Perhaps one of the hardest things for me to do is to talk about myself. Crafting a legible narrative to explain how one got from point A to point B is an adventure; especially when we consider that as human beings we are about as non linear as it gets. Toss in the fact that you want to keep the reader’s attention and not be verbose and you get a couple dozen revisions to the same painting of a picture that accurately depicts who you are and what you do. So what I did was try to chronicle the last couple of years so that you could get a picture of what it is I do.
I started my career in community advocacy as first a volunteer then an employee of the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of VA. I worked as a museum coordinator developing programs and conducting guided tours for groups of all ages and backgrounds. In 2003 I founded the highly acclaimed Happily Natural Day festival as a grassroots effort to supplement the summer jazz concert that was held annually at the institution. A resounding success; the festival has inspired Africans from all over the globe to reexamine their relationship with their health in a holistic way. The festival is a weekend long experience held annually in both Richmond VA and Atlanta GA that focuses on cultural awareness, health, wellness and social change which features exhibitors, workshops, interactive panel discussions and performing artists from around the globe. I have worked with innumerable community activists, scholars and organizations from all over the country as a result of the decade Happily Natural Day has been in existence.
I have received numerable accolades for my work. I served as an cultural ambassador in 2007 at Adornment London; the largest expo for the Black cultural and creative sector in the UK coordinating partnerships and marketing for the seminar Beyond Image: Emancipation through Self-Discovery. I served in 2011 as a Clean Air Ambassador on behalf of Earthjustice and the Hip Hop Caucus, as one of 50 representatives from all over the United States who advocated on Capital Hill to defend our right to breathe healthy clean air. I am an alumni of Leadership Metro Richmond’s class of 2011, received Style Weekly’s Top 40 Under 40 award in 2010, was featured as Richmond Free Press’s Personality of the Week and most recently was nominated for the 2012 Golden Trowel Award by Tricycle Gardens for my work around urban agriculture and food access.
Presently I am engaged in coordinating innovative and dynamic initiatives around the topics of poverty, urban agriculture and food security in a culturally relevant way. In 2009 I launched the Richmond Noir Market, a Saturday farmer’s market targeting low income communities located in what the USDA has designated as food deserts in Richmond Virginia. I currently serve as a facilitator on the topic of poverty in the Richmond Region by way of Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities and Hope in the Cities; an organization that tackles issues of race, reconciliation and responsibility through interactive dialogue. I also coordinated the development of the McDonough Community Garden in 2012, an urban agriculture project under the Richmond Grows Gardens program. The McDonough Community Garden promotes sustainable food growing, horticultural therapy and environmental stewardship.
I currently serve in the Economic Support and Independence Division of Richmond’s Department of Social Services specializing in benefit programs. I envision Richmond DSS evolving and adapting to the needs of the most marginalized of Richmond citizens specifically in the area of creating pathways to self sufficiency. By way of synergy, I believe that RDSS can move away from its traditional role of administering palliatives to the cities poverty problems to engaging the systemic wealth disparities and its associated pathologies in a direct and innovative way. Through partnerships with for profits, non profits, other social service institutions and social entrepreneurial businesses; I am convinced that the city of Richmond’s Department of Social Services has a pivotal role to play as a hub of first contact for the majority of individuals below the poverty line. My current work around the issues of urban agriculture as a means of poverty alleviation fits succinctly into the agencies goals of fostering a healthy community and developing economically independent clients.
Urban Agriculture, Eliminating Poverty, Holistic Health and Wellness
I believe that we should create sustainable urban farms in low income communities and teach youth and adults how to grow food and establish farmers markets that accept SNAP benefits and WIC to create micro - economies of financial support that are also synergistic to increasing healthy lifestyles. At these urban farms annual harvest festival should take place featuring lectures and workshops on holistic health, cultural awareness and social change, live music and healthy food options. This interplay of social activity; annual events and ongoing urban agriculture projects with associated markets would boost the communities wellness exponentially.
urban agriculture, african centered festivals,
graphic design - print and web media
I was born in Richmond Virginia. My city has a poverty rate of 24% and is majority black. Like most black boys I wanted to be a rapper and took the name Manifest as a moniker. My dad sold drugs for a living and my mom married a military man; which as a result I attended elementary school overseas in Germany and came back to the United States at the age of 12.
During my senior year at George Wythe High School, I was shot three times in an attempt to perform poetry at a local block party. I went on to graduate in the top ten of my class and went to college on scholarship. While in school I got involved in activism; which I found was my true passion. I organized events and demonstrations to raise awareness on campus. Went I left college, I went back to my home town and started working for the Black History Museum of Richmond VA and from there I started Happily Natural Day a festival dedicated to holistic health, cultural awareness and social change.
13:59 Posted: Jul 2012
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