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ISSUE NO. 3 / MAY 2017



Fulton Community and Urban

Moms of Black Boys United........... 6

Renewal ................................................. 1

Interview with a VUU Graduate ... 7

Angela Patton on Black Girls.............. 4

Summer Reading List for Teens .........7

Aunt Mac’s Corner.............................5


All Gentrification is Local - Part One By Lisa Moon, PhD

Imagine, you get a notice from the city/county that your home/neighborhood has been chosen to be demolished and you are mandated to move. The city/county has determined that your home/ neighborhood is in disrepair, deemed a slum, or chronically riddled with intractable social problems (in some ways perpetuated by the same government system making the determination) that are too costly to remedy (concentrated poverty, blight, abandoned homes, violence) despite your beliefs that rehabilitation can be made if consistent efforts are put forth. You and your family can “opt” to relocate to an area of your choice, but those so-called options are based on restrictive/rigid/confining criteria of availability, resources, locality, and proximity. In the 1970s, the city of Richmond, Va. implemented an urban revitalization program that changed the landscape and social character of a once thriving African-American neighborhood known as Fulton. The residents would characterize the community as cohesive, family oriented, safe, child-friendly and supportive. Charmingly, they describe the houses as “two-story, big houses with many rooms” and beautifully adorned with trees, rose bushes, porches, yards, garages and fences. In a 2016 Community Idea Stations’ story, “Indelible Roots: Historic Fulton and Urban Renewal (2016),” none of the residents featured in the story described their neighborhood as needing such a radically severe revitalization. Reflectively, former Fulton residents describe it as a connected community where they sense family extended beyond blood relations (Komp, 2016). They describe the essence of social cohesion and neighborhood character that permeated throughout their community and was instilled in the residents. Meanwhile, the City managed to overlook the existence of community social cohesion

and neighborhood character, describing the community as the “worst slum in Richmond” and characterized as a “shabby and ailing,’ with “substandard structures”, where attempts to “escape” were unsuccessful and futile. How could there be such drastically different descriptions about the state of this community? The City thought the community was in dire need of revitalization to not only fix the quality of the neighborhood structures, but the ancillary social ills as well. According to newspaper reports, Richmond Redevelopment Housing Authority (RRHA), in collaboration with Fulton residents, prepared a proposal to request millions of federal HUD dollars to facilitate a urban renewal plan that included both purchasing and razing the property. Specifically, the plan’s goal was to “strengthen Fulton as an urban residential neighborhood, improve employment

opportunities, provide adequate services to ……” (Fulton Redevelopment Plan, RRHA, 1970). Interestingly, RRHA proposed that through demolition and dismantling the community, the community could be rebuilt and strengthened, which is a paradoxical remedy at best. RRHA undoubtedly missed several variables in their notion of “strengthening” a community that was already cohesive, connected with its own unique social character, even if the community needed some structural modifications and the community members’ only shortcoming was that some of them were socioeconomically impoverished. The project assured residents that there would be increased opportunities and sites would be created for churches, child care centers, stores, and health care facilities (Fulton Redevelopment Plan, RRHA, 1970). Continued on page 2

VUU’s Center for the Study of the Urban Child was established in 2010 to serve as an essential resource hub and informational clearinghouse for researchers, practitioners, and community stakeholders who desire to improve the quality of life for urban youth through advocacy, education, prevention and intervention programming. By virtue of its mission, which is to translate research into actionable knowledge, the Center seeks to heighten awareness, sensitivity, and responsiveness regarding critical urban child issues in the academic, practitioner, and residential communities.

Center for the Study of the



All gentrification is local Part 1 Continued from page 1 On April 13, 1970, Richmond City Council voted (8-1) to approve the project (Richmond Afro American, 1970). Frederick Fay, director of RRHA assured the Richmond City Council that this initiative was led by the Fulton residents, and stressed that there would be continual community involvement (Psteele, 1970). In a Richmond Afro American feature article, City Councilman Henry Marsh III cautioned residents to be “vigilant watchdogs, vocal, and proactive; holding RRHA accountable to the plans agreed upon and facilitate the promises made at the projects initiation.” He is quoted as saying “in projects like this there’s always the great danger that the citizens will become apathetic after a few victories and then the city will take over and implement the plan in a manner contrary to the interests of the citizen.” Marsh also said that other dangers include “the possibility that change in Washington will decrease the amount of federal funding or the city priorities will change so that the city will no longer be interested in projects where there is a high degree of citizen participation.” Interestingly, Marsh stressed that public officials should emphasize to the public to “be alert, don’t trust us, be vigilant, and keep your hands on the wheel and in the pot.” This is a well-intended recommendation, but for those communities that have endured decades of marginalization this is a difficult request. Despite community members’ efforts to hold city leaders accountable, being involved, voting and organizing are often ignored and unnoticed.

The HOPE VI project was initiated in 1992 and was designed to revitalize the severely distressed dwellings physical buildings while simultaneously remediating the collateral social and economic issues of the residents by instituting training programs and supportive services that facilitated self-sufficiency. In this way, the project could renew and restore the immediate public housing community and impact the overall health of the community-at-large. Between 1993 and 2008, 247 distressed public housing communities located in 130 communities in 34 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico were recipients of the grant funds. In 1997, the Richmond Redevelopment Housing Authority and its collaborative partners (i.e., HUD, City of Richmond, Richmond Public Schools, Blackwell Tenant Council, Blackwell Community Civic Association, Virginia Commonwealth University, J. Sergeant Reynolds, and numerous business partners) received $26.9 million to demolish 440 public housing units and rehabilitate approximately 232 privately owned homes, build 308 new homes and rental units (232 new town homes), build a new elementary school and community center, and improve existing parks, streets, alleyways and sidewalks (RRHA, 1999). Opportunities also were created for home ownership, restoration and stabilization in the neighboring communities of Manchester and Oak Grove, a secondary goal. There is evidence that the initiative did revitalize and gentrify the community and facilitated self-sufficiency with former residents, but there is also evidence that it displaced other former residents, essentially geographically shifting them to other public housing and/or low-income communities.

The Fulton Urban Renewal Program was proposed in the 1960s, endorsed by a Richmond City Council vote of 8-1 (RAA, 1970) implemented a decade later and essentially revitalizing one of Richmond’s oldest neighborhoods. This community consisted of more than 356 acres, (including the Rockett’s section located along the James River) displacing more than 800 families by demolishing their homes, schools, churches, fire station, grocery store, drug store, car repair shop, department/ furniture stores, restaurants, a local theater, and doctors’ offices. When demolition and razing concluded, the historic homes (circa 1890s), churches, schools, stores, were reduced to rubble. Structurally, what remained was described as a ghost town. Some described it is a vast open area (Komp, 2016) that resembled an oddly placed “prairie” (Komp, 2016) located in an otherwise bustling urban city. Author Selden Richardson (Richardson, 2007) Built by Blacks), captured the following sentiment… “even to a child it did not look right, like something icky had happened.” The residents were “uprooted” (Komp, 2016), dispersed, and scattered. Reflectively, most would describe this initiative as the Fulton Urban Removal Program (Komp, 2016). The one Richmond City Council member dissenter, Howard Carwile who voted to reject the Fulton project on April 13, 1970, accused Richmond Redevelopment Housing Authority of “destroying a working class community” (Richmond Afro American, #41, 4/11/1970, pg. 1). Undoubtedly, he was right. The infrastructure of the community and its character and culture were demolished. In addition, many buildings, churches, stores, and parks were scattered like dust. The spirit lives in the community members, but one might contend that psychologically, they are chronically reminiscent of what the buildings, porches, yards, neighborhoods, restaurants symbolically represented. These elements are considerably difficult, if not impossible, to rebuild and reestablish. Further, such communities are significantly more difficult than the physical construction of a home, which can be manufactured in as little as three to six months.

In 2012, the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) was designed to address the capital improvements needed in public housing communities that were in need of repair and rehabilitation. In this program, private nonprofit companies contractually agreed to make the capital improvements of the property and assume ownership of the property from HUD. Assistance is converted to Section 8 project based vouchers or Section 8 project based rental assistance (HUD, 2010). HUD (2010) stipulated that residents would retain tenant rights and protections (i.e., the right to organize, right to return to the property after repairs, right to move with assistance package). In this way, affordable housing for low-income families are preserved. In Richmond, the RAD program is responsible for the rehabilitation of Frederic Fay Towers (200 senior apartment units), the rehabilitation of Highland Park Elementary School (77 apartment units) and Baker Elementary School and the construction of mixed use development in Jackson Ward (Williams, 2017, HUD, 2010). Just as with the previous mentioned efforts, there have been issues with the implementation of this program. Specifically, the Hopewell Redevelopment & Housing Authority and the nonprofit property development company, Community Housing Partners, were accused of allegedly violating the rights of public housing RAD resident participants. Community Housing Partners overhauled the Langston Park public housing complex, transitioning it into two communities, the Summit and Kippax Place (senior living). According to the reports, resident participants returning after the rehabilitation were subjected to a strict screening process. There also was a failure by the project developers to provide accommodating apartments for disabled residents, and arcane policies that forbid certain appliances and furniture (i.e., deep freezers, dining tables), and unmet promises to provide guaranteed youth programming. Further, developers purposely reduced the number of large units in order to build more individual units with less bedrooms (Evans, 2017). In a recent editorial, M. Williams (2017) asserts that this program has resulted in the mistreatment and continued marginalization of low-income residents Currently, the Creighton Court public housing community is scheduled to undergo renewal as part of the Church Hill North Revitalization project encompassing over 22 acres along North 31st Street and over 30

Some 46 years later, the Fulton Urban Renewal Program redevelopment initiative is culminating. Most residents would agree that there has been the reestablishment of single-family mixed income housing, energy efficient solar panel homes, new traffic patterns and suburban-like neighborhoods. However, in addition to the transformation of industrial spaces into loft-style apartments and the establishment of some business, the promises have fallen short in many arenas. There remain issues with accessibility, retail/commercial growth, and other municipal investments (i.e., community centers, recreational spaces, grocery stores, transportation, school improvements). Residents would add that there is no school, grocery store, health care facility, or community center. As well, the character and cohesiveness of Fulton the community were more difficult if not impossible to preserve and reestablish. Is revitalizing the pre-existing sense of community and former community ties that were dismantled 46 years ago even realistic? One wonders if the overarching goal of strengthening the Fulton community was ever possible, or whether this was simply a political ploy to obtain residents approval and buy-in.

PHOTO: Fulton from Chimborazo (1890s) (Valentine)

RRHA communities have been the recipient of other federally funded revitalization programs that included the Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere (HOPE) VI project, the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program and others. While each program serves its own purpose, the overarching goal renews severely distressed public housing communities and offer economic and social growth opportunities for residents.

Continued on page 3


Levy, D. K. (2006, March 16). Community level effects of displacement. Retrieved from www.urAtkinson, R. (2002). Does gentrification help or urban Neighborhoods? An assessment of lication/community-level-effects-displacement the evidence-base in the context of the new urban agenda. Economic and Social Research Council, Levy, D. K. (2010, August 11). The limits of relocaCentre for Neighborhood Research. tion: Employment and family well-being among former Madden/Wells residents. Retrieved Badger, E. (2014, December 12). It’s time to give up from the most loaded, least understood word in urban research/publication/limits-relocation-empolicy: Gentrification. The Washington Post. ployment-and-family-well-being-among-forBarton, M. (2016). An exploration of the impormer-maddenwells-residents tance of the strategy used to identify gentrificaLevy, D. K., Comey, J., & Padilla, S. (2006, March tion. Urban Studies, 1-12. 17). In the Face of Gentrification: Case Studies of Bostic, R., & Martin, R. (2003). Black home-owners Local Efforts of Mitigate Displacement. Retrieved as a gentrifying force? Neighborhood dynamics from in the context of minority home ownership. Urresearch/publication/face-gentrification ban Studies, 2427-2449. Marcuse, P. (1986). Abandonment, gentrification Evans, K. B. (2017, March 8). Federal housing agenand displacement: The linkages in New York City. cy investigating alleged civil rights violations in In N. Smith, & P. Williams, Gentrification of the Hopewell. Richmond Times Dispatch. City. London: Unwin Hyman. Freeman, L. (2005). Displacement or Succession? Residential Mobility in Gentrifying Neighbor- Popkin, S. J. (2002, August 17). Families need CHA escape plan. Chicago Sun Times. hoods. Urban Affairs Review, 463-491.


Continued from page 2 acres of the public housing community. Plans include demolition of the old Armstrong High School and construction of 256 mixed income units, senior housing rental units, a three-story apartment building, and a one-for-one replacement of the 504 public housing units in Creighton Court (Spiers, 2016). Additionally, plans for a community center, green space memorial garden, and 1.2 acres will be reserved for playgrounds and open space (Spiers, 2016). Former Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones implored the business community to support this planned transformation by revitalizing the economic infrastructure that once thrived in these communities. Given the historical markers in relationship to the projected goals and objectives, strong concerns and a considerable skepticism loom about the ability of the housing authority and its partners to deliver and the ability for HUD to adequately oversee, monitor and hold agencies accountable. Overall, the efforts included rehabilitation, conservation, preservation, and upgrading, but at times included razing, demolishing and rebuilding with an intended goal of revitalizing neighborhood growth and reestablishing its sense of safety and stability. By introducing affordable, mixed-income housing, landscape improvement, repair/installation of street lights, repair/installation of street signs, modifications of traffic patterns, and a host of other municipal improvements, a more diverse (i.e., racial, economic) population would be attracted to reside in the community, which would spark business development (i.e., stores, restaurants, recreational facilities) and change the public school demographics and increase accessibility to community residents. Intended outcomes also include the dissipation of racially segregated and economically impoverished communities that had been neglected, marginalized and ignored for decades; communities that were created by federal policies and executed by local governments. The problem is that the neighborhoods slated for renewal and revitalization are predominately African American and economically impoverished. In a recent Church Hill North Revitalization dedication ceremony, former Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones noted the state Richmond’s public housing communities, stating that the city has “one of the biggest public housing communities on the East Coast; We’re starting with Creighton, but all of them need to go.” (Spiers, 2016). Just as the Richmond City Council was voting to approve the RRHA Fulton project, they also voted to revitalize 136.6 acres of Washington Park (predominately white) with landscaping, street lights, curbs/gutters/storm drains, sidewalk, and the demolition of homes unable to rehabilitated. Race and economics often create limited options, limited personal freedom and limited political power. Not so long ago, legislation dictated where African Americans could live, driven primarily by race and economics. These areas were often of less quality and not desirable. Subject to normal wear and tear, the deterioration was facilitated by an inequitable lack of municipal services (safety, street lights, landscape maintenance, alley maintenance, street maintenance) availed to the community coupled with the community’s lack of resources to supplement the inequitable treatment. In these communities, the aesthetic deterioration reaches a tipping point and the government officials exercise their authority to radically revitalize a community that they have, through the years, contributed to its overall deterioration. Social psychology would suggest that regardless of the economic status or ethnic makeup of the community, that it maintains its own character, social cohesion, established mores, customs, and conventions. Communities reinforce social norms and values as well as their collective belief in the system. Communities create neighborhood culture that becomes more deeply rooted with time, continuity and longevity. This includes the sense of unity and interconnection, generations of family and friends, presence of extended family/kinships, and the existing strength of the communities that existed prior to the rehabilitation initiatives and are consistently overlooked because outsiders are tending to the window dressing and aesthetics of the neighborhood structures. Many of the former residents would contend that the renewal projects minimize these critically important variables that define the community. The radical revitalization process minimizes these components, displacing residents with the promises that the community will be strengthened and they will be welcomed to return. However, the roots are often unearthed and transformed by the gentrification shift. One would contend that this dynamic continues with each project proposed. While Fulton was the most severely impacted and entirely demolished, similarly Richmond’s AfricanAmerican communities of Carver, Randolph, Jackson Ward, Oregon Hill, and Blackwell endured their own form of urban renewal. We can anticipate that radical revitalization will also take place as the city implements plans to dismantle and rebuild the existing public housing communities, which includes Creighton Court and Frederick Fay Towers. Such urban revitalization projects signal that community gentrification is on the horizon. The overall impact on displaced and relocated residents remains largely unknown and the impact on the child residents is largely unexplored. Next: What is gentrification?

Freeman, L. (2016, June 3). Five myths about gentrification. The Washington Post.

Popkin, S. J. (2010). A glass half empty? New evidence from the HOPE VI Panel Study. Housing Policy Debate, 43-63. Freeman, L., & Braconi, F. (2002, January/FebruPsteele, L. (1970, April 25). Marsh warns against ary). Gentrification and Displacement. Retrieved citizen apathy in renewal project. Richmond Afro from American, p. 3. wp-content/uploads/2011/01/UP_Gentrification_Displacement.pdf Richardson, S. (2008). Built by Blacks. Charleston: History Press. Gallagher, M. (2010, August 11). CHA Transformation: Children and Youth. Retrieved from www.ur- Richmond Afro American. (1970, April 11). Urban hearing scheduled for Monday. Richcation/cha-transformation-children-and-youth mond Afro American, p. 1. Getsinger, L., & Popkin, S. J. (2010, December 1). RRHA. (1970). Fulton Redevelopment Plan. RichReaching the next generation: The crisis for CHA’s mond: Richmond Redevelopment Housing Auyouth. Brief 6. Retrieved from thority. RRHA. (1999). HOPE VI: The revitalization of the reaching-next-generation-crisis-chas-youth Blackwell Community. Richmond: RRHA. Glass, R. (1964). London: Aspects of Change. In C. Sheppard, S. (2012). Why is gentrification a probF. Studies, London: Aspects of Change. London: lem? Williamstown: Center for Creative CommuMacGibbon & Kee. nity Development. Retrieved from www.c-3-d. Grant, B. (2003, June 17). What is Gentrification? org. Retrieved from http://www.pbs. org/pov/flagwars/special_gentrification.php Spiers, J. (2016, November 1). Church Hill North breaks ground. Retrieved from www.RichKennedy, M., & Leonard, P. (2001, April 1). Dealing http://richmondbizsense. with Neighborhood Change: A Primer on Gentrificom/2016/11/01/church-hill-north-breakscation and Policy Choices. Retrieved from www. ground/ wp-content/uploads/2016/06/gentrification. Tilsley, A. (2016, October 27). Transforming houspdf ing, transfomring lives? Retrieved from www. Komp, C. (2016, July 21). Indelible Roots: Historic transforming-housing-transforming-lives Fulton and Urban Renewal. Retrieved from www. Williams, M. P. (2017, March 9). Williams: Uncernews/indelible-roots-historic-fulton-and-urtain times for public housing. Richmond Times ban-renewal Dispatch.

Komp, C. (2016, July 26). Indelible Roots: Preserving Wyly, E. K., & Hammel, D. J. (1999). Islands of decay Fulton’s History. Retrieved from www.ideastain seas of renewal: Housing policy and the gence of gentrification. Housing Policy Debate, indelible-roots-preserving-fultons-history 711-771.


Giving Girls A Voice To Change The World By Debora Timms

Angela Patton Founder of CAMP DIVA

In the summer of 2004, Angela Patton founded the CAMP DIVA program in Richmond, Va. to provide sessions in healthy eating, meditation, fashion and leadership to black girls, a group she knew to be underserved and too often ignored. Within a couple of years, Patton’s summer camp program was noticed by the California-based Girls for a Change, which wanted to expand its after-school curriculum to the East Coast. “I was really apprehensive at first,” Patton recalls. “I was like, ‘Here we go. White people coming in and trying to steal ….’ That was in my head. I mean, I had been doing my program for years on a shoestring budget,” Patton said during a telephone interview. “Then I decided to read the curriculum. When I did that, I fell in love with it. I thought, ‘Oh my God, my girls need this!’” Patton’s vision for CAMP DIVA was focused on developing leadership, while the Girls for a Change program focused on social change, particularly through the use of Girl Action Teams - groups of 5 to 10 girls working under volunteer “coaches” to identify and propose solutions for community issues. The two concepts complemented each other and the partnership eventually became a merger in 2013, with Patton becoming CEO of the new organization. “Bringing the two together, I really started to see that social, emotional intelligence come out of my girls. I started to see their voices,” Patton said. According to the Girls for a Change website,


Center for the Study of the

Patton has facilitated more than 200 social change projects developed through Girl Action Teams. One of the first projects to come out of Richmond was a Date with Dad dance to help girls engage more meaningfully with their fathers. The inaugural dance in 2007 drew about 20 girls and their fathers. This year’s 10th Annual Date with Dad Dinner and Dance was March 19. It has grown to encompass a weekend of planned activities, and about 600 fathers attended the dance with their daughters. Another dance will also took place that day, but was behind bars in a Richmond jail. In a 2012 TED Talk, Patton shares how “A Dance of Their Own” began. Patton describes how Franiqua Davis was not excited about the dance because she knew she couldn’t attend it. Her father was incarcerated. When Franiqua shared her story with other girls, their conversation led to a decision to hold two dances -- the one already planned for the community and a second one

in the prison. After writing a letter and getting permission from Richmond’s Sheriff C.T. Woody Jr., the dance in Richmond Jail took place and was enjoyed by the fathers and daughters. That dance attracted local and national news coverage, and inspired other jails and prisons to sponsor dances. Patton gives the girls credit for identifying an issue -- lack of engagement between fathers and daughters -- and finding a solution, the Date with Dad dances. “It’s so important to look at a girl and recognize her genius mind that she could see an issue and have a solution,” Patton said. “The more you open up the doors, the more people can see her worth, and then she values her own true worth even more.” This year, Girl Action Teams in the Girls for a Change program will present their social change projects in the Black Girl Showcase, a forum that gives teams from various sites a chance to share the projects they have been working on with

each other, their families and the community. The public is invited along to celebrate the girls and look for ways to support their projects on May 4, from 6 - 8:30 p.m. at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens. Past Girl Action Teams have developed the Date with Dad dance and the dance behind bars, as well as a mural project aimed at changing the narrative of black girls in schools. This year’s teams have a lot to offer as well. Patton shared a glimpse of a couple of the ideas that will presented this year, including young people supporting youth entrepreneurship through the creation of a seasonal youth market and young people supporting each other to help prevent youth suicides. “There are a lot of grieving classes,” Patton said of the girls’ idea. “No one has a prevention or intervention class.” Looking to the future, Girls for a Change plans to expand its outreach by establishing chapters nationwide. The group currently has a West Coast chapter in Oakland, Calif., as well as its East Coast arm in Richmond. Partnerships with organizations such as Citizen Schools and Boys and Girls Clubs allow for after -school programs and Girl Action Teams to be offered in other areas. “The challenge is that we really, truly want to engage more in the community,” Patton said. By establishing more chapters, Girls for a Change can have full staff and support within the community that will allow them to better tailor what they offer because not every black girl or every black community has the same needs. Summer camps are currently only offered in Richmond, although there is the opportunity for all Girls for a Change members to apply to attend the two-week residential camp programs. This year will see camps for leadership and social change offered in partnership with Virginia Union University and a fashion camp in partnership with Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Fashion Design and Merchandising.

Continued on page 4 Patton estimates that Girls for a Change has served more than 700 girls so far in this school year. The residential summer camps, and the day camps offered to rising first to eighth graders, will serve up to another 100 girls. Currently there are about 15 Girl Action Teams across the nation.

Aunt Mac’s Corner

Funding for these projects comes from a variety of sources. Girls are not charged to participate in Girl Action Teams and after school programming. Summer camps do have affordable fees with scholarship funds available to assist families of limited means because Girls for a Change tries to ensure that no girl who wants to participate is turned away. The nonprofit depends on private donations from individuals and organizations, as well as grants from local and national foundations and state and city funding. The organization is trying to tap into federal funding to work on capacity building.

of a child, our culture and purveyors of truth.

Another goal is to include younger girls in its regular programs which are aimed at middle and high school girls. While younger girls can participate in day camps in Richmond, Patton says there is a real need to reach out to girls in lower grades.

occurrences and operating below the level of trust, care and understanding which is the life setting of so

“We’ve really been thinking about what’s happening to our third grade black girls,” Patton said. “We’ve seen them talking about suicide. They or their friends may have been molested or exposed to human trafficking. They’re just exposed to too much. We want to help them so they can work through their feeling and learn to express themselves and feel confident in their voices way before they get to middle school.”

The CBS segment on the phenomena of the “Bruh Hug” was informed by the comments of two young

Patton also wants to focus more on policy initiatives that can help girls of color by changing systems that are rooted in oppression. Not doing that, Patton said, would really be blunting the point of the work.

touch. Separated by shores and language differences and institutionalized adversity, we were made aware

“It’s all about progression and change,” Patton said. “You want to do everything for everybody, but you have to focus in and see what the needs are.”

This month’s comments were inspired by three events…viewing the Academy Award-winning film “Moonlight, a CBS Sunday Morning segment on the “Bruh Hug,” and viewing the James Baldwin documentary “I Am Not Your Negro.” The subject of this reflection is the influence of black men on the life While some have found the storyline of “Moonlight” to be controversial, I believe that a major milestone has been reached by this beautifully filmed and electrifying movie. The portrayal of black boys and men in this film is offered with so much emotion and clarity; it could only have been filmed by someone who loves black men and boys, and someone who is unashamed about their respect for and homage to them. In the first segment of the trilogy, Juan (Marhershula Ali), a drug-dealer, becomes a surrogate father to Chiron (Alex Hibbert), whose mother is a crack addict. Chiron has found a temporary and supportive home base with Juan and his wife. Chiron’s scenes with Juan build a story of black love that is captivating both because it is presented with a notable level of humanity, commonality and pain, and because it portrays a part of the experience of any serious parent-child relationship in families living in high-stress environments, subjected to stressful daily many urban African-American children. The role of Juan in Chiron’s life and development is evidenced in the following two segments of the movie which shows Chiron as a teen and an adult. The effects of Juan’s attention, prior to Juan’s murder, serve as the building blocks of Chiron’s persona and provide balance to his struggles in later years. Score 1 for a black man’s love. black researchers as viewers were introduced to the growing acceptance of the male hugging ritual as a mainstream element of modern American culture. The course of the behavior was charted and discussed, and its etiology was attributed to the common practice of black men dapping. The presenters discussed, showed examples and compared the history of black men dapping to the growing, high profile Bruh Hug on the national stage such as a recent NFL drafting event. Viewers were treated to a “Bruh Hug” clinic and howto and viewed historical footage of black men greeting each other with joy and ritual touch. As the segment closed, the narrative spoke to the leadership of black men in expressing their emotions…man to man with that they touched to find their home. Score 2 for black men’s love. “I Am Not Your Negro,” has been described as “an emotionally devastating film by Raoul Peck about James Baldwin.” While it is a biography, it is so unique to the genius of Baldwin, his positioning to explore and question the mindset and motivation of America and to explore how racism, identity, history and collective denial and shame have joined together to make a “dramatically bifurcated America.” Director Peck’s work has an eerie familiarity due to the inclusion of modern footage of police brutality (Ferguson, Mo.) and ongoing shame that is a foretaste of the reign of “45”. Baldwin’s eloquence and his international experience burst through during the footage which is juxtaposed with graphic images of the various stages of the American civil rights movement. Viewers are wrapped in anger, violence and a unique presentation of the author positioned with Martin Luther King and Malcolm which focuses of their unique and overlapping philosophies and world views at different stages of their rise to national prominence. Baldwin concludes that both Malcolm and Martin were, at the time of their assassinations, closer than ever with reference to their solutions for Black America and predictions for America in general. Their deaths, along with that of Medgar Evers, are highlighted as turning points for Black America. They present rallying points for Baldwin to go hard on the majority targeting the persistent and unrelenting assault on Black citizens and the seeds of hopelessness being sewn by the status of American education, housing, work climate, mass incarceration, and racial violence. Hearing James Baldwin’s raw and poetic narrative 40 years later reminds me of the stark realities of our present in our home…America. Score 3 for the brilliant and insightful seer…a world citizen…born black in New York.

Center for the Study of the


Mothers of Black Boys and Men Unite for Change By Kimberly Fields Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile. Their names became hash tags as their untimely deaths at the hands of law enforcement were analyzed and scrutinized, but their lives also provided motivation for change. Mothers Of Black Boys United, Inc. (M.O.B.B) was established July 7, 2016, shortly after the shooting deaths of Sterling in Baton Rouge, La. and Castile in Minnesota. Depelsha Thomas McGruder, founder and president of M.O.B.B, began the organization with a Facebook group of 30 friends whom she knew would relate to her anguished emotions. By the end of the day, the group had grown to more than 21,000 members. It wasn’t long after that M.O.B.B expanded into an advocacy organization, M.O.B.B for Social Change, and began to tackle real issues nationally with hopes of making a change. I recently spoke with Thomas McGruder who provided more insight into the organization.


The Advocate: Tell me about the purpose of the organization

(who live throughout the country) but are able to push

M.O.B.B.: The purpose of the organization, which is a 501©3 pending, is to provide information and support for moms of black sons and also to promote positive images of black boys and men. So, we want to be a resource for moms for everything they need to know about raising young black men to be productive citizens. The other organization is M.O.B.B United for Social Change and that’s our advocacy arm and that’s all about influencing policy that impacts black boys and men, particularly in their interactions with law enforcement.

about. There have been a few moments we’ve been proud of on the advocacy front. Very early on, right after the Philando Castile case, the officer was put back on active duty while the investigation was still going on and we really rallied hard. That officer was taken back off of duty and we’d like to believe we had a role in that. Also, we were very vocal about the Raise The Age legislature in New York that just passed recently which raised the age of criminal responsibility as an adult from 16 to 18.





The Advocate: What was it about Alton Sterling and Philando Castile’s deaths that made you decide it was time to organize? M.O.B.B.: I had the idea mainly to create an online support group for moms of black sons just for us to band together and share information and provide resources to each other. I think it was a combination of the shooting happening back to back within 24 to 48 hours. I think it was also the very, very, very graphic images in both instances. I think it was the voice of (Castile’s) girlfriend. I think it was the fact that there was a 4-year-old child in the back seat. At the time, my son was 4, so just imagining my child having to experience something like that was horrifying. The Advocate: How has it been working with parents nationally to try to create change? M.O.B.B.: It’s been amazing… surprisingly amazing. We met on Facebook. So, just think about that for a minute. All the people you could possibly meet on Facebook, so, the fact that I’ve met a group of women who are so passionate, so smart, so highly skilled. It’s been a wonderful experience of sisterhood and just rallying together around something that we are all very passionate about. The Advocate: What has been the organization’s biggest accomplishment so far? M.O.B.B.: I would say that the biggest thing is the fact that we’ve stuck with it this long. Being a coalition of strangers

forward and move strategically. That’s what this is really


The Advocate: How does it feel to take matters into your own hands to help strengthen the black community and culture?

M.O.B.B.: It feels great. It feels very empowering and it’s all new territory for me. I’ve spent the last 20 years in entertainment and had a wonderful career there, and I was very passionate about it. But the level of passion I feel about this is just a whole other level in terms of personal connection. I hope that this will be my legacy because, again, I’m going to have two black sons for the rest of my life, hopefully. So this is a cause that is near and dear to my heart, and if I can make a difference for them, make a difference for black boys and men everywhere, then that would be more meaningful than anything I’ve ever done.


The Advocate: What are else would you like readers to know? M.O.B.B.: It is important to note that, although we are mothers of black sons, we are a diverse group. It is defined by the race of the son, not the mom. The other thing I would add is that we are not anti-law enforcement. We want our sons to make it home every night and we want officers to make it home safe every night because they are someone’s sons, too.

For more information, visit M.O.B.B’s website at Kimberly Fields is a writer based in Raleigh, N.C.

Delpesha Thomas McGruder, (top right) is the founder and president of Mothers of Black Boys United, Inc.

Positive By Bonnie Newman Davis


Check out these terrific titles for teens written by AfricanAmerican authors! The list includes winners of the Coretta Scott King Award Courtesy of Burlington County Library, Westampton, NJ

Photos by Jay Paul A wave of loud voices and laughter greets me as I step into George Washington Carver Elementary School on West Leigh Street. I ask Kiwana Yates about all the chatter, and she leads me to the cafeteria, where 8- and 9-yearolds socialize at their lunch tables, fidget in lines and beam big smiles at their principal. With a slight chuckle, Principal Yates says that people who believe quiet schools equate to learning are mistaken. If students are quiet in the cafeteria, that means they’re being disruptive and not learning in the classroom, she says. That pragmatism, combined with the school’s laser focus on learning, led to Carver being named a National Blue Ribbon School in late September. The award, presented to just seven schools in Virginia and 329 schools in the country, recognizes overall academic excellence or the school’s progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups. Almost all of Carver’s 500 students are AfricanAmerican, and 96 percent live in the Gilpin Court public housing community. All students qualify for free lunch. For Yates, the Blue Ribbon recognition is particularly rewarding because it demonstrates how Carver has met and exceeded state benchmarks in English, math, history and science for the past three years. “What’s the magic formula?” I ask Yates as we sit in her office that’s just big enough for her desk and chair and two seats for visitors. A wall behind Yates’ desk holds several articles about Carver’s achievements. “There is no magic formula,” replies Yates, 36. While acknowledging improved test scores, Yates says people sometimes misconstrue the numbers. For example, having 98 percent of students meet a benchmark of 75 in English means just that, she says. Not all students meet that 75 mark, and the goal is to have more students score above 75.

Yates’ supporters believe that as long as she remains at Carver, the school will continue to reap rewards. “Smart, competitive and willing to share what she knows” is how her first boss describes her. Cheryl Burke was principal at Chimborazo Elementary School in Church Hill for 19 years. She hired Yates, who was then Kiwana Evans, right after she graduated from Virginia Union University. “She was very child-centered and positive,” Burke recalls. “You could tell that she was a born teacher. She knew the facts and data, as well as the personal and relationship aspects of the job. She was affectionate, but also let students know that she was the teacher and they were the students. The students loved her. I told someone that she can teach a cat how to read.” Yates started teaching lower-level classes at Chimborazo and soon moved to upper-level classes. After marrying her college sweetheart, Darnell, she accepted a teaching position in Washington, D.C., but returned to Chimborazo after discovering she was pregnant with her son, Darnell II, now 8. Burke suggested that Yates consider becoming a school administrator. Yates, who has two master’s degrees from Virginia State University and a doctoral degree in education from Argosy University, followed Burke’s advice and served for two years as an assistant principal at Carver before becoming its principal. Raymond Hylton, a history professor at VUU, was Yates’ academic adviser at the historically black university that is within walking distance of Carver. Yates was a student who never gave excuses and was always willing to help inspire her classmates, he recalls. “She was almost a mentor to other students and showed a natural aptitude for teaching and leadership.”

Besides teaching, family means everything to Yates. When she was growing up in a Brooklyn, New York, housing project, her parents continually stressed the importance of education. Her father, Ernest Branch, urged her to compete against herself rather than others. Her mother, Patricia Evans Branch, was always her biggest cheerleader. When Yates became valedictorian of her Benjamin Banneker Academy high school class, her father’s only response was, “I told you so.” Yates said that all subjects — math, science, reading — intrigued her because her teachers knew how to make each subject separate, distinct and fun. Listening to Yates and seeing how excited she becomes when talking about her students, I can tell that lessons from her past remain deeply embedded in her approach to teaching and learning. “I tell students all day long, ‘You are the best, you can do it,’ ” she says. “When you get that positive reinforcement, it goes a long way in letting them know we care.” Reprinted With Permission Richmond Magazine Online Nov. 13, 2016

The Death of Jayson Porter by Jaime Adoff In the Florida projects, 16-year-old Jayson struggles with the harsh realities of his life which include an abusive mother, a drugaddicted father, and not fitting in at his predominately white school, and bring him to the brink of suicide. We Could Be Brothers by Derrick Barnes Two eighth-graders from very different backgrounds, Robeson “Crease” Battlefield and Pacino Clapton, discover in afterschool detention that they have a great deal in common. Kendra by Coe Booth High schooler Kendra longs to live with her mother who, unprepared for motherhood at age fourteen, left Kendra in the care of her grandmother. Tyrell by Coe Booth Fifteen-year-old Tyrell, who is living in a Bronx homeless shelter with his spaced-out mother and his younger brother, tries to avoid temptation so he does not end up in jail like his father. Sequel: Bronxwood. Bucking the Sarge by Christopher Paul Curtis Deeply involved in his cold and manipulative mother’s shady business dealings in Flint, Michigan, 14-year-old Luther keeps a sense of humor while running the Happy Neighbor Group Home For Men, all the while dreaming of going to college and becoming a philosopher. Jason and Kyra by Dana Davidson Jason is a basketball star and one of the most popular guys in school. Brainy Kyra isn’t so popular, but she doesn’t care what other people think. Find out what happens when the unlikely duo is paired up for a class project. The Battle of Jericho by Sharon Draper A high school junior and his cousin suffer the ramifications of joining what seems to be a “reputable” school club. Sequels: November Blues and Just Another Hero. Continued on page 8

Center for the Study of the


Center for the Study of the Urban Child Leadership Team

Continued from page 7 Copper Sun by Sharon Draper Two 15-year-old girls--one a slave and the other an indentured servant--escape their Carolina plantation and try to make their way to Fort Moses, Florida, a Spanish colony that gives sanctuary to slaves. Coretta Scott King Award winner. The Skin I’m In by Sharon Flake Thirteen-year-old Maleeka, uncomfortable because her skin is extremely dark, meets a new teacher with a birthmark on her face and makes some discoveries about how to love who she is and what she looks like. Bang! by Sharon Flake A teenage boy must face the harsh realities of inner city life, a disintegrating family, and destructive temptations as he struggles to find his identity as a young man. Bronx Masquerade by Nikki Grimes While studying the Harlem Renaissance, students at a Bronx high school read aloud poems they’ve written, revealing their innermost thoughts and fears to their formerly clueless classmates. The First Part Last by Angela Johnson Bobby’s carefree teenage life changes forever when he becomes a father and must care for his adored baby daughter. Coretta Scott King and Printz Award winner.

apart. Now, to pay off debts, Pierce Butler wants to cash in his slave “assets”, possibly including Emma. Harlem Hustle by Janet McDonald Eric “Hustle” Samson, a smart and street-wise seventeen-year-old dropout from Harlem, aspires to rap stardom, a dream he naively believes is about to come true. 47 by Walter Mosley Number 47, a 14-year-old slave boy growing up under the watchful eye of a brutal master in 1832, meets the mysterious Tall John, who introduces him to a magical science and also teaches him the meaning of freedom. Dope Sick by Walter Dean Myers Seeing no way out of his difficult life in Harlem, 17-year-old Jeremy “Lil J” Dance flees into a house after a drug deal goes awry and meets a weird man who shows different turning points in Lil J’s life when he could have made better choices. Monster by Walter Dean Myers While on trial as an accomplice to a murder, 16-year-old Steve Harmon records his experiences in prison and in the courtroom in the form of a film script as he tries to come to terms with the course his life has taken. Printz Award winner.

Day of Tears by Julius Lester Emma has taken care of the Butler children since Sarah and Frances’s mother, Fanny, left. Emma wants to raise the girls to have good hearts, as a rift over slavery has ripped the Butler household

Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith During World War II, a light-skinned African American girl “passes” for white in order to join the Women Airforce Service Pilots.

Where to Go, Things to Do This Summer

The Richmond Slave Trail is a walking trail that chronicles the history of the trade of enslaved Africans from Africa to Virginia until 1775, and away from Virginia, especially Richmond, to other locations in the Americas until 1865.

DePillars’ compulsion to create works of art

It begins at Manchester Docks, a major port in the massive downriver Slave Trade that made Richmond the largest source of enslaved Africans on the east coast of America from 1830 to 1860. The trail then follows a route through the slave markets of Richmond, beside the Reconciliation Statue commemorating the international triangular slave trade, past Lumpkin’s Slave Jail and the Negro Burial Ground to First African Baptist Church, a center of African-American life in pre-Civil War Richmond.

cannot be separated from his compulsion to educate; his complex paintings are not only executed with virtuosity, but their subjects are highly researched. Each work provides a dynamic aesthetic experience as well as an opportunity to learn about history and culture. The thirty-seven works included in this retrospective exhibition span DePillars’ entire career, including works from 1964 through 2007, and exemplify his diverse and prodigious oeuvre. The exhibit at the Black History and Cultural Museum of Virginia ends June 3, 2017. Location: 22 W. Leigh Street Richmond, VA 23220 (804) 780-9093

Directions: Take the Maury Street exit off Interstate 95 South and turn right. Drive a mile until the road – now Brander Street – deadends. Turn left into the parking lot of Ancarrow’s Landing/Manchester Slave Dock, the easternmost section of James River Park.

Lisa T. Moon, Director Associate Professor Department of Psychology Dr. Joy Lawson Davis, Associate Professor & Chairperson Department of Education Dr. Sandra K. Flynn Associate Professor Department of Social Work Newsletter Editor - Bonnie Newman Davis, Bonnie Newman Davis Media Consulting Black Boy White School by Brian F. Walker When 14-year-old Anthony “Ant” Jones from the ghetto of East Cleveland, Ohio, gets a scholarship to a prep school in Maine, he finds that he must change his image and adapt to a world that never fully accepts him, but when he goes home he discovers that he no longer truly belongs there either. Sellout by Ebony Wilkins NaTasha loves her life of affluence in Park Adams, but her grandmother fears she has lost touch with her roots and whisks her off to Harlem, where NaTasha meets rough, street-wise girls at a crisis center and finds the courage to hold her own against them. Maxine Banks Is Getting Married by Lori Aurelia Williams When 17-year-old Maxine’s best friend gets married, Maxine suddenly decides that she and her boyfriend Brian should too, but things do not The Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site This exhibit explores the life and legacy of Maggie L. Walker (1864-1934), civil rights activist and trailblazing entrepreneur. The beloved African American community leader devoted her life to defeating racism, sexism, and economic oppression. Mrs. Walker chartered a bank, a newspaper, and a store 17 years before American women had the right to vote, and fostered black entrepreneurialism when Jim Crow laws threatened African American progress.

turn out the way she expected, and both she and Brian realize that they are not as grown up as they thought. Jumped by Rita Williams-Garcia The lives of Leticia, Dominique, and Trina are irrevocably intertwined through the course of one day in an urban high school after Leticia overhears Dominique’s plans to beat up Trina and must decide whether or not to get involved. After Tupac and D Foster by Jacqueline Woodson In the New York City borough of Queens in 1996, three girls bond over their shared love of Tupac Shakur’s music, as together they try to make sense of the unpredictable world in which they live. Look for book titles for younger children in the next issue of The Advocate!

center of “Quality Row,” a residential block of African American lawyers, doctors, ministers, and bankers in Jim Crow Richmond’s Jackson Ward. This neighborhood was known as the “Harlem of the South” during the first quarter of the 20th century. Elsewhere The National Museum of African American History and Culture is the only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of

From 1905 until her death in 1934, Walker’s “urban mansion” in Richmond, Virginia served as a social hub and family sanctuary to four generations. This exhibit provides an intimate view of Mrs. Walker’s personal and professional life, her home, belongings, and writings, as well as her formidable energy and devotion to family and the economic empowerment of African Americans.

African American life, history, and culture. It was

Constructed in 1883 by George Boyd, a local African American builder, the Walker home at 110 ½ E. Leigh Street in Richmond, Virginia, evolved from a modest, five-room Italianate row house to a sprawling 28-room urban Victorian mansion by 1928. The house sat squarely in the

newest museum of the Smithsonian Institution.

established by Act of Congress in 2003, following decades of efforts to promote and highlight the contributions of African Americans. To date, the Museum has collected more than 36,000 artifacts and nearly 100,000 individuals have become charter members. The Museum opened to the public on September 24, 2016, as the 19th and More than one million people have visited the museum since it opened. If you aren’t able to visit the museum this summer, visit its website:

The Advocate - ISSUE NO. 3 / May 2017  

VUU’s Center for the Study of the Urban Child was established in 2010 to serve as an essential resource hub and informational clearinghouse...

The Advocate - ISSUE NO. 3 / May 2017  

VUU’s Center for the Study of the Urban Child was established in 2010 to serve as an essential resource hub and informational clearinghouse...