She is known as “Miss Community Clovia” for candidly discussing issues on her KISS-FM radio show that affect Richmond and its residents, for organizing forums for public discussion, and for working with the Food Bank, Habitat for Humanity, and other organizations. Yet Clovia Lawrence claims she was the last person anyone thought would be civic-minded. “I was a spoiled brat!” she declares. “I thought, ‘If I bring home good grades, that’s all I should have to do.’ I really felt that way!” She grew up with sister Arlissa, and parents Margaret and Nathan, spending weekends and summers in Fulton Hill with her grandmother. Her father, who recently retired from Reynolds Metals after 43 years, was strict. At the age of 17, Clovia graduated Armstrong Kennedy High School, and promptly registered at Virginia Union University. But school, she says, wasn’t a burning ambition.
Virginia Union University
“I wanted to get in and get out. But I always had this great idea to bring the community together. I was studying Broadcast Journalism because I wanted to do investigative reporting. I never wanted to be on-air at all. That was during the time of the Oliver North scandal with Ronald Reagan. I thought I could [report] from the trenches, do investigative reporting overseas. I wanted to be more in control of what happened with what went on air as far as the television station was concerned.”
“The reason that I went into Broadcasting is because I wanted to invent something different. The delivery of the news that we do today, it’s [communicated] so that everybody can understand it. That’s what was missing from our community then. At the time, if you didn’t have a dictionary, you might ask, ‘What does that word mean?’ I never wanted to be that way. My great grandmother only had a second grade education. My grandmother used to read the dictionary. She was the smartest woman I ever knew in my life. Suppose you didn’t read the dictionary, you wouldn’t know anything about the news that came on, or much less read a newspaper. So I always wanted to make sure that even though I was a professional that I can speak directly to that person to communicate effectively. That’s something I always wanted to do.”
“Before I graduated from Virginia Union, I started in radio as an intern at the south’s first soul station, 990 WANT. I was news reporter working in the programming department. It was 1985, and an internship with some of the kings in this radio broadcast industry. I got the opportunity to work with Ken Crandall, the number one morning guy. I was doing news reporting and traffic reports with him in the morning. I worked with Betty Bodean and David Lee Michaels at the time. These are Q94 legends. Roger St. John was the mid-day announcer. One day Roger said, ‘Have you ever thought about being on air? You have a great voice and you have a great personality.’ But I said, ‘What? No way.’”
“I had one professor named Mr. Benson who was an investigative reporter over in India. And then I had Broadcast Journalism class with John Shand, who was the General Manager over at Channel 6 for 35 years before he retired. I was enjoying all of these newscasts, and wanted to make sure the news was all hot and fresh. One day he told me, ‘I don’t think you’ll ever be a broadcaster.’ That was a push for me. I don’t think it was really negative. I think he saw something in me to push me.”
“Roger St. John told me I should do an aircheck tape. Then one day the receptionist told me that she was leaving to go to Magic 99, the area’s first black FM station. I said, ‘Wow! You’re going to Magic 99!’ She told me a mid-day announcer was leaving. So I sent them my aircheck tape. The program director at the time, she said, ‘Your tape sounds really good. But it just doesn’t sound good for an R&B station.’ I’m still working at Q94, things are going good. Betty Bodean was part of the morning show. She said, ‘Keep on trying, just take your time.”
Persistence Meets Talent
Clovia’s third aircheck tape hit the jackpot. Debbie Parker, a popular DJ at the time, called her and invited her on-air. Clovia called everyone she knew, telling them to listen for her name. But Debbie did more than mention her name. Instead, she announced to thousands of listeners that Clovia would give the weather, and at that moment, turned the microphone to the young woman, who flawlessly delivered a report ad lib.
“I couldn’t fail everybody at home. I asked her, ‘How could you do this to me?’ At that point, I always listened to David Lee Michaels at night – a wild guy, funny and crazy. It may seem strange – I’m an African American and I’m listening to David Lee Michaels, but he had a neutral sound. He wasn’t a classic rock style type, but he was in the middle. For example, if he played a rap song, he’d probably transition it to a classic rock song. He was that smooth.
“Roger St. Johns, he had that flow for every woman in the workplace. His voice was smooth, and it was cool. I listened to those guys, and of course, Ken Crandall. He was called the Scorpio Man. With the R&B feel, the classic rock feel, and the edgy feel, I just created a sound for myself. People ask, ‘Why not female?’ It’s just that it wasn’t there.”
Rolling To Your Neighborhood
“Everybody talks about bringing our community together. When we bring them together, what are we doing with our communities? So I started my project, Rolling for Freedom. Ricky Johnson who’s running for 6th District of City Council and my sister are on that project. We go into the neighborhoods. If it’s in Jackson Ward, we’ll go to St. James St. and get folks registered to vote, talk to them about the process of voting. Or if you have lost your right to vote, I’ve been doing restoration of rights for four years. The most important things to me in the community right now: Whatever your higher power is. Number two is your right to vote, because your voting rights will dictate how you can take care of family, your housing, everything.”
Listen to Clovia every Saturday on Praise 104.7 at 6 a.m.; Saturday at 9 a.m. on 99.3 and 105.7 KISS-FM; Sunday at 7 a.m. on I-Power 92.1
Richmond Voter Registration
Your General Registrar is J. Kirk Showalter.
Register to vote at City Hall, 900 E. Broad St., Room 105
Phone 646-5950; Hours, Mon. – Fri. 8 a.m. – 5 p.m
Each week, meet two Civic Leagues of Richmond.
The Newtowne-West Civic League (NWCL) was formed by residents of the areas adjacent Carver and Virginia Union University. The district is bordered by Leigh St. to the south, Moore St. to the north, and Middlesex St. to the west. NWCL meets the third Monday of each month at Moore St. Baptist Church Community Hall, 1408 W. Leigh St. Join the NWCL mailing list at www.NewtowneWest.org. Annual membership costs $10 for individuals, $15 for families. George Loughlin is President, 305-2113.
The Byrd Park Civic League (BPCL) is a neighborhood association representing homeowners and renters in the Byrd Park neighborhood located in and surrounding William Byrd Park. BPCL meets twice monthly. Michael Dodson is President, 355-5484. Please note that his term will end in October. Visit www.ByrdPark.org for latest info on the organization and officers.
Explore the National Civic League at www.NCL.org