The Equity Center, U.Va.

The Equity Center

A UVA Democracy Initiative center for the redress of inequity through community-engaged scholarship

Community Fellows-In-Residence Program

Lead: Sherica Jones-Lewis

The Community Fellows-in-Residence (CFR) Program is a short-term, professional development opportunity run by the University of Virginia (UVA) Equity Center designed for individuals who have a history of actively working to reduce racial and socioeconomic inequality in our community and have a special project that could benefit from access to UVA support and resources. Our inaugural cohort of Fellows are community leaders who will bring their expertise to UVA, and allow UVA to share its expertise with them, to advance the cause of equity. Each brings a demonstrated history of actively working to reduce racial and socioeconomic inequity in our community and each has a specific project that could benefit from access to a UVA mentor, library, and other resources to help grow. Fellows will speak about their work, share with students about their communities, and complete their individual project to increase racial and socioeconomic equity. Each will receive work space on grounds and host office hours to connect with students, faculty, and staff. Fellows will be invited to audit a UVA course and will be assigned a mentor to assist in completing the accepted project. The term for our Fellows has been extended through the 2020 - 21 Academic Year due to COVID-19.


MEET THE FELLOWS 2020-2021

In 2017, I started compiling a list of local Black entrepreneurs. After creating an open-call on my social media pages asking my followers to tag local Black-owned businesses, I quickly realized that there were far more than I thought. In response, I created a blog post on Small Business Saturday to help support local Black-owned businesses. Currently, there is no place for our community to reference and support the dynamic and growing number of Black-owned small businesses in the area. My blog post currently lists over 60 Black-owned local businesses in Charlottesville. This blog post has been featured in local and national news publications and has been viewed over 1,000 times. Among the businesses listed are local creators, beauty vendors, photographers, air conditioning repair, electricians and catering. These businesses are at varying stages in their business and entrepreneurial journey. Some are more established than others, but by them being listed and easily searchable, this may provide an opportunity for these businesses to increase their brand awareness and generate more revenue. My goal is to turn this directory into a website and mobile app that allows users to easily search for the products or services they need to support a local Black-owned business. My goal is to give everyone a place online where they can be supported and grow.

Black Owned Businesses CVille


 

 

I am looking to expand the 100 BWCMA's Sister-nomic$, financial literacy program to include sessions for elementary, middle school & high school girls. The Sister-Nomic$ program is designed to empower women & girls through financial literacy to increase the understanding of how money works in the world; how money is earned, managed, invested and donated in order to help others in the community. Our program stresses the importance of a great educational foundation that leads to stable employment and economic growth as contributors to our local community. The overall goal for Sister-Nomic$ is for participants to develop a better understanding of financial literacy. Participants will be equipped with a fundamental understanding of how to apply decision making skills, problem solving skills and management skills in their everyday lives to improve their standard of living. Ultimately, we want participants to realize how an education and making better life choices can impact their journey in life.


 

Disparities and inequities in mental health care are persistent and unremitting, yet greatly neglected in the discourse around health, human rights, and equality. African American women, in particular, are at the highest risk for experiencing depression and other mental health conditions, yet are least likely to seek traditional mental health service. Recent research (particularly African American Mental Health Report from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (https://www.nami.org/Find-Support/Diverse-Communities/African-Americans and Beauty Salons: A Promising Health Promotion Setting for Reaching and Promoting Health Among African American Women, a 2016 report by Laura A. Linnan, ScD, CHES Yvonne Owens Ferguson, PhD, MPH of Pennsylvania State University) notes that inequities are rooted in reluctance, implicit bias, discrimination, multiple interlinked levels of inequality, inability to access traditional health services, inequalities in accessing culturally competent providers, provider bias, misdiagnosis, and distrust and other social determinants. Structural factors such as poverty, inequality, homelessness, and discrimination accelerate a cycle of worsening mental health outcomes, making the trajectory for recovery for African American women very different based on race-based disparities. This promising research led to a pilot project funded by Kaiser Permanente in five South Los Angeles salons (https://about.kaiserpermanente.org/community-health/news/improvingdepres...). I propose to use my fellowship to design a plan to replicate this pilot project in Charlottesville. Implementation of this project (Queens, Cuts & Conversations) will aim to address mental health care inequity by giving African America women safe spaces and access to culturally competent services. This is will be a pragmatic, community initiative taking mental health directly into the African American community by mobilizing beauty salons on all levels of the social-economic framework and establishing mental health supports groups in the salon. The program is about creating a (non-stigmatizing) space for authentic discussion and education about mental health in the beauty salon; a setting that has historically been a safe, nonjudgmental space for to talk about anything. Group would be co-led by an African American licensed clinician and a peer recovery specialist. Additionally, all participating hair stylists would receive training one mental health/ disparities and how to recognize signs of depression and offer clients mental health resources/information and an invitation to join the group. During the fellowship year, I will research best practices, develop community partners and funding proposals and create an implementation plan for Queens, Cuts & Conversations. I believe this project embodies the Equity centers values/priorities of health equity, mutuality and authentic partnership.


My main goal is to continue my docuseries that outlines the black history here in Charlottesville. I want to show the black community how great we were and let the world know we do exist because the narrative put out after #SummerOfHate was that we didn't exist. We do. I also want to continue the work of providing a space or series of events for us as a way to document new history being made and giving us some of the things we need so we can have spaces and places to embrace our culture like everyone else.