1) What is your position entail at the VOP? What is the mission of the VOP?
 The Virginia Organizing Project (VOP) is a statewide grassroots organization dedicated to challenging injustice by empowering people in local communities to address issues that affect the quality of their lives. As a non-partisan organization, VOP especially encourages the participation of those who have traditionally had little or no voice in our society. By building relationships with diverse individuals and groups throughout the state, VOP strives to get them to work together, democratically and non-violently for change.

My job title is organizer and I work in the central Virginia region by conducting community analysis and identifying people who want to work together on issues. Once a group has agreed to work on an issue, I facilitate discussions about becoming a chapter within VOP or being a network on several issues. I coordinate and facilitate workshops on leadership development, racism, and classism around the state.

2) How and when did you first become involved at VOP?
I became involved with VOP in 1996; I attended a weekend Dismantling Racism workshop and worked with a local community organization that was a VOP affiliate at the time. After the racism workshop, I volunteered to be a trainer for the statewide racism workshops. To become a trainer I participated in VOP’s training for trainers workshop. I served on the facilitation team until I came on staff in 1998.

3) Why did you choose to go into the non-profit sector as opposed to the private sphere?

Actually, I began because I enjoyed flexible work schedules as well as the mission and work of organizations in the Richmond area. The non-profit organizations I have worked with have served people and provided community services addressing issues that affected individual lives and the community. The private sector never appealed to me because I have always been interested in the needs of the community.

4) In your experience, what are the benefits, if any, as a woman working/leading in a non-profit as compared to a private organization?

I don’t have any personal experience working in a private organization so I don’t think I can make an accurate comparison.

5) How do non-profits, especially the VOP, lead in the community?
VOP’s leadership is participatory and our approach is to create leadership and let the people speak about the issues from their experience. An organizer focuses on developing leaders and assisting people in solving issues they have identified.

6) Where does the VOP get its funding from? Ideally, where would you like to see more funding coming from?

VOP is supported through individual donations and foundation grants. We do not apply for any government funding.

7) In one of my classes on race and gender studies we discuss intersectionality, whereby women of color are statistically at a distinct disadvantage due to prejudice in society. In your professional experience, what are your thoughts on the subject?

What and how we are taught to think about people who differ from ourselves affect the institutions we operate in everyday. We bring these teachings into every area of our lives. I have found it helpful to examine my own prejudices and assumptions and identify how racism and classism are influencing my behaviors and decisions about people. Statistics and studies show that we need to continue working on all oppressive systems that are weaved into our culture and institutions.

8 ) In your organization, does the topic of regionalism ever arise? Would there be advantages for your organization if the city and counties were to have a mechanism for shared policy and resources?

As an organization, we have not talked about the affects of regionalism and its impact issue work. Personally, I am a supporter for regional cooperation and developing systems that build community resources to benefit the full community.

9) What is the most pertinent government policy you would like to see succeed in Richmond?

A living wage ordinance that includes contracted workers.

10) Anything you think I should know that relates to you personally with regard to race, gender, leadership, or local activism?

I am an African-American woman. I have worked on poverty issues with my local faith community and the Catholic Diocese of Richmond. I have been involved with the Richmond Peace Education Center for several years. This year, I am serving as the board chair of the Richmond Peace Education Center. In addition, I am completing a term with the Leadership Commission with the National Black Catholic Congress.