The real action began when the working groups started creating investable opportunities – developing proposals, proposing policy changes, engaging civic leaders, and finding funding. For the neighborhood safety working group, that’s when things got interesting.
The working group met with a group of young people, who told them, “We have an idea, can you help us get it done?” The kids wanted a bike trail from the Bellemeade neighborhood to the T. Tyler Potterfield pedestrian bridge in Manchester. They longed to be part of that community experience, but they had no safe way to get there.
Lea agrees it was a great idea, but adds, “Building a bike path is a one-time thing. We wanted to create an opportunity for them to learn how to civically advocate for something like that.”
Looking around the country, the neighborhood safety working group came across “art bumps”, huge murals painted on the street as a form of advocacy. The kids could paint these murals on intersections where they wanted bike lanes while they learned how to advocate with city officials. They’d also train in community organizing, working with neighbors along the proposed bike path to determine what kind of art they’d like to see.
But an unexpected challenge bubbled up – a breakdown in relations between the young African Americans and Latinos. So the working group asked: “How can we start to build some reconciliation in this, bring black and Latino youth together to make this happen?”
The answer lay in leveraging the expertise of others who were already doing this well. The working group reached out to the Sacred Heart Center, a nonprofit community center serving the Latino community, and Hope in the Cities, a community trust-building initiative. Together they created the Art, Reconciliation and Civic Advocacy project. They also partnered with other organizations for the youth and advocacy pieces.
Thanks to RVA Thrives’ commitment to community capacity-building, a simple idea for a one-off bike path has grown into an ongoing, community-based resource for healing. But it doesn’t stop there. ►