Entering the New Year with Purpose and Vision
By Bonnie Newman Davis
The year of 2016 is anticipated for many reasons. Next year will mark 30 years since the first legal holiday commemorating the legacy and life of the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King took place. The new year also will mark the end of President Barack Obama’s eight years as the United State’s first elected African American commander in chief.
In addition, viagra sale diagnosis the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, sales D.C. scheduled to open in 2016 will further highlight the contributions of King, Obama and other African Americans whose lives have inspired millions. Such remarkable achievements, perhaps unthinkable a century ago, could not have occurred without purpose and vision.
Locally, several Richmonders who are active in business, culture and education, eagerly anticipate the new year to continue the work of visionaries such as King, Obama and Lonnie Bunch, the NMAAHC’s founding director. In recent interviews, Ashby Anderson, Myja Gary and Rebekah L. Pierce discussed how the coming year will enable them to incorporate purpose and vision in their work and everyday lives.
Ten years ago Ashby Anderson had a dream. A music educator and composer by training, Anderson, then 41, wanted to create a space for Richmond’s jazz musicians that also would teach and train local youth about jazz and acoustic instrument playing. In 2006, Anderson opened The Muse Creative Work Space in a 7,000-square-foot converted warehouse in Shockoe Bottom. The space primarily was used for rehearsals, music education and community events.
“Our approach was to stay small and work on a community-based approach through niche marketing,” said Anderson. Two years later, Anderson founded the Richmond Youth Jazz Guild, offering year-round music instruction for youths ages 8-18. Since its founding, the company has served more than 400 youths, with many of them having received more than $1.1 million in college and national performing arts scholarships, thanks to an affiliation with the Berklee College of Music. The guild currently enrolls about 30 students, who reflect a diverse gender and racial demographic.
Anderson, now 50, continues to dream. He wants to expand his brand, Ashby Anderson Enterprises, nationally. The time is right based on America’s current social climate, he said.
“When you look at it—our nation—there is a lot of tension,” said Anderson. “People are upset and enraged with police brutality and understandably so. I ask myself how can I improve the environment of young people. I believe that the arts are an excellent way” to provide an outlet for youth.
During a recent Richmond Youth Jazz Guild concert, Anderson’s prodigy displayed energy and zeal while executing selections by Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, John Coltrane, Freddie Hubbard, Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock. The concert also enabled Anderson to collect donated musical instruments that will be distributed to students who can’t afford to purchase them.
“The purpose is to offer something very positive to offset the negative things in the community,” Anderson explained. “It’s about helping to change the environment.”
Myja Gary is a senior at North Carolina A&T State University. Having grown up in Chester, Gary once wrote about being bullied as a youth, an experience that failed to deter her from her goals.
“I believe that everything you do must be done with a vision and purpose,” she said. “You have to visualize your goals coming into fruition and your success that will follow. You must also understand your purpose and how you plan to positively impact others in all that you do.”
As an honors journalism student who aspires to own a magazine, Gary realized a special dream last April when she was elected as Miss N.C.A&T State University. Using the acronym RISE, Gary sought the position as a way of “Reaching, Inspiring, Strengthening, and Empowering” the university campus and surrounding communities.
Gary said that other reasons led her to run for the coveted campus leadership position at the nation’s largest historically black university.
“Everything I have done in 2015, I made sure that it would benefit me later,” she said. “I made sure that my actions and decisions were necessary steps in accomplishing my goals. For example, I plan to publish and produce my own magazine in the future. This year I dedicated myself to being the copy editor of my college yearbook to gain experience in managing a staff and working with photo and layout editors to understand all aspects in the production of the yearbook. I also worked with other news outlets that would further prepare for the multimedia journalism industry.”
As she prepares to graduate in May 2016, heading into a world of unknowns, Gary appears as poised and ready for the challenge as when she accepted her crown as Miss A&T. She offered this advice to other young women who are charting their future.
“Enter your new world with a vision and a purpose,” said Gary. “Life will happen and things will change, but it is important to remain focused. Explore, discover, and become everything that you set out to be. Dream, create goals, establish a plan, and execute.”
Gary also believes in resilience and the will to continue despite the odds.
“Lastly, never give up,” she said. “I know that sounds so cliché, but it is so real. Serena Williams once said, ‘Champions are not defined by how much they win, but by how much they recover from their losses.’ In other words, it’s not your awards and achievements that make you successful, but how you persevere through all of your triumphs. Every place that you go, every person that you meet, and everything that you do is for a purpose. Find that purpose and fulfill it.”
During a visit to the Black History and Cultural Center of Virginia several years ago, Rebekah L. Pierce noticed photographs of well-dressed African-American men and women that lined the museum’s walls. The images of the elegantly-clad people reflected what is commonly known as Richmond’s Jackson Ward district, an area once considered the “Black Wall Street of the South” and a major center of commerce for black business, culture and entertainment.
Pierce, an educator, playwright and author who hails from Stockton, Calif., was unfamiliar with Richmond’s rich black history before seeing the museum’s standing exhibit at its current Clay Street home. Further research led her to examine more closely Jackson Ward’s past, which included various cycles of gentrification and gave birth to legends such as Maggie Walker, the first woman to charter and serve as president of an American bank, and John Mitchell, editor of the Richmond Planet, a black newspaper.
Pierce’s research led her to write her first novel, “Murder on Second Street: The Jackson Ward Murders,” a blend of history and fiction. The plot is set during a “pivotal time in American history: 30 days before the infamous Black Tuesday, October 29, 1929,” according to Pierce. As a result of the novel, Pierce was approached by others to create a film based on the book. Rather than accept the offers, Pierce decided to create a documentary film about Jackson Ward’s history with producers L. Roi Boy, III, Yemaja Jubilee and Full Motion Media. The result is the short film, “Black Wall Street: The Money, The Music & The People.” Pierce, the film’s executive director and producer, plans to send the film to various festivals such as Sundance, Tribeca and the African-American Black Film Festival.
Securing a spot in film festivals will help draw attention to the work and Richmond, and hopefully have it distributed, said Pierce. “If we have presence in these festivals, companies will knock on doors for us. It’s about entrepreneurship. Our goal is to have an opportunity to put the film in our classroom, museums, libraries and to encourage arts in the community.”
A first viewing of the film will be Feb. 21 Unity of Bon Air Church in Chesterfield County.
When asked what John Mitchell and others would say about the film, Pierce did not hesitate to respond.
“He would love it,” she said. “He was all about putting the truth out there. They (Jackson Ward residents and business owners) were so much about owning their history. I think they would probably appreciate the play. They didn’t care what outsiders thought. They cared what their own thought!”
Bonnie Newman Davis is a Richmond-based journalist, journalism educator and news media consultant.