Shifting Narratives by Highlighting Great Neighbors

Shifting Narratives by Highlighting Great Neighbors

  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... read more
Great Neighbor Awards! Congrats Ellen!

Great Neighbor Awards! Congrats Ellen!

The Great Neighbor Award Goes to…. Ellen Avila! Written by Pam Hersnir It is winter and it is cold.  A homeless man stands on the side of the road on the south side of Richmond. He has no coat. Ellen, the director of Belmont Methodist Church’s (BMC) clothing closet drives by and notices the man is shivering.  Instead of going home, Ellen stops by the clothing closet, grabs a warm coat and takes it to the man. A man who just got custody of his two grandchildren (18 months and two years old) stops by the clothing closet.  He tells Ellen he has no idea what to get the children.  Ellen gets a bag and finds what necessary items two children would need.  She then tells him to come back the following week and she will have another bag ready for him. A woman whose mother just died asked Ellen to help her clean out her mother’s house.  Ellen goes to the house and helps the woman with the difficult task of going through her mother’s belongings.  The woman then donates the remainder of her mother’s items to the clothing closet. Ellen notices while working at the clothing closet that children rarely get to pick an item for themselves.  Starting in August, Ellen begins to collect and set aside toys that were donated.  In December, Ellen sets up a table with over 200 toys.  The table is for children only.  Children coming to the clothing closet were so excited that they were able to pick  toys for themselves. Most of the time, there are plenty of donations for the... read more
Good News Report!

Good News Report!

This summer has been an exciting one!  We received a $10,000 grant from Culture Works to deepen our listening and storytelling efforts in the Historic Brookland Park area, through a project called Unsung Heroes.  We also received a $5,000 grant from Bank of America to support the expansion of our Young Leaders Program which many of you financially supported during our year end campaign. As I shared back in April, we also received a partnership grant from VCU to deepen our relationship with VCU and the city of Richmond. We hired Jackie Washington in May to spearhead the Young Leaders and Unsung Heroes efforts and we have recruited and trained six neighborhood youth. This fall they will be capturing the stories of unsung heroes in the Historic Brookland Park area as they begin designing and developing their own community strengthening projects. Please check out our Facebook page for profiles of the youth and the unsung heroes they are discovering. https://www.facebook.com/EmbraceRichmond/ We have also partnered with Bing Bicycle Company to launch a youth-led Bike Shop, named “Joe’s Bike Shop,” which will operate at our All Souls location on Saturday’s from 9:00-2:00 starting Saturday September 2nd. If you have a bike to donate or are in need of bike repairs, visit “Joe’s Bike Shop” at 19 Overbrook Road, Richmond Va. 23222.  Also please “like” Joe’s Facebook page. We are also thrilled to announce that Woodlake UMC will be hosting our Mission Shift Training series in January of 2018.  The training will be open to members of congregations and organizations who are a part of our ABCD network.  Please follow us on Facebook for... read more
Announcing Joe’s Bike Shop- A Youth Led Social Enterprise

Announcing Joe’s Bike Shop- A Youth Led Social Enterprise

We are excited to announce Embrace’s newest venture, Emerging Entrepreneur Enterprises(E3). E3 will eventually become an incubator for social enterprises that are designed to help youth advance toward college and careers. As a true incubator, E3 does not own the social enterprises. They each have their own ownership structures that empower the participants of each enterprise to become the owners. The first E3 enterprise is Joe’s Bike Shop! This enterprise came about from Embrace’s collaboration with Bing Bicycle Company. Joe’s Bike Shop will operate at our All Souls (19 Overbrook Road RVA 23222) on Saturdays from 9:00-2:00 starting Saturday September 2nd. If you have a bike to donate or are in need of bike repairs please go by the shop! Also please “like” the shop’s Facebook page... read more
Keeping Up with Levon

Keeping Up with Levon

One of our newest Young Leaders is Levon Murray. Levon is someone who has been connected with Embrace since he was 19. Levon is 23 now and we can see his maturity! When he began partnering with Embrace it was through a neighborhood landscaping group led by Embrace’s youth outreach partner, Rudy. That connection grew into Levon joining the Young Leaders program which focuses on teaching youth and young adults about community building. Levon has shared that his dream for his community is that neighbors can learn to be more connected. He shared that he does not know many of his neighbors and does not venture far from his block. He wants to change this.  Levon has been trained in community listening and is ready to gain insight from Brookland Park’s block connectors on building community cohesion.   The other awesome part about working with Embrace is that Levon does not have to leave behind his interest in landscaping.  Embrace is currently creating a structure that allows teens to start social enterprises! Levon has expressed that his long term goal is to be a business owner. Combining his interest in connecting residents, landscaping and business Levon is crafting what he wants his social enterprise to look like and his Young Leaders internship will be customized to fit this vision. Stay tuned on how this unfolds for Levon!... read more

Spotlighing Eric Axelson

Spotlighting Eric Axelson Eric is the convener of the North Central Civic Association(NCCA) here in Richmond, VA. The term “convener” is truly important to Eric as he doesn’t consider himself someone that “leads” people but someone that brings people together. From Embrace’s time working with Eric we believe this to be true. His ability to rally and motivate his peers is remarkable. He is also extremely humble. One of the main reasons that he got involved in serving his community in this capacity is because of how welcoming the community was to him. He recalled how warm and in harmony the neighborhood felt when he moved in. Embrace is excited to see residents like Eric come forward to facilitate change in their community. We are even more excited to hear his neighborhood set the stage for this engagement in the first place. Whether residents consider themselves leaders or not, neighbors like Eric are what this city needs when it comes to mobilizing resident-led initiatives. We thank you Eric! We hope that you continue to serve and we enjoy supporting you in whatever way we can!... read more

Embrace Richmond Awarded Culture Works Grant!

  Embrace Richmond received one of  Culture Works annual grants which will allow us to launch our new project “Unsung Heroes”. Embedded in our Young Leaders program, youth will get a chance to learn about the heroic pasts  of Brookland Park’s longtime residents. We consider these residents to be “unsung heroes.” In the Young Leaders program, youth engage in community listening before they join an action team or begin their own community initiative in order to learn what fellow residents care about. Unsung Heroes provides a creative way for youth to do this. Through creative mediums like verbal and written storytelling, video production and theatrical performances, youth will be able to both learn and share the decorated histories of Brookland Park residents-and have fun along the... read more
Keeping Up with Isaiah

Keeping Up with Isaiah

  Isaiah, a Young Leader, is a hilarious yet quiet young man who lives in Brookland Park. He is excited to join the Young Leaders program. The Young Leaders program begins with a readiness phase that trains all youth in asset-based community development. Isaiah has completed this training. Each Young Leader also receives one on one mentoring. Through this mentoring, Young Leaders are able to share their personal and professional goals. In Isaiah’s case, he shared dreams of becoming a chef, learning about business and becoming more social. Another component of the Young Leaders program is the opportunity for youth to gain hands on experience in community storytelling and organizing. Isaiah is interested in collecting the stories of neighborhood teens with the goal of getting them more active. His next step will be to complete training in community listening where he will begin interviewing long time residents and teens. Isaiah believes that both trainings will not only launch him on the path to getting teens more active but will introduce him to more neighbors-thus making him more social. This is one example of how the Young Leaders program helps teens meet personal, professional and community goals. Please stay tuned and we will keep you posted on Isaiah’s journey as a Young... read more

Jammin’ on the Boulevard!

Jammin’ on the Boulevard was “jamming!” This event was a result of the Music Action team’s goal of bringing the community together around musical talents. The event took place in the parking lot beside Nomad’s Deli.  Brookland Park neighbors danced, clapped, listened and shared neighborhood stories. Several singers performed popular songs, gospels and oldies. Our, DJ Norman Washington, made the event inviting and kept the high energy going! The group of neighbors were full of diverse talent but the diversity in age, creed, culture and race was remarkable. The group joined hands at the end to sing ‘Lean on Me’ as we left to walk back to our homes. This event helped Brookland Park appreciate the beauty of their neighborhood.     This slideshow requires... read more

Brookland Park Collective Meeting

Have you ever met neighbors that are willing to meet frequently, engage in monthly activities and prepare close to gourmet style, home made dinners for their evening meetings? We have. We’ve witnessed  sincere community work evidenced in the way the Brookland Park Collective members participate, laugh and discuss with each other. The atmosphere formed from block clubs and action teams feels light and nurturing. In late May, this group gathered together once again at All Souls Presbyterian Church to touch base about the exciting happenings in Brookland Park. Leroy, our strategic implementation manager, worked to facilitate conversation about next steps for each action team. The music action team(stay tuned!) was able to nail down times that they would practice. Resident led events were recapped and new neighbors shared their testimony of feeling included. One couple shared that they planned to take an evening stroll but did not end up completing it because they stopped to say hello to a neighbor and ended up chatting for hours. These are just some of the outcomes that community bonding can bring. The Brookland Park Collective meets every other month from 6:00-8:00 pm. If you live in the Brookland Park area and are interested in joining the collective or want to engage with a block club on your street contact Leroy Jefferson at leroy@embracerichmond.org.  ... read more