For fun, I like to flip the channel between CNN, MSNBC and Fox just to watch how fluid “reality” is.  They all have the same facts, but the stories they tell have completely different meanings and impact on their viewers.

History teaches us that whoever controls the narrative controls our perception of reality.

When my husband and I first moved to the Richmond region in 2002, we were told the city was a dangerous place and it had the ominous title as the “murder capital of the commonwealth.” We were told the schools were failing, the neighborhoods drug infested and the city government was completely dysfunctional.  This is the narrative we heard and thus this became our perception of the city.  So, we moved into the far suburbs as far from “that place” as we could get.

Then in 2004, I decided to go to seminary and had to commute into “that place” called the city of Richmond. I quickly discovered that my perception was not the reality.  I discovered parts of our city were beautiful, safe and inviting.  I discovered locked in the pages of her past, our city held the key to understanding how that false narrative grew into the dominate narrative of the day. A narrative fueled by decades of racism.

This launched me on a journey that ultimately led me and my family to move into one of those so called “dangerous” neighborhoods in 2013.  What I discovered was a neighborhood filled with some of the most loving, inspiring, and insightful people I have ever known.

I realized we needed to counter the dominate narrative. We need to shine a light on these amazing neighbors who make our city a great place to live.

For the past few years we have played around with this idea.

  • In 2016, we did a series of videos called “Neighborhood Heroes” and used animation technology to bring these hero stories to life.
  • In the spring of 2017, we did a second series called “Wise Guides” to share the insights of senior adults in our community using audios from interviews done by our young leaders.
  • In the fall of 2017, we will expand on these efforts through a grant from Culture Works for a project we are calling “Unsung Heroes.”

In addition to expanding our story telling efforts, we have added a new element – Great Neighbor Awards.

Every month, we are going to select one “Great Neighbor” who is working to make their community great.  We will share their story through an introductory blog and then through the sharing of their own words and insights.  These great neighbors are being nominated by partners in our ABCD regional network as well as key leaders from neighborhood development efforts across the city.

Each of these Great Neighbors will be awarded a $50 gift certificate and will be invited to attend our next Great Neighbor Training.  Those who complete the Great Neighbor Training are invited to apply for a Great Neighbor Grants of up to $1,200, to help them expand their community building efforts.

We encourage you to “like” us on Facebook and to help us change the narrative about our city.  The small acts of neighboring that these individuals are demonstrating may never garner the attention of the media but we all know that it is these small acts that make a neighborhood great and our city a better place to live.

Wendy McCaig

Embrace Richmond Founder and Director