Earlier this spring, my friend Free Egunfemi of Untold RVA and I met up for lunch at Cava Grille near VCU. In name and in presence, Free speaks of imagination, possibility, and awareness of ancestors, an unbroken line of people who have gone on ahead, but who are not gone from our reach.
It’s good to sit in friendship and break bread on a sunny day. And good to think together about this city in our lifetime and this city in past and future generations. We talked about Mary Bowser and Elizabeth Van Lew and what it might mean to be an abolitionist today. We talked about the burden of injustice and inequity that women working as certified nursing assistants, home health aides, and personal care attendants in long-term care are asked to carry and what a different future might hold. And how to imagine and create such a future.
Talking with Free got me thinking more about lineage and ancestry and all of the teachers and mentors and kindred dear ones who go into shaping each of us. Some, we meet through story and history and legacy: Like Gabriel and Nan. Elizabeth Van Lew and Mary Bowser. Like my seven-greats Aunt Lucy who midwifed babies in Albemarle and, with her herbal practice, provided health care to people who needed her. (And who, apparently, made awesome hams.) Some, we met in the classroom, the community, the workplace, or on the yoga mat.
When I first learned that the YWCA had selected me as the 2017 Pat Asch Social Justice Fellow, I cried a lot. And, I thought about my conversation with Free because this honor invites me to join in sisterhood with Cheryl Groce-Wright, Leslie Lytle, and women to come, in the radiant legacy of Pat Asch, whose influence in the lives of women in our city also evokes the tradition of Mary Bowser and Elizabeth Van Lew: courageous, collaborative, and persistent.
“I believe that growth comes through change,” Pat Asch is noted to have said after her retirement, according to a story in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, shortly after her death in 2013.
The Pat Asch Fellowship will allow me to learn and grow so that I can become better equipped to work effectively on behalf of the long-term care workforce and the older adults they support. My Fellowship experience will bring growth through change, no doubt, and new ways of thinking about ancestry, legacy, and sisterhood.