How old are you? 34
Where do you live? Arlington, VA
Tell us a bit about the organization you founded.
In 2006, I founded Virginia Leadership Institute (VLI), to increase the number of Black elected officials in Virginia through training, tracking, mentoring and networking. Since that time, VLI has trained over 200 people in basic campaign skills, and their networking events have reached an even larger audience. VLI has worked with several individuals who are currently elected or appointed officials and community leaders, making a difference and a genuine impact in the daily lives of Virginians. Focused on making a real impact, VLI is different from most candidate and leadership training organizations, not only do they provide group training sessions, VLI meets individually with leaders to help them develop an action plan, expand their network, and pursue other community leadership opportunities. Additionally, recognizing that brand management and public image is an important component of leadership and politics, VLI regularly recognizes black leaders through awards, press attention, and speaking opportunities to help them improve their name recognition.
In 2012, VLI was involved in the launch of a new initiative, State of Black Northern Virginia, which brought together community organizations to collectively set goals and action items in the areas of civic engagement, economic development, life skills and education.
I am currently engaged in all aspects of the organization from recruiting and developing board members to meeting with candidates personally.
Why is increasing the number of Black elected officials and community leaders important?
I strongly believe that our elected bodies, commissions and communities are at their best when they have different types of people at the table, to represent the interests of the entire community. Diversity in leadership results in stronger public policy. I am sure you have been a member of a team where you or another team member communicated a perspective that the other members had not considered. Virginia Leadership Institute strives to ensure the perspectives of experienced and qualified African-Americans of all walks of life are represented.
We have a responsibility to be aware of what decisions are being made, and attempt to change the decisions we do not like. I am certain there are aspects of your community you do not like, whether it is the potholes in your street, lack of access to fresh vegetables near your home, the disparities in education at your local school, or a Supreme Court decision. Resolve to act! Many community leaders took that first step because of an issue that affected them personally; whether it’s testifying at your local city council hearing, serving on a local commission, or calling your Member of Congress. I credit my growth as an individual to serving in leadership roles; they are great opportunities to network, advance professionally, and meet amazing people. The examples are numerous of people who stood up for a cause which seemed small at the time, and made a measurable difference.
Why does philanthropy in the black community matter to you?
Simply put, philanthropy matters because it is my way of making a lasting, genuine impact on our community. I look at the problems in our community and actively finds solutions to correct the problems. With the persistent disparities in the black community, whether it be education, political engagement, health or basic needs, I am always thinking of a way to collaborate and offer her time or resources to giving black Americans an equal footing with the rest of society.
What community organizations are you a part of?
Virginia Leadership Institute
Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.
Concerned Citizens Network of Alexandria
Arlington Commission on the Status Women
Nu Xi Zeta HAVE Foundation