It is with mixed emotions of sorrow and excitement that I write to you today. June 29th will be my last day in Richmond because I will be departing for Portland, Oregon. My wife and I are uprooting from a place and people we have truly come to love and call home for the past decade, to be closer to family and seek new job opportunities for this next stage of life.
It is basically impossible to put into words the number of thanks and gratitude I have for all the support, love, care, and time you all have given to help me serve our community through Richmond Forward and other efforts.
Thank You to Awesome People and Groups of People (Organizations)
As explained on our about page, Richmond Forward is operated by a team of organizers, which include: Ansley Perkins, Rupa Murthy, Kelly Hall, Gabriel Vernon, Greg Surber, Maria Tackett, Jenny Aghomo, and Don Cowles.
We have a Policy Action Team of about 50 people who are parents, teachers, students, business owners, nonprofit service providers, philanthropists, elected officials, or government employees. These individuals provide crucial information and specialty input that helps us develop “The Latest” updates and inform our actions.
We sought out intentional relationships with Peter Paul Development Center, Sacred Heart, and Art180 to gain greater racial and age diversity in our efforts. In addition to these relationships, we have teamed with the following groups in conducting action: St. Paul’s Episcopal, Micah Initiative, Support Our Schools, Building a Better RPS, Stay RVA, Virginia Excels, Communities in Schools of Richmond, VOICES for Virginia’s Children, American Heart Association, Mason Elementary, Elkhardt Middle, RVANews, Good Morning, RVA, Richmond Magazine, Style Weekly, Richmond Times-Dispatch, and the Mayorathon crew (Groundwork RVA, Storefront for Community Design, Bike-Walk RVA, RVA Rapid Transit, and James River Association). A huge thank you to Area 10 Faith Community as our most consistent financial backer for service projects.
Finally, there is you! Our newsletter subscribers are close to 500 strong. Thank you for following our efforts and for many of you who have responded to our calls to action.
An All-Star Newsletter Subscriber award goes to Blaine Lay of Two People podcast fame. A few years ago Blaine contacted me with a Richmond Forward article, rewritten and focused to communicate a more coherent and concise message. This completely changed my world and helped improve my writing and communication ability in enormous ways. He did this with no prompting. We need more Blaine-like actions. Carpe diem friends.
Workings of Richmond Forward
Besides people, what I will miss the most is that our team has finally figured out a haunting question for the past three years, what is Richmond Forward?
Much of this past winter was spent on focusing our mission, vision, values, work plan, and reflecting that on the website. If you have not visited the depths of the website lately, please do so! For a relatively concise read, check out this document or click on the image below to view a 3 minute video with well-designed images (credit to Gabriel Vernon) with a Cleveland accent as voice-over.
Future of Richmond Forward
This is a bittersweet ending to a chapter in my life. After a time of reflection, I have come to a place of contentment and peace with my work in Richmond. Although we are far from solving our severe problem with inequitable school facilities, I'm proud of the progress that has been made.
Earlier this week at a team meeting, we discussed next steps and there are a few that expressed interest in carrying parts of Richmond Forward forward, but they are going to need help from you all - like I did - to make this a reality.
From an operations standpoint, this is a pretty bare-bones operation, but it does require maintenance for the website and social media, content editing, and communications input (e.g. connecting “The Latest” content to the mission or goals).
From an external action standpoint, there are two major components (as explained in the video): community organizing and policy analysis.
On the Richmond Forward team there is a real interest to continue "Thriving Richmond", but to shift the focus from schools to better examine the impact of education on factors like transportation, housing, and health, which are at the crux of the divide between Richmond and RVA (e.g. gentrification, revitalization, and inclusion). Richmond Forward’s pillars of understanding in education, neighborhoods, and relationships have always informed our action, and with Richmond 300 happening, the time to shift could be now.
No matter your age or ability, if you are interested in making a change in Richmond we need people who will show up and stand FOR something. (There’s a forthcoming Richmond Forward post with reflections about this latter point). If you have any interest in our work and would like to help inform future efforts in community organizing, policy analysis, editing, social media, inclusion, transparency, nonprofit development, sending emails, building relationships, or speaking up, then send an email to contact@RichmondForward.com and we will be sure to connect you to the team.
Thank you, it has been a fun ride.