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Black Lives Matter renews interest in Richmond’s Black culture and history

The Black Lives Matter movement has helped renew interest in Richmond’s African American culture and history, according to community leaders.

Capital News Service

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By Cierra Parks

The Black Lives Matter movement has helped renew interest in Richmond’s African American culture and history, according to community leaders.

BLK RVA is an initiative launched in August 2019 between Richmond Region Tourism and 20 community leaders to highlight historic African American tourist attractions and engage visitors in events that support Richmond’s Black community. The group continues to promote Black-centered tourism in light of recent events. BLK RVA was recently awarded the Richmond Region Tourism Chairman’s Award in recognition of its contributions over the past year.

Tameka Jefferson, the community relations manager for Richmond Region Tourism and BLK RVA, said the Black Lives Matter movement has generated more interest in African American tourism, which she said is “long overdue.” Although Black Lives Matter began in 2013, the movement gained more support this year.

“Now is the time that we do need to come together as a community to support our businesses, to support our city and our region,” Jefferson said.

Jefferson also said that in the months following the death of George Floyd in police custody, she has seen more people visit the area around the Robert E. Lee statue. The area has been transformed into space used by the community for art, protest and memorial — and even basketball.

She said people are migrating to this area now that there has been a “staple of just coming together and a staple of community and uprising.”

BLK RVA’s mission is to illustrate that the Richmond region has evolved and is now a multicultural hub that specializes in four pillars: arts and entertainment, food and drink, community and history. She said the state capital is often seen through its outdated history–an outlook that needs to change.

In addition to African American-centered events and fundraisers, BLK RVA promotes the patronizing of what they call “rooted and rising” businesses; ones that have been around a while and others that are up and coming.

One established business is the Elegba Folklore Society, which was established 30 years ago. The Society hosts the annual Down Home Family Reunion and Juneteenth Freedom celebrations in addition to guided heritage tours along the Trail of Enslaved Africans and other historic sites. The trail details the history of slave trade from Africa to Virginia, following a route through the area’s former slave markets and also highlighting African American life leading up to the Civil War.

Omilade Janine Bell, president and artistic director of the Elegba Folklore Society, said the company prides itself on educating people because Black stories are often not fully told. She has noticed a renewed interest in learning about Black history in light of the recent Black Lives Matter movement. Jefferson echoes that statement.

“His (George Floyd’s) loss-of-life story has opened the eyes of many whose eyes had been shut tightly before,” Bell said. “Now there is a heightened awareness among Black people and others about the lack of equity.”

Jaynell Pittman-Shaw owns Maple Bourbon, a restaurant serving breakfast and lunch in Richmond’s downtown area that is one of BLK RVA’s “rising” businesses. Pittman-Shaw believes there is a new spotlight on inequity in the Black community.

“That is what people are protesting about right now: systemic and institutional racism,” Pittman-Shaw said. “Black business owners do not have access to the same resources that should be available to any business owner,” but black businesses need more support to thrive.

Jefferson said BLK RVA donated money from online merchandise sales to the Richmond Black Restaurant Experience, which hosts a week-long event in the spring promoting black-owned food businesses. Over $15,000 was raised and distributed evenly among 35 Black Restaurant Week participants affected by COVID-19. Pittman- Shaw was one of the grantees. She plans to “pay it forward” by using the $500 grant she received to help another black-owned restaurant that did not participate in Black Restaurant Week.

Restaurants such as Big Herm’s Kitchen and Soul Taco used the money to help pay employees who were affected when COVID-19 restructured business.

The Richmond Black Restaurant Experience supports black, food-focused businesses, including restaurants, food trucks and catering services. They have raised nearly $50,000, surpassing their new goal of $25,000 according to the group’s GoFundMe page.

In addition to restaurants, other attractions have made adjustments since COVID-19 began. Many of them have migrated to virtual experiences. The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and the Virginia Museum of History and Culture are offering virtual exhibits, including the All in Together collaborative project and Determined: The 400-Year Struggle for Black Equality. The Elegba Folklore Society broadcast its Juneteenth celebration on Facebook, YouTube and Vimeo.

The organization also recently promoted the Black is Beautiful beer initiative, a nationwide collaboration created by Marcus J. Baskerville, head brewer and co-owner at Weathered Souls Brewing Co. in San Antonio. Over 30 Virginia craft breweries participated to support people of color and raise funds for police reform and legal defense. Richmond breweries put their spin on the traditional imperial stout recipe to raise money for the Black is Beautiful cause. The Answer, Hardywood, The Veil and Lickinghole Creek were among the Richmond-area breweries that created stouts for the initiative. Each brewery will donate the proceeds to organizations that support the Black is Beautiful cause.

BLK RVA has also highlighted events such as the RVA Black Farmers Market, the Richmond Night Market and events hosted by UnlockingRVA.

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The Capital News Service is a flagship program of VCU’s Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture. In the program, journalism students cover news in Richmond and across Virginia and distribute their stories, photos, and other content to more than 100 newspapers, television and radio stations, and news websites.

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Crime

New report says legal state marijuana sales could overtake illegal trade by year four

Virginia’s commercial marijuana market could yield between $30 million to $60 million in tax revenue in the first year, according to a new report by the state’s legislative watchdog agency.

Capital News Service

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By Sam Fowler

Virginia’s commercial marijuana market could yield between $30 million to $60 million in tax revenue in the first year, according to a new report by the state’s legislative watchdog agency.

The Joint Legislative Audit & Review Commission released a report this month that explores how the commonwealth could legalize marijuana. The agency, however, did not give its take on legalization. Shortly after the report was released Gov. Ralph Northam announced that “it’s time to legalize marijuana in Virginia.”

The state’s tax revenue could grow to between $150 million to more than $300 million by the fifth year of sales, according to JLARC. The revenue depends on the tax and demand of marijuana products.

 Most states with commercial marijuana markets tax the product between 20%-30% percent of the retail sales value, JLARC said. Colorado, one of the most mature and successful U.S. marijuana markets, currently has a tax rate close to 30%, showing that while the tax may be high, the market could still be successful, said Justin Brown, senior associate director at JLARC.

“But in reality, there’s no magic rate that you have to use, and I think that’s one thing that the other states’ experience shows,” Brown said.

Virginia decriminalized marijuana possession earlier this year. The substance is still not legal, but possessing up to an ounce results in a $25 civil penalty and no jail time. In the past, possessing up to half an ounce could lead to a $500 fine and 30 days in jail.

If the Old Dominion makes marijuana legal, it will follow in the footsteps of 15 states.

The legal marijuana market should overtake the illegal market in marijuana sales by the fourth year of legalization, JLARC said. The legal market could likely have two-thirds of sales by the fifth year of legalization. JLARC looked at the reported use rates compared to the use rates of other states to determine this figure, Brown said.

“In the first year the minority of sales will be through the legal commercial market,” Brown said. “But then over time, particularly if supply and demand works out, you’ll capture at least the majority of the full market through the legal market.”

JLARC said that if the General Assembly legalizes marijuana, the total sales tax would come out to around 25%-30%. This figure also came from the analysis of other states and how they taxed marijuana.

The industry also could create over several years between 11,000 to more than 18,000 jobs, JLARC said. Most positions would pay below Virginia’s median wage.

The revenue would cover the cost of establishing a market by year three, according to JLARC.

Northam said in a press release last week that his administration is working with lawmakers to finalize related legislation in preparation for the upcoming Virginia General Assembly session, which starts Jan. 13.

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Downtown

Children’s Hospital Foundation launches $100 million capital campaign for new “Wonder Tower”

Last week, the Children’s Hospital Foundation launched the public fundraising phase of its Built for Kids capital campaign, with a goal of raising $100 million from the community to support the construction of a new inpatient and emergency tower at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, affectionately known as the Wonder Tower.

RVAHub Staff

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Last week, the Children’s Hospital Foundation launched the public fundraising phase of its Built for Kids capital campaign, with a goal of raising $100 million from the community to support the construction of a new inpatient and emergency tower at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, affectionately known as the Wonder Tower.

As part of the public fundraising launch, Children’s Hospital Foundation launched a creative campaign throughout Central Virginia designed to raise awareness of the new hospital and inspire donations from the community, corporations and individuals.

Once complete, the Wonder Tower will be the culmination of years of planning to bring world-class pediatric facilities to Central Virginia. Located in downtown Richmond, the 16-story tower will be home to CHoR’s Level 1 pediatric trauma center, emergency room, inpatient units, new operating rooms, increased imaging capacity and family amenities —all in an environment created just for kids and families. The facility features free, convenient parking, all private patient rooms and kid-friendly design and architectural elements. Connected to CHoR’s outpatient Children’s Pavilion, the facility completes an entire city block dedicated to caring for kids.

“A hospital environment just for kids and families has been our community’s vision for many years, and it’s becoming a reality as we complete an entire city block dedicated to pediatric care – all under one roof,”  said Elias Neujahr, CEO of CHoR. “The Wonder Tower will be a place where every child in our growing community has a chance to heal, recover and celebrate their super powers. It will be a place where our nationally ranked care, innovative research and top-tier education programs come together to provide the best patient experience for kids and families.”

Reflecting the wonder of the new hospital, the creative campaign was concepted and designed by Markham & Stein, a Miami-based agency, along with Richmond-based Brand Federation, which handled research, brand and messaging work. At this stage, the “Built for Kids” campaign visually highlights the look of the new facility, while the messaging emphasizes the need to “defend childhood” and protect the most vulnerable among us – children.

“People understand and connect with the idea that childhood must be protected as it’s critical to a child’s development and vital for so many reasons,” said Lauren Moore, president and CEO of Children’s Hospital Foundation. “The Wonder Tower is a place where children will receive world-class medical care close to home, and while they’re there, we’ll do everything possible to keep the spirit of childhood all around them.”

Children’s Hospital Foundation is currently running a dollar-for-dollar matching campaign to encourage the community to maximize their impact by 100% by taking advantage of the Foundation match commitment. To date, the Foundation has raised more than one-third of its $100 million fundraising goal.

CHoR is currently celebrating its 100th anniversary year treating all children in need of care. In June 2019, CHoR broke ground on the new inpatient tower adjacent to the current outpatient Children’s Pavilion, which when completed will create a free-standing, full-service children’s hospital on East Marshall Street between 10th and 11th streets. Construction is expected to be complete in 2023.

To follow along with the progress of the Built for Kids capital campaign or give to the Wonder Tower, visit builtforkids.org.

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Business

The Richmond Night Market launches holiday villages across the city to celebrate the season

The Holiday Villages are a multicultural holiday market shopping experience that will feature local goods, art, food, music, and the best of Richmond culture.

RVAHub Staff

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The Richmond Night Market, in partnership with the City of Richmond, Office of Economic Development, Flying Squirrels, Brok Productions, and media partner, Richmond Magazine, announced it will open five Holiday Villages across the city this holiday season to celebrate the Richmond community and its resilience. The open-air markets will be open every Saturday from 12 to 7 p.m. beginning November 28 to December 19. Vendors are encouraged to apply.

“Richmond is an amazing city and we want to make sure folks don’t forget about that, especially during these challenging times,” said Melody Joy Short, co-founder of Richmond Night Market. “We are a village and it’s important that we continue to support each other, especially our artisan and small business community. Let’s spread some holiday cheer, celebrate each other, and do our part to uplift the local economy.”

The Holiday Villages are a multicultural holiday market shopping experience that will feature local goods, art, food, music, and the best of Richmond culture. The open-air markets are spread across several locations to encourage social distancing and reduce the spread of COVID-19, with strict COVID-19 measures in place supported by the City of Richmond. Plus, attendees will have an opportunity to explore different neighborhoods including Manchester, Scott’s Addition, the Arts District, Jackson Ward, and Shockoe Bottom.

“Every neighborhood has its own vibe and flavor,” said Adrienne Cole Johnson, co-founder of Richmond Night Market. “The food, shopping experience, retailers and services are all unique to each part of the city and we want to recreate that with our Holiday Villages. We want people to shop and buy local, as well as showcase all of the gems in the city.”

“Artists and small businesses across the board should sign up to become a vendor,” Cole Johnson added.

The Richmond Night Market launched in April 2019 as a monthly gathering at the 17th Street Farmers’ Market in Shockoe Bottom as a way for locals and tourists to shop for clothing, jewelry, visual art, organic products and even artisanal food. Event organizers shifted their approach during the pandemic, launching a successful virtual experience that allowed patrons to engage with independent, small businesses in a new way on social media.

“We see our Holiday Villages as an extension of what we’ve been doing all year,” said Short. “Most, if not all businesses, have experienced some disruption and we want to ensure there is true recovery. Our efforts have increased sales by 40 percent for many artists. With the holiday season around the corner, our aim is to keep creating these opportunities to generate revenue and uplift this community.”

Patrons will be able to start their shopping experience on Small Business Saturday (November 28) and explore all of the Holiday Villages through Saturday, December 19. Those interested in becoming a vendor can apply at www.richmondnightmarketva.com.

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