During this series, we heard from Christian leaders in Richmond as they addressed issues surrounding long-term racially motivated wounds in our local community. For those who were not able to join us or would like to review, we have the video from each session below.
Session 1 | Speaker: Rev. Ken Peters
Session 2 | Speaker: Rev. Don Coleman
Session 3 | Speaker: Mrs. Audrey Burton
Session 4 | Speaker: Dr. Wally Smith
Session 5 | Speakers: Dr. Danny Avula & Dr. Ramesh Wijesooriya
Session 6 | Speaker: Ms. Shunda Giles
Session 7 | Speaker: Daniel Robertson
Rev. Ken Peters just celebrated his 36th anniversary with his wife, Becky Woods Peters. They have 6 children and 1 Godson, Devin whose been part of the family since 1998. They currently have 7 grandchildren…always room for more at the table. Ken and Becky planted the Vineyard Christian Fellowship of Richmond in 1995, beginning in the basement of TikVat Israel with several different locations over the years. The church now goes by the name The Bridge RVA with a significant focus on impoverished children and their families in South Richmond.
Donald L. Coleman has over 25 years of urban ministry experience living in Richmond, Va.. Don is married to Florence (for 30+ years) and have raised two daughters Selah DePriest (married to Andrew) with grandson Elijah and Shekinah Mitchell(married to Demetrius).
Don presently serves as Lead Pastor/ co-founder of East End Fellowship a multi-ethnic, economically diverse community in the East End of Richmond, seeking God’s joy and justice for their neighborhoods out of love for Christ. Pastor Don is presently serving on the board of Church Hill Activities and Tutoring serving youth and families also in the East End of Richmond.
Don’s ministry in Richmond has included serving as an elected member of Richmond Public Schools School Board serving two 4 year terms 2009-2016 where he also served as Chairman for 2 years.
Don has also worked for numerous years for the spirit of reconciliation to impact his city serving on various boards and initiatives that promote the functional unity of the body of Christ. For Richmond being one notable initiative that brings together over 50 different churches. Pastor Don also finds great joy meeting regularly with younger pastors in Greater Richmond and anyone up for a conversation on his porch.
Don’s life motto is: Serving others into their greatness!!!!
Mrs. Audrey Burton, a life long African-American Christian activist. She and her husband have spent their entire professional careers working with the Urban League in Richmond for the improvement of youth in the inner city, which is predominantly African-American.
Wally R. Smith, MD is the Florence Neal Cooper Smith Professor of Sickle Cell Disease at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). He also serves as the Vice-Chairman for Research of the Division of General Internal Medicine and is the former Scientific Director of the Center on Health Disparities at VCU. Dr. Smith is an experienced implementation scientist and an expert in clinical and health services research in sickle cell disease. He has authored over 100 publications and served as an investigator on over 50 externally funded grants and contracts. Dr. Smith has been associated with the development of two potential lead compounds for sickle cell disease at VCU.
Dr. Romesh Wijesooriya is an Assistant Professor of General Pediatrics at Children’s Hospital of Richmond. He has served as the Division Chair of General Pediatrics since 2014. Additionally, he serves as the Medical Director for the Pediatric Primary Care Clinic. Romesh received his BA in Religious Studies with a minor in Biology in 1999 from The University of Virginia where he was an Echol’s Scholar and a Jefferson Scholar. After graduating, he spent one year working at a hospital and orphanage in Jos, Nigeria before returning to The University of Virginia for Medical School. He received his MD from U.Va. in 2004 and he completed his pediatric residency training at VCUHS in 2007. He served as Chief Resident for one year and subsequently joined the faculty of VCUHS in 2008. He has been board certified by the American Board of Pediatrics since 2007. In 2016 he attended the Harvard Leadership Development Program for Physicians in Academic Health Centers.
As a general pediatrician who has practiced medicine (and lives) in an urban, low-income, and under-resourced community since 2004, Romesh has had to grapple with the reality and challenges of health disparities for low-income communities. He has come to recognize that these disparities are generational and systemic in nature. Romesh is committed to improving health outcomes by changing the systems (medical, financial, educational, social, law enforcement, etc.) that have created and perpetuate these disparities.
Dr. Danny Avula is Director of the Richmond City and Henrico County Health Departments. He is a public health physician board certified in pediatrics and preventive medicine, and he continues to practice clinically as a pediatric hospitalist. After graduating from the University of Virginia, he attended the VCU School of Medicine, and completed residencies at VCU and Johns Hopkins University, where he also received a Master’s in Public Health. He is an Affiliate Faculty member at VCU, where he regularly serves as an advisor and preceptor to graduate and medical students.
Shunda Giles attended James Madison University graduating in 1996 with a B.S. in Political Science and a double minor in English and Criminal Justice. She went on to attend law school at T.C. Williams School of Law, University of Richmond earning her Juris Doctor in 1999. Shunda’s career with the City began with an internship in the Richmond City Attorney’s office in 1997, representing Social Services. She served as Special Counsel for the City in 2001 and accepted the position of Assistant City Attorney in 2002. After being promoted to Senior Assistant City Attorney her practice expanded to represent the Department of Justice Service. In May 2015, Shunda began her current position, the Director of the Richmond Department of Social Services.
Shunda has served on several boards over the years—Volunteer Emergency Families for Children, U-Turn Sports Performance Academy, Richmond Christian Leadership Initiative. She is a member of the Virginia League of Social Services Executives, serving on the Professional Development Committee; Virginia Association of Local Human Services Officials, Child Welfare League of America, American Public Human Services Association and the National Association of Counsel for Children.
Shunda is a member of Hope Point Church in Chesterfield County, VA and serves on the Board of Trustees.
We were unable to include Shaunda’s video but enjoyed her session and appreciated her willingness to share with us.
Bishop Daniel Robertson, Jr. was born on December 4, 1964 in Chesapeake, Virginia. After completing his primary education in the Chesapeake public schools, Bishop Robertson began his academic journey at James Madison University (JMU). While in the same choir and Bible study group at JMU, he met and fell in love with Elena Eaglin, and on August 13, 1988, they were joined in Holy Matrimony. As a result of their union, they became the blessed parents of four children: Daniel III, Charity Joy, David Jeremiah, and Moriah Joyelle.
He received a Bachelor’s degree in biology from JMU in 1986 and soon became a registered pharmacist. Continuing his higher education, Bishop Robertson attended Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Pharmacy in 1989, where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in pharmacy. His drive to excel coupled with his passion for the Word of God soon lead him to Virginia Union in Richmond, Virginia where he received a Masters in Divinity degree and graduated magna cum laude.
More recently, in May 2014, Bishop Robertson graduated from Ever Increasing Word Training Center in Darrow, Louisiana and was also awarded an Honorary Doctorate Degree in Divinity from the center. He also serves as one of 12 Master Vision Bearers for Leroy Thompson Ministerial Association (LTMA), under the leadership of Apostle Leroy Thompson, Sr.
BONUS: Racial Injustice conversation from our Student Wednesday Bible Study
David M. Bailey has spent the last 15 years using music as a tool in the reconciliation process. The speaker, producer, and author is a native of Richmond, the former “Capital of the Confederacy.” He hopes that his work will help the city become the “Capital of Reconciliation.”
David is the founder of Arrabon, a nonprofit that helps communities understand diversity and reconciliation through the vehicles of cultural training and music. He is an active member of a multicultural Christian faith community that endeavors to be a faithful presence for both the poor and rich in the gentrifying neighborhood of Church Hill.
David is the author of Arrabon: Learning Reconciliation through Community and Worship Music and the producer of Urban Doxology.