City News

Human Services

City of Richmond, Performing Statistics unveil Freedom Constellations, public art project celebrating and supporting youth voice

The City of Richmond and cultural organizing nonprofit Performing Statistics have teamed up to give Richmond’s youth a space of reverence and reflection on the sides of Richmond's City Hall.

Freedom Constellations, a multimedia public art project led by artist Mark Strandquist featuring two large banners flanking the Marshall Street and 9th Street sides of City Hall, will include two Richmond Public Schools students involved with RISE for Youth (Ta’Dreama McBride and Clyde Walker) voicing a group of local youth’s vision for a future where all youth are free.

When the exhibit is installed, 160 foot tall portraits will flank City Hall. As visitors hold smartphones up to the portraits, augmented reality animation and audio will display the young leaders’ dreams for the future as they articulate the investments they say will keep the community safe, healthy, and free. They will hear the words and voices of young people in the form of a co-written poem: “In a world without youth prisons. I walk down the streets and… I hear happiness in the community, and I feel safe…”

The experience will ask visitors to imagine a world where every young person feels empowered, free, heard and hopeful, growing up surrounded by the support and love they need to thrive.


Exhibit installation will begin at the end of June. Visitors will be able to experience Freedom Constellations starting in July, with the augmented reality experience located on the corner of 9th Street and Marshall Street.

Quotes from Project Partners:

“We must build a future where every young person feels unlimited in potential and unimpeded by the burdens of systemic racism and poverty,” said Mayor Stoney. “Freedom Constellations will be a beacon shining brightly from City Hall in support of that vision.”

“Covering the sides of city hall with interactive portraits of youth fighting to make Richmond a better place is exactly the kind of monumental public art that Richmond needs in this moment,” says Mark Strandquist, lead artist for the project and creative director at Performing Statistics. “Through photography and augmented reality, Freedom Constellations elevates not singular historic voices, but a multitude of powerful and visionary youth in the city. It is deeply important that the city provide platforms for all youth to speak about their experiences, showcase their leadership, and share their dreams for a more just, whole, and free Richmond with all of us. We can never build that future if we can’t imagine it, illustrate it, design it, and youth need to be part of that process. These young leaders have given us all a huge gift; they’ve shared a beautiful blueprint for a Richmond where all youth have the support we all deserve. I hope we all use this as an opportunity to listen, learn, and find more ways to involve youth in all of our efforts to make the world and future a better place.”

“The Human Services portfolio in the City of Richmond is dedicated to facilitating the hopes and dreams that Freedom Constellations embodies,” said Reggie Gordon, Deputy Chief Administrative Officer for Human Services. “Richmond’s youth provide a key voice in our conversation on building a more compassionate city, and I greatly look forward to the other conversations this monumental public art installation will inspire.”

“Being a part of something that’s bigger than myself is just extraordinary,” said Ta’Dreama McBride, a youth activist and subject of the public art installation. “I hope when you see this you’re inspired to make a change in your community – not just that, but a change in the world.”

This project was made possible by support from the City of Richmond Departments of Human Services, Social Services, Justice Services, Parks, Recreation, and Community Facilities, the Richmond Police Department, Richmond Region Tourism and Venture Richmond.

To learn more about Performing Statistics, please visit https://www.performingstatistics.org

For a live stream of the event, visit the city’s Facebook page here. Please contact Sam Schwartzkopf of the Office of Public Information and Engagement at sam.schwartzkopf@richmondgov.com with questions about the exhibit.

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Mayor appoints new Director of Housing and Community Development, creates Homeless Services Liaison position

Mayor Levar M. Stoney today announced the hiring of a new Director of Housing and Community Development as well as the appointment of a Homeless Services Liaison for the City of Richmond.

Longtime affordable housing and community development professional Sherrill Hampton will serve as Director of Housing and Community Development. 

Dianne Wilmore, the Community Service Manager at the North Avenue Branch of the Richmond Public Library, will assume the role of Homeless Services Liaison.

“Affordable housing and homelessness are two of the most critical issues facing American cities, and the City of Richmond is no exception,” said Mayor Stoney. “The need for experienced and caring individuals to address these issues has only been heightened by the pandemic, and that’s why I’m grateful to have two highly qualified public servants joining our team in this effort.”

Ms. Hampton has more than 25 years of experience in the affordable housing and community development arenas, and has worked in senior management roles in non-profit, governmental, and educational sectors. 

She holds a BS in Social Science from Claflin University and a JD from the University of South Carolina School of Law.

“As we come out of the COVID-19 pandemic facing an affordable housing crisis not seen before in the city, I am confident that Ms. Hampton’s experience in financing and real estate development along with community outreach and engagement is the right mix of knowledge and skill sets to lead us forward with the implementation of One Richmond: An Equitable Affordable Housing Plan,” said Sharon Ebert, Deputy Chief Administrative Officer for Economic Development.

In her role as Homeless Services Liaison, Ms. Wilmore will to streamline communication and manage the flow of information with the city administration and City Council with regard to homeless services in the region.

Ms. Wilmore is a former Case Manager for the Salvation Army Women’s Shelter in Cleveland and served as a Community Services and Outreach Manager in the East Cleveland Public Library system for 12 years. She is a graduate of the University of Akron.

In addition to her role as liaison, Ms. Wilmore will continue to serve as community service manager at the North Avenue branch, where she has served for seven years. She will report to Reggie Gordon, the Deputy Chief Administrative Officer for Human Services.

“In Diane, we have selected a talented city employee who will take on the additional responsibility of being the primary point person for questions and coordination regarding homeless services,” said Gordon. “Her passion for those in our community who are in a housing crisis will form the basis of a strong partnership with all stakeholders in the homeless services system.”

Council leadership was encouraged by the mayor’s moves to further solidify and coordinate the city’s response to the housing issue.

“These are two steps that our city needed to ensure that the work currently underway in affordable housing and homelessness services is an ongoing priority with the right leaders at the helm,” said Council President Cynthia Newbille. “I look forward to working with Ms. Hampton and Ms. Wilmore to secure support for Richmonders along the entire pipeline of need, from homeless services to transitional housing to permanent residence.”

“We need to be engaged and proactive as a city in our approach to helping our most vulnerable residents secure housing that is both affordable and sustainable,” said City Council Vice President Ellen Robertson. “Finding the right candidate to assume the Housing and Community Development Director role and dedicating a point person in our city to coordinate homelessness services and outreach with our local partners and regional caregivers will significantly improve our ability to make a difference in the community.”

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Reggie's January Message

Foremost wishes for 2021

Reginald E. Gordon

My foremost desire for 2021 is that we all work together to build a compassionate community in Richmond.

The pandemic has underscored the inequities and perennial challenges faced by some of our neighbors in Richmond who have had to navigate life without ample resources or a stable support system. The government, nonprofits, the faith community, foundations and lone citizens have stepped up to help keep people alive, housed and fed during these past several months of debilitating stress and anxiety.

If there ever were any doubt, it now has become abundantly clear that we definitely need each other in order to survive.

Our collective, urgent task is to build pathways that will afford all citizens the ability to journey from crisis to thriving. We have had some success in this work, but there is more work to do.

We must continue to rally together a legion of like-minded, collaborative, action-oriented people who do not have a need to be praised for their participation, but instead find affirmation in seeing the community’s shared goal come to fruition: Thousands of Richmond people, from new immigrants to longtime residents, rising up the economic ladder to thriving, experiencing the freedom to make their own unique life choices about housing, health care, food, education and opportunities for their children.

We can do this, Richmond. Start with your own family. Make sure they are all stable with housing, food and employment and are on the right track. Then branch out to families in your neighborhood or in your congregation.

Next, offer your resources, time and money to existing agencies, organizations and ministries, believing that their motivation is just as pure as yours.

If you need help finding answers to questions about available resources, visit Help1RVA.org.

New year, new energy. Let’s keep building a compassionate community together.

To see all 60 Compassionate Ways to Build Community in Richmond, go to our Instagram: humanservices.rva
 

City names Roscoe Burnems first Richmond Poet Laureate

The City of Richmond has selected its first poet laureate, Douglas Powell, known in the community by his stage name, Roscoe Burnems. Burnems is a poet, published author, spoken-word artist, comedian and teacher. 

 

Burnems has donated his time to the St. Joseph’s Villa Alternative Education Program, University of Richmond’s Partners in the Arts and ART 180, in addition to regularly leading poetry workshops at multiple middle and high schools in the City of Richmond.  He is a National Poetry Slam Champion, a former TEDx speaker and the founder of the Writer’s Den Art Collective.

 

“It is the diversity of the city and the adversities that we are able to overcome as a community that cultivate our resilience as people,” said Burnems. “This is the soil for change and progression to sprout and expand into a tree that blooms the fruit of our tenacity. We decide if that fruit is sweetened with peace or embittered with division.”

 

Evidence of an interest in and capacity for community engagement was part of the poet laureate selection criteria and a top priority of the mayor’s.

 

“The Richmond Poet Laureate should relish showing kids, teens and adults the healing, restorative power of the written word,” said Mayor Stoney. “Roscoe has exhibited time and again his interest in bringing poetry to the people, and his list of ideas for engagement projects tells me he’s the Richmonder for the job.”

 

The first ever Richmond Poet Laureate has proposed interweaving poetry into public visual art projects, hosting spoken-word competitions and showcases for youth, and partnering with Richmond Public Library system to organize a series of accessible workshops.

 

Said Burnems of his new post: “I can’t wait to get started.”

 

The Richmond Poet Laureate will make his public debut at the Poe Museum’s Birthday Bash, a virtual celebration of Edgar Allan Poe’s 212th birthday. Deputy Chief Administrative Officer for Human Services Reggie Gordon and Burnems will discuss the role of the poet laureate, how Richmond shaped his poetry and upcoming ways the laureate will engage with the community. Click here to learn more about the free festivities.

 

To learn more about Roscoe Burnems, click here.

 

To learn more about the Richmond Poet Laureate program, click here.

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Reggie's December Message

 

As the year draws to a close, there is one thing that I hope has become abundantly clear to everyone in the Human Services portfolio…our community needs us and we need each other.

This has been a year of extraordinary stress and anxiety. We have all felt it. Nonetheless, you still showed up, whether in person or virtually, to do your job.  You knew that the citizens of Richmond were depending on you.  We have learned that neither a pandemic nor civil unrest erases the need for the programs and services that we provide for our community.

You also demonstrated compassion for your colleagues. You masked up, teleworked and social distanced, in order to keep each other safe. Thank you. You extended grace to your co-workers who experienced heartache. You became experts at smiling with your eyes.

My prayer is that 2021 is a year that brings you moments of joy, even at work; and it is a year filled with affirmations of your unique value to the city and to our community.  We need you.

Best wishes to you and your family during this holiday season.

 

Click here to view the entire Human Services Holiday Celebration message.

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