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Our 2021 Trailblazers

Dr. Lerla Joseph

Physician, Richmond

Her mission to assure high-quality health care for underserved populations in central Virginia was achieved in 1987 when she opened her own practice in Charles City County. The facility later expanded to include diagnostic and disease prevention training and “a center of healing”. Today, the Central Virginia Coalition of Healthcare Providers is one of the nation's few minority-owned accountable care organizations in which regional medical professionals provide accessible, high quality, and affordable care for Medicare recipients.

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Evelyn Reid Syphax*

Educator, Arlington

Unable to find adequate day care for her son in segregated Arlington, she established the Syphax Child Care Center in 1963. She also was a teacher and reading specialist who later served on the Arlington School Board. Her interest in documenting black history helped create the Black Heritage Museum of Arlington. Virginia Union University honors her work and memory with its Evelyn Reid Syphax School of Education.

Krysta N. Jones

Political Activist, Arlington

Studying African American history while growing up fueled her knowledge of political action and working against racism. Further studies while in the Peace Corps and college led her to establish the Virginia Leadership Institute in 2006. Her nonpartisan organization, now known as Vote Lead Impact, trains and mentors African Americans to run for elected office and provides scholarships for those seeking leadership development programs.

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L. Louise Boone Lucas

Virginia State Senator, Portsmouth

In December 2019 she became the first woman and the first African American elected president pro tempore of the Virginia State Senate, having served southeastern Virginia's 18th District since 1991. Other historic achievements include being the first Black woman to win election to the Portsmouth City Council.

Rev. Stan Maclin*

Social Justice Activist, Harrisonburg

Through his work in community activism, the Mennonite minister focused on diversity, inclusion, racial justice and criminal justice reform. In 2016, in response to police shootings of unarmed Black men, Maclin co-founded Americans Resisting Minority and Ethnic Discrimination to document and raise awareness of similar events. His activism led to the establishment of the People's Equality Commission of the Shenandoah Valley, which helps citizens combat institutional racism.

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*Deceased

Student Regional Contest Winners

Students were asked to answer the prompt below about social justice and what it means to them. A winner was chosen from each region of Virginia (Central, Eastern, Northern, Western).

Many Americans are confronting the long history of racial violence in the United States that is often ignored and that has manifested itself in our political and social systems. One definition of social justice describes it as justice in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society. What does social justice mean to you? How has a lack of social justice throughout American history affected minority communities? What actions can you take in support of social justice?

Tamia Booker

Central Region

Appomattox Regional Governor’s School

11th Grade

Madisyn Ford

Eastern Region

Oscar Smith High School

10th Grade

Zahria Ford

Northern Region

Rock Ridge High School

10th Grade

Julie Thomas

Western Region

Harrisonburg High School

9th Grade

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