slavery is good for black people” and two, that “tobacco won’t kill you.”