Foremost wishes for 2021

12/31/2020, 6 p.m.
With the start of 2021, the Richmond Free Press invited select city and state officials and leaders to share their ...

Richmond Police Chief Gerald M. Smith

As chief of police of Richmond, it is my wish that 2021 brings recovery success to a struggling economic system, a strained education system and a reimagined public safety system, all of which have been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

This year presented many new and unique challenges. People experienced displacement, separation, homelessness, hopelessness, loss, child care issues, unemployment at staggering numbers and other hardships.

Here in the city of Richmond, COVID-19 contributed to an incredible increase in the number of deaths from overdoses and overdoses in general. Violent crime, such as gun violence, domestic violence and homicides, persisted.

In 2021, instead of acts of crime, I wish for more acts of kindness.

Each day, the women and men of the Richmond Police Department do their level best to serve this city

with excellence, integrity and justice. Let’s work together to make our city safer for everyone, especially our children. We serve and protect all, but our children deserve our utmost care and concern.

Be blessed and be safe in the new year.

Dr. Cynthia I. Newbille

President of Richmond City Council and 7th District representative

Wishing all Richmonders a happy, healthy and blessed new year!

My foremost wish for 2021 is to mitigate the devastating impact of the COVID-19 virus on the lives and livelihoods of our citizens, communities, businesses and other stakeholders.

Toward this end, I will work to build strategic, intentional, equitable and collaborative partnerships for a healthy and more vibrant future for all.

Cheryl L. Burke

Vice Chair and 7th District representative, Richmond School Board

My wish for 2021 is to end food inse- curity, especially for our children in the city of Richmond. The high rate of the lack of nutritious foods for our children in the Metro Richmond area before, during and after the pandemic will continue

until we come together collectively to support and mentor one neighborhood at a time. Poverty continues to rob our children of their essential needs, such as food, housing and safety.

I am grateful to all the community partners that donate items daily to our children. However, as I study available data and my observations, I often ask, how many families rise above their current circumstances?

“Am I my brother’s keeper?” As the 2021 village moves be- yond this era of food insecurity and poverty, how do we facilitate opportunities as a team to address one neighborhood at a time. It can happen; however, those of us that are willing to continue to support our communities, must go to the neighborhoods, listen, plan and move forward together to eradicate those ills, especially in Black and brown neighborhoods.

In connecting with many children over the years, I am reminded that many families are without pots and pans, nor working stoves. It’s easier to walk to the corner store and purchase sugary drinks, chips and quick foods.

Obesity, malnutrition, anxiety and other health ills are influenced by their daily diets. Mentoring works, which supports teachers, social workers and others whose plates are so full. Those of us who are able to pay trainers and nutritionists to facilitate our care are blessed. Let us share that knowledge with those who are struggling.

My 2021 wish is that policy makers, organizations, agencies and other community partners will come together with a mission to create a framework that includes a time line to help neighborhoods and families that continue to experience food insecurities.

Henrico Delegate Lamont Bagby

Chair of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus

In 2021, my foremost wish is to see Virginia continue to make advances in justice and equity. This includes implementing policies that improve the economic, educational, political and social conditions of Black Virginians and underrepresented groups in Virginia.

This is the heart of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus’ mission. This year has been trying for many Virginians — from the COVID-19 pandemic, the economic crisis and the ever-present pandemic of racism that has infected our society for too long. At the same time, we saw many across our Commonwealth step up and face these issues head on, whether they were front line workers and health care personnel during the pandemic, or those out fighting for racial justice.

In addition, the VLBC, alongside many others, ushered in generational change to protect voting rights, implement criminal justice and policing reform, increase access to housing and eviction prevention, expand access to quality health care and education and further environmental justice. But much more work remains to be done.

In this new year, I wish to see Virginia further pursue criminal justice reform, such as automatic expungement.

I wish to see Virginia continue its commitment to equity in education policy, especially through increased funding for HBCUs.

I wish to see more COVID-19 relief measures implemented. I also wish to see Virginia continue increasing access to housing and improving tenant protections and rights. In addition, I wish to see Virginia at the forefront of promoting environmental justice. I wish to see Virginia continue to vehemently protect the right to vote.

Together, through work and determination, we can make these wishes a reality.

Reginald E. Gordon

Richmond’s deputy chief administrative officer who manages human services

My foremost desire for 2021 is that we all work together to build a compassionate community in Richmond.

The pandemic has underscored the inequities and perennial challenges faced by some of our neighbors in Richmond

who have had to navigate life without ample resources or a stable support system. The government, nonprofits, the faith community, foundations and lone citizens have stepped up to help keep people alive, housed and fed during these past several months of debilitating stress and anxiety.

If there ever was any doubt, it now has become abundantly clear that we definitely need each other in order to survive.

Our collective, urgent task is to build pathways that will afford all citizens the ability to journey from crisis to thriving. We have had some success in this work, but there is more work to do.

We must continue to rally together a legion of like-minded, collaborative, action-oriented people who do not have a need to be praised for their participation, but instead find affirmation in seeing the community’s shared goal come to fruition: Thousands of Richmond people, from new immigrants to longtime residents, rising up the economic ladder to thriving, experiencing the freedom to make their own unique life choices about housing, health care, food, education and opportunities for their children.

We can do this, Richmond. Start with your own family. Make sure they are all stable with housing, food and employment and are on the right track. Then branch out to families in your neighborhood or in your congregation.

Next, offer your resources, time and money to existing agencies, organizations and ministries, believing that their motivation is just as pure as yours.

If you need help finding answers to questions about available resources, visit Help1RVA.org.

New year, new energy. Let’s keep building a compassionate community together.