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BLK RVA serves as year-round source for celebrating black history and culture in region

While Black History Month may be over, Richmond Region Tourism is reminding the community that the BLK RVA campaign serves as a resource to honor and celebrate Black culture and Black-owned businesses every day of the year. 

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While Black History Month may be over, Richmond Region Tourism is reminding the community that the BLK RVA campaign serves as a resource to honor and celebrate Black culture and Black-owned businesses every day of the year.

Richmond Region Tourism and a group of community-driven leaders launched BLK RVA in 2019 to develop unique ways to amplify local Black-owned businesses by increasing tourism, engaging regional residents and showcasing spaces that highlight Black excellence.

BLK RVA’s website includes an overview of attractions and historical sites that center the Black experience, as well as Black-owned tourism-related businesses and restaurants in the region.

Earlier this year, BLK RVA welcomed a new group of community leaders to its Advisory Board. The Board provides direction for the program, while helping to grow community involvement and building the BLK RVA brand.

Organizers are committed to launching four local marketing campaigns in 2021 that will spotlight each of BLK RVA’s main pillars: history, community, arts & entertainment, and food & drink.

The first campaign focused on Black history in the region launched last month and included BLK RVA trivia challenges, scavenger hunts at historic attractions, limited edition t-shirts designed by local artist J Ford and visual strategist Shannon Bass, and a section of the website dedicated to historic resources and video content from community leaders. The videos aim to connect viewers to the past, celebrate the present and look toward the future and will release over the coming weeks.

The first two profiles in the series feature Omilade Janine Bell, Elegba Folklore Society’s President and Artistic Director and Free Bangura, Founder & CEO of Untold RVA, Chair of the City of Richmond’s History and Culture Commission, and BLK RVA Advisory Team Co-Chair.

Ryano Graphics, a local communications and design firm, is leading planning and execution for the marketing campaigns.

“We’re creating authentic and thoughtful marketing campaigns that highlight and celebrate the Black experience,” said Tameka Jefferson, Richmond Region Tourism’s Community Relations Manager. “Black contributions to Richmond’s culture dates back centuries, and our restaurants, businesses and legacies continue to thrive in our region. We look forward to rolling out the videos and engaging residents and visitors with the BLK RVA campaign throughout 2021.”

In addition to 2021 marketing programming, BLK RVA is introducing initiatives that build capacity and expertise at Black-owned businesses. The organization has partnered with Capital One to create mentorship programs for Black-owned businesses. BLK RVA also recently hosted a Small, Women-owned, and Minority-owned Business (SWaM) certification training in partnership with VCU’s Department of Procurement, the Department of Small Business & Supplier Diversity, and the Metropolitan Business League. Part two and three of the SWaM certification training will be hosted in April and May.

“My small business has greatly improved with the resources and support from BLK RVA and the mentorship program with Capital One,” said Keshia Bell-Rainey, owner of Bodies N Motion, LLC.  “I have access to great mentors to help with marketing and ideas for creating revenue. I would definitely recommend this program to small Black-owned businesses.”

Organizers are also offering a training course March 15 to help caterers and food service professionals navigate procurement and corporate contracts. Two participating businesses will have a chance to win $2,000 supply stipends to support recovery efforts. Eligible participants must register by March 12 to attend the two-part course.

“By learning and growing from industry experts, local Black entrepreneurs will be able to arm themselves with the skills needed to recover, rebuild and thrive,” added Jefferson.

BLK RVA received national recognition last December when The New York Times featured Omilade Janine Bell and the Elegba Folklore Society in Five Kwanzaa Celebrations Around the Country.

In January, BLK RVA collaborated with Nomadness, an award-winning lifestyle brand that supports underrepresented demographics in mainstream travel, for two well-received panel sessions during the virtual Audacity DIGI 4 event that showcased Richmond. The “BLK RVA: Why Richmond needs to be on your radar!,” session featured videos highlighting BLK RVA and Richmond’s artistic landscape that continues to evolve in response to the social justice movement, comments from Enjoli Moon about the region and campaign, and remarks from Hamilton Glass about the Mending Walls mural project.

Richmonder Melody Short also participated in the panel discussion, “Keeping Small Businesses Alive” giving an overview of the Richmond Night Market and the Jackson Ward Collective.

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Trevor Dickerson is the co-founder and editor of RVAhub.com, lover of all things Richmond, and a master of karate and friendship for everyone.

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Elephant Insurance to give $300,000 to organizations impacted by COVID-19

Elephant Insurance announced that the company is launching a new initiative, known as the Helping Herd, that will donate $300,000 to organizations and programs that have been adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic or who are providing COVID-19 relief to their community.

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Elephant Insurance announced that the company is launching a new initiative, known as the Helping Herd, that will donate $300,000 to organizations and programs that have been adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic or who are providing COVID-19 relief to their community. The program will launch in June and gifts will be distributed between June and December 2021.

Through the Helping Herd, Elephant’s hope is to reach at least 50 organizations or programs with the funds, with gifts ranging in size from $2,000 to $20,000. Elephant team members will be involved in the selection process, either by nominating deserving groups or participating in the voting process to finalize the recipients.

The program was made possible by Elephant’s parent company, Admiral Group, which shares in Elephant’s mission of making a positive impact on local communities during challenging times.

“We know the Helping Herd initiative will be able to make a significant impact on individuals and communities that are hurting due to COVID-19, and Elephant is grateful to be in a position to step up and give back in this way,” said Alberto Schiavon, CEO. “The Elephant team – our herd – is eager to be a part of this important process, and we’re so appreciative of the support of Admiral Group to make this possible.”

To be considered to receive funds, applicants must serve the community in at least one of three areas: mental health, physical health, or community health. Interested organizations or programs will be able to apply to receive funds at https://www.elephant.com/contact/helping-herd-submission, where more details on eligibility are available.  Applications will be accepted through August 1, 2021.

In addition to the submission form, nominations will be collected from Elephant employees by survey.  A large portion of the funds are anticipated to be distributed in Virginia, where Elephant is headquartered, but Helping Herd funds will also go to organizations in other states where Elephant services are offered, including Texas.

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Governor Northam drops COVID restrictions as Virginia fully reopens

All capacity and gathering restrictions are now lifted as Virginia fully reopens. Businesses can still make their own rules about whether patrons must wear masks, however.

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Governor Ralph Northam today dropped all distancing and capacity restrictions, two weeks earlier than planned. Northam’s office says Virginia is able to take these steps as a result of “increasing vaccination rates, dramatically declining COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and statewide test positivity rate, and revised federal guidelines.”

“Virginians have been working hard, and we are seeing the results in our strong vaccine numbers and dramatically lowered case counts,” said Governor Northam. “That’s why we can safely move up the timeline for lifting mitigation measures in Virginia. I strongly urge any Virginian who is not yet vaccinated to do so—the vaccines are the best way to protect yourself and your community from COVID-19. The message is clear: vaccinations are how we put this pandemic in the rearview mirror and get back to being with the people we love and doing the things we have missed.”

The CDC guidelines state that fully-vaccinated individuals do not have to wear masks in most indoor settings, except on public transit, in health care facilities, and in congregate settings. Businesses retain the ability to require masks in their establishments. Employees who work in certain business sectors—including restaurants, retail, fitness, personal care, and entertainment—must continue to wear masks unless fully vaccinated, per CDC guidance. Those who are unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated are strongly encouraged to wear masks in all settings.

The state of emergency in Virginia will remain in place at least through June 30 to provide flexibility for local government and support ongoing COVID-19 vaccination efforts. Governor Northam will take executive action to ensure individuals have the option to wear masks up to and after that date. Masks will continue to be required in K-12 public schools, given low rates of vaccination among children.

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City’s Casino Evaluation Panel recommends ONE Casino + Resort as preferred operator

The city’s Resort Casino Evaluation Panel has recommended that the ONE Casino + Resort move forward as the city’s preferred casino gaming operator at the proposed site on Walmsley Boulevard in South Richmond. The Evaluation Panel’s recommendation is supported by Mayor Stoney.

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The city’s Resort Casino Evaluation Panel has recommended that the ONE Casino + Resort move forward as the city’s preferred casino gaming operator at the proposed site on Walmsley Boulevard in South Richmond. The Evaluation Panel’s recommendation is supported by Mayor Stoney.

“ONE Casino + Resort presents a tremendous opportunity to develop a resort casino project in Richmond,” said Mayor Levar Stoney. “The project will create over 1,000 good-paying jobs, generate a significant amount of new revenue for the city, and establish an additional economic engine in South Richmond. I applaud the work of the Evaluation Panel in their vetting of the proposals and engaging the entire city throughout this project.”

ONE Casino + Resort was proposed by Urban ONE in partnership with Peninsula Pacific Entertainment. Urban ONE is a publicly traded integrated media company.  Peninsula Pacific Entertainment owns and operates several casinos and Rosie’s Gaming Emporiums in Virginia.

“ONE is thrilled the Richmond casino selection committee has chosen the best project with the best location and best team to develop a world-class entertainment destination in Richmond’s Southside,” said Alfred Liggins, CEO of Urban One. “Urban One and our diverse group of local investors are fully committed to creating good paying jobs with profit-sharing for employees, pathways to successful careers, and generating significant new tax revenues that can improve Richmond’s schools and fund community programs and infrastructure.”

The Evaluation Panel made its recommendation based on factors including the project’s feasibility and sustainability, proposed location, economic development impact, financial revenue impact, and community benefits.

Mayor Stoney will introduce the proposed ONE Casino + Resort project to City Council on Monday, May 24, 2021. Per legislation approved by the Virginia General Assembly, City Council will be asked to petition the court so that a referendum on casino gaming in the City of Richmond can take place during the November 2, 2021 election.

Information on the city’s resort casino process can be found at https://www.rva.gov/economic-development/resort-casino.

The city will host a public meeting on the decision on Tuesday, May 25 at 6 p.m. The link to join will be posted on the informational webpage.

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