‘The Richest Black Girl in America:’ Professor’s article acquired for film

‘The Richest Black Girl in America:’ Professor’s article acquired for film

FEBRUARY 9, 2022

Courtesy University News

The University of Richmond

Professor Lauren Henley’s article, “The Richest Black Girl in America,” about a young Black girl’s struggle to retain her sudden wealth against constant threats in the early 1900s, has caught the attention of two Hollywood players.

Azia Squire, a writer for the Netflix show “Bridgerton,” as well as Universal and Disney, will adapt Henley’s article with plans to turn it into a feature script for Amblin Partners, according to Henley and published reports. Amblin Partners, which acquired the rights to the story, is Steven Spielberg’s film and production company.

Henley, an associate professor in leadership studies, wrote her article for the Truly*Adventurous digital storytelling website. 

Published in February 2021 on the online platform Medium, Henley’s article describes the harsh, poverty-stricken conditions that 11-year-old Sarah Rector and her family endured in Jim Crow Oklahoma.

Rector was the daughter of Black farmers with little hope of a future beyond the fields that they worked from sun up until sun down.

The Rector’s ancestors had been enslaved by the Creek tribe in Oklahoma. Because of this, the family was allotted free land by the federal government as a form of reparations. The family’s luck changed in 1913, when land that had been set aside for Sarah suddenly began gushing oil, after Rector’s father leased it to a drilling company.

Henley writes: 

Without knowing it yet, Sarah Rector in that instant had gone from poor farmers’ daughter to a budding tycoon. Some 2,500 barrels of oil per day spewed out of Sarah’s property, making it what was then the biggest producing well in one of the biggest oil fields in the country. From that first gusher alone Sarah stood to make more than $114,000 per year — nearly $3 million in today’s dollars.

Henley, who came to the University of Richmond two years ago, is a historian whose research examines youthfulness, race, gender, religion, and crime in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. She grew up reading books about “little Black girls who weren’t bad or being stereotyped,” she said. However, her current work considers how Black women and girls became both the victims of and perpetrators of violent crimes in the rural industrial South.

Truly*Adventurous reached out to Henley, asking about her interest in writing about Rector’s little-known story. Henley agreed, and in between moving from Austin, Texas, back to her hometown in Richmond, she poured through 5,000 pages of records to build her story around the main characters, parents, siblings, and guardians of Rector’s funds.

Court records, handwritten accounts, and simple copies of transactions to repair Rector’s car provided context and depth to the story. Henley’s story was published on Medium in February 2021. 

Henley was ecstatic when Amblin secured her story. She believes that when and if a film is made, Squire will not tell Rector’s story from a “white savior’s” point of view. Rector, often besieged by people — Black and white — who were determined to take her money, knew her power, Henley said. Once grown and educated at some of America’s best schools for Blacks, she also knew how to control her own destiny.

Black History Month 2022 in Richmond and Beyond

Ida B. Wells

Ida B. Wells was a suffragist, civil rights activist and pioneering journalist who chronicled the lynching of Black Americans in her reporting. On Tuesday, Feb. 1 at 11:00 a.m. ET, Michelle Duster, author of “Ida B. the Queen,” discusses her great-grandmother for The Washington Post’s Black History Month series about the role Black women have played in the country’s development. Register here.

Michelle Duster

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Virginia Randolph

Henrico County Public Library -Speaker event

Saturday, Feb. 5, at 2 p.m. Fairfield Area Library, 1401 N. Laburnum Ave.

Saturday, Feb. 12, at 2 p.m. Glen Allen Branch Library, 10501 Staples Mill Road.

Biographer and filmmaker Elvatrice Belsches will take the audience on a multimedia journey amplifying the extraordinary contributions of Virginia E.  Randolph in the areas of education, public health, and juvenile justice reform.

Elvatrice Belsches

Ms. Belsches currently is working on a documentary of Randolph’s legacy and is the recipient of a Virginia Humanities grant for her project.

For more information visit: henricolibrary.org/calendar

Chesterfield County Parks and Recreation

Tuesday, Feb. 1, 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.  Huguenot Road Baptist Church, 10525 W Huguenot Road.

Watch Rosa Parks come to life in a moving performance by radio announcer and talk show host, Theresa Gee. She will present a new perspective through the eyes of this historic activist in celebration of Black History Month.

The program is free, but registration is required. For more information, contact Susan Miller at (804) 212-8815, or email  millers@chesterfield.gov or visit  www.chesterfield.gov/150/Parks-and-Recreation

Friday, Feb. 4, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., Mayes Colbert Ettrick Recreation Center, 20621 Woodpecker Road – Black Excellence Art Exhibition.

Mon. Feb 7, 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.  Huguenot Road Baptist Church, 10525 W Huguenot Road. Black History Month Book Presentation.  Local Matoaca author, James McKnight, will recap his book, “My Story of a Sharecropper’s Life.

 The program is free, but registration is required. For more information contact Susan Miller at 804 -212-8815 or email millers@chesterfield.gov or visit – www.chesterfield.gov/150/Parks-and-Recreation.

Monday night Feb.7, 7 p.m. – Risk, Resilience and the Black Family. Dr. Shawn C.T. Jones discusses the mechanisms Black Families use to overcome and protect themselves from racism-related stress.

Email Chesterfield County Public Library Community Services – CCPLCommunityServices@chesterfield.gov.   

Tuesday, Feb. 8, 12 noon,  Castlewood, 10201 Iron Bridge Road – History of Pleasant View School. Discover the history of one of the last preserved African American schoolhouses in Chesterfield County during the segregated era.

The program is free, but registration is required one week in advance. Email Bryan Truzzie at truzzieb@chesterfield.gov.  

Feb.  10, 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. – Virginia Commonwealth University Library, James Branch Cabell Library Lecture Hall, 901 Park Ave.

Pulitzer-Prize winning historian Annette Gordon-Reed tells the sweeping story of Juneteenth. In her searing new book, “On Juneteenth”, the Texas native chronicles both the state, and the country’s long road to Juneteenth—and the many hardships African-Americans have endured in the century since, from Jim Crow and beyond.

Annette Gordon-Reed

Please register to attend in person or online at: http://www.support.vcu.edu/event/BlackHistoryMonth2022

Feb.  19 at 1 p.m. – Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site will host a “Matinee with Miss Maggie”

Virtual film program at 1 p.m. This year’s selected film, “Imitation of Life,” addresses one of the questions often asked by visitors to the site upon seeing photographs of Walker’s fair complexion: “Did Maggie L. Walker ever pass for white?” While historical evidence suggests she never did so on purpose, “passing” was something many Black people with light skin tones chose to do in Jim Crow America and beyond. The 1934 film “Imitation of Life” was among various stories told about racial passing during Walker’s time, exploring a topic that remains a point of fascination today. The public is invited to join a park historian in viewing “Imitation of Life” and discussing the significance of racial passing, both in Walker’s time and now. To sign up for this free event that is open to the public, please contact Park Ranger Ben Anderson at Benjamin_Anderson@nps.gov.  A discussion will follow.

Additional information is available at 804-226-5041, or at http://www.nps.gov/mawa or www.Facebook.com/MaggieLWalkerNHS.

Internship Opportunity

The Television Academy Foundation Internship Program has opened doors for some of TV’s leading creators and innovators such as Rachel Axler (Writer, Veep, The Daily ShowEric Kripke (Creator, The Boys), Craig Mazin (Writer-Producer, Chernobyl, The Last of Us), Marco Esquivel (VP, Creative Content at Shondaland), Gina Prince-Bythewood (Director, Women of the Movement, Queen Sugar), and many more.
 
Don’t miss out on your chance to get your foot in the door of the TV industry.
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Myja Gary’s Crowning Achievements

Miss Black USA’s mission is to empower other black women

Myja Gary, Miss Black USA 2021

Myja Gary’s vision of herself as representing the world on a larger stage became a reality in 2021 when she was crowned Miss Black USA. The Chesterfield County, Virginia native’s crowning came after several years that combined a focus on academics, journalism and corporate communications. Energetic, enthusiastic, inquisitive and confident best describe Gary, whose future is hers for the asking.

Gary, 27, who earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communication from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in 2016, and a master’s degree in public relations and corporate communication from Georgetown University, entered her first pageant completion at age 17.

Kimberly Fields, a freelance journalist based in Raleigh, North Carolina, recently spoke to Gary about her pageant experience, donning the crown of Miss Black USA 2021 and being a corporate communications manager at Zoom, where she prepares integrated communication plans and is a strategic adviser for the company’s leadership team. Along with her pageantry commitments, it’s a mystery how she manages to not let her crown slip. Gary tells us just how she does it.

Kimberly: How exactly did you get started in pageantry?

Myja: I started maybe right before college; I entered a pageant. The system is the USA National Miss Pageant. I did that and, I can’t remember whether it was for Miss Virginia… I don’t even remember how it worked, but I remember placing as the third or fourth runner up. So, I started there and honestly I don’t know what motivated me then. But when I got to college at North Carolina A&T State University, that’s when my interest really picked up and I participated in  several pageants. From there I competed in and won the Miss A&T Pageant, and later I competed in the Miss HBCU Pageant. From there I competed in the Miss Black USA Pageant. Since my first competition, I knew it was something I wanted to continue to do because I’ve always loved what they represent. Also, once you win, you are heavily involved in service and in your community. You are pretty much a representation for your community.

Kimberly: What was that experience like, entering your first pageant?

Myja: Scary (laughs) I was scared to death. It was one of those things where I think, you know, I got into it and I was super excited and then seeing everything that it took; just being on that stage and performing was scary, but it also was exhilarating. That was just such an exciting moment for me. I think that fear kind of turned into my passion because, although it was a scary thing, I just love being on that stage, you know? And I love public speaking. That is a passion of mine and in pageantry a lot of it is speaking. So I love that. I am very confident in my public speaking skills, so it gave me a platform to become a better public speaker and to show off my public speaking skills. But yes, it was a scary time that fueled my passion.

Kimberly: Right, I understand that. I get it! Did you grow up watching pageants?

Myja:  Yes and no. it wasn’t something my family sat down and watched together, but it was something that I was into. Once I started getting into the beauty realm, into makeup, all things girly and feminine and I started seeing the Miss USAs and the Miss Americas, it’s all beauty, right? The makeup, the hair, they’re gorgeous, the blinging crowns and sashes. I think that’s kind of what intrigued me from there.

Kimberly: Do you have a favorite pageant that you used to watch or still watch?

Myja: I really love the Miss Universe Pageant. It’s after the Miss USA pageant, it’s a step up, but I love the Miss Universe pageant because all of the girls are very diverse. These are different countries, we aren’t just talking about the United States. These women are coming from Africa, the Philippines, and so many different countries and regions. That’s been my favorite pageant. It’s intriguing to see these women come from diverse backgrounds, but kind of share some of the same morals and values.

Kimberly: I agree. So, when you were mentioning the pageants you participated in and the titles that you’ve held, a great bit of them were African American based. Was that intentional that you applied to participate in Black pageants?

Myja: ABSOLUTELY! I think getting into pageantry I was kind of finding myself or finding my niche. Really discovering what I wanted to get out of it and how I wanted to be impactful, but yes, moving forward once I found that passion, it was absolutely intentional that I did things that were centered around Black women and the Black community. That is something that I stand for. That is my thing; empowering Black women. I remember this quote from Issa Rae, during an award show and she was asked who was she rooting for and she said, “I’m rooting for everybody Black!” (laughs) So that’s my thing, empowering the Black community, so it was definitely intentional.

Kimberly: Do you think that your participation in these pageants is empowering Black women?

Myja: Yes! And I say that because I think representation is so important. Representation matters. I think these pageants are relevant because it is up to us to tell our own stories. It’s up to us to create the narrative, right? We’re (Black women) so invisible in beauty, in print, on television, in pageantry, so I think it takes Black women to step up to these positions to be placed into these spaces and create our story and let other Black women know that this is possible. And I think sometimes when we do compete, and this is not a knock against any other pageant system, when we do compete, we often are the only Black woman, or we are the only Black woman from a particular area, or the first Black woman to win the title and that often is exhausting.

Kimberly: Yes, it is! Tell me more.

Myja: There is an impact that you have and a joy, a happiness that you feel when you are around women who look like you. You’re so conscious about, “Should I wear my natural hair or should I straighten it? Should I wear these Spanx or should I flaunt my natural body?” Those are things you think about when you compete in other pageants, but standing on that stage with other Black women everybody has natural hair, and everybody has similar body shapes.”

Kimberly: I completely agree with you. So, I can think of a few changes, but what changes have you noticed in today’s pageants and those of the past?

Myja: I think now it is centered around societal issues and it could be perspective because as a young girl, I’m not thinking about climate change and women’s empowerment. I’m thinking about a pretty sash and a pretty crown, and contestants’ beautiful makeup and beautiful hair. But now that I’m older and realize what they’re actually representing, I think about the societal issues and how I can make an impact. From the audience’s eye, we’re in this era where folks want to know what are you going to do for their community. What are you going to do to impact their communities? I definitely think it is more about the work now.

Kimberly: Indeed. Can you tell me a little bit about your journey toward becoming both Miss Black VA and Miss Black USA?

Myja:In pageantry and in this particular pageant system, there is an age cap and I was coming up on that age cap for this particular pageant system. I knew that I wanted to do this one more time before I became too old, as funny as that sounds. I wanted to do it one more time and I had goals for myself, I knew the issues I wanted to tackle, and coming in, of course I wanted to win, but I was always thinking about how I could make an impact whether I won or not. I became Miss Black Virginia and it was like WOW!

Myja Gary first competed in pageants at age 17. While in college, she selected as Miss North Carolina A&T State University.

While I was Miss Black Virginia, I partnered with Do Something, a major nonprofit to collect menstrual products for women’s shelters. That was awesome for me. I organized a women’s leadership summit, the Women I.N. event series, for women leaders in tech, education, health, and marketing to come together and shed light and provide insight to other young women who were pursuing these particular careers. At this time, I was preparing for the national pageant to become Miss Black USA. I was working with my coach and again going into it I knew I wanted to win. I had my goal, I knew what work I wanted to do and I planned, I prepared, I practiced, I worked really hard and it happened for me, I am so grateful. Some days I can’t believe it that it really happened because this is my last year, I wouldn’t be able to compete again. The transition has just been so peaceful because these things were already destined, it just feels like it was destined.

Kimberly: The stride is always easy when the shoes are meant for you, right?

Myja: Right, exactly.

Kimberly: Talk about going out with a bang. Wow, I didn’t know there was an age cap to this, but how lucky are you to say I’m going to give this one last shot. You went for the last hoorah and came out on top twice. So that’s awesome. Can you tell me a little about your current role and the responsibilities you have?

Myja: I am the representation of the organization. My official title is Miss Black USA 2021. Above all, my biggest duty is to impact my community. Service, volunteering initiatives, women’s empowerment, positive representation, mentorship, all those things that kind of align with women’s empowerment and being the representation of an organization that celebrates and uplifts Black women. Another responsibility is to maintain strong relationships with our sponsors. So those folks who believe in the organization, the mission of the organization, the women who participate in the organization… they are donating, helping to fundraise, sending products and clothes, jewelry, resources and other items that we need to compete to be successful. So just maintaining a strong relationship with our sponsors is a major duty as well.

Kimberly: It sounds like it is a very exciting job to have and role to fulfill, but I could imagine that there may have been some challenges. Could you talk a little about any challenges that you have come across either prior to being crowned or thereafter and how you handled them?

Myja: I think one of my biggest challenges was fear. I think this is so common across the board especially when we talk about Black women and things that they are pursuing. I remembered when working with my pageant coach, her name was Ocielia and she is a former Miss Black USA, she would always tell me “whatever happens is going to happen. There is nothing you can do to stop it. So when you get on that stage, have no fear. Every step you take, every person you talk to, every judge you make eye contact with, every question you answer, every time you set foot on that stage, HAVE NO Fear.” And I really adopted that. Every time I would step on that stage I would chant to myself, “Have no fear. Have no fear. Have no fear,” and it really helped me to just be my best, do my best and kind of leave it all on the stage because at that point, I did everything I knew I could.

 The second biggest challenge for me was having resources to do enough and understanding that we are still in a pandemic, we’re still in this virtual environment. But again reminding myself that everything I had was everything I needed to do exactly what I wanted to do to impact my community in the ways that I could with what I had and that was all that mattered. You’ve got to get creative in this virtual environment.

Kimberly Fields, CEO, The Write Place, LLC, is a freelance writer and journalist based in Raleigh, North Carolina. Contact her at Knfields89@gmail.com

Rehash: Kitchen Talk-Holiday Cooking Traditions 2021

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Thank you Benita Johnson of the Vine Wine Club, Emanuel “Manny” Baiden of Manny Eats, Latika Lee, media personality, along with audience members who participated in the BND Institute of Media and Culture Inc.’s Dec. 1, 2021 “Kitchen Talk” program. Our wide-ranging topics included holiday traditions, cooking trends, special recipes and ingredients, becoming successful entrepreneurs and more. Congratulations to our lucky door prize winners Unicia Buster and Angela Graves, each of whom received either a $30 catering voucher for Manny Eats or a bottle of wine from the Vine Wine Club. Special thanks to Michael L. Harvey, this year’s Kitchen Talk sponsor. Click on this link to view the 1:30-minute video of the program. We thank you all for supporting our 2021 events and programs, and look forward to seeing you during our 2022 BND Institute programs. Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

Kitchen Talk: African American Holiday Cooking 2021!

Please join us Dec. 1, 2021 @ 7 pm on Zoom when three Richmond, Va.-based experts in food, wine and culture indulge us with some holiday cooking and ‘spirits’ trends. Helping to whet our palates will be Benita Johnson, a private wine sommelier and founder of the Vine Wine Club; Chef Emmanuel “Manny” Baiden, owner of Manny Eats and Catering; and Latika Lee, publicist and founder of The Lotus Literary Lounge. Please visit the Eventbrite link below for more details:https://www.eventbrite.com/e/kitchen-talk-holiday-cooking-and-wine-trends-tickets-214967833577

Click here for the ZOOM LINK for the Program

*Please consider being a sponsor for this event in order to help provide honoraria to our hard-working entrepreneurs and speakers, to provide gift certificates-door prizes for two of our attendees, and to make a donation to an organization that is fighting hunger. Our announcements will be updated  to reflect your sponsorship support, and your name and business will be mentioned during our program.

Thank you to Michael L. Harvey of MLH Assets Management for sponsoring this event!

Contact bonnienewmandavis@gmail.com for sponsorship details.
AND PLEASE HELP SPREAD THE WORD ABOUT THIS EVENT!!
Thank YOU!!

Register on Zoom

Robin Farmer discusses her book, ‘Malcolm and Me’ with Hampton High’s Ashley Brown

The BND Institute of Media and Culture, Inc.

November 6, 2021

Robin Farmer’s debut novel, “Malcolm and Me”, was a 2019 winner of the She Writes Press and SparkPress Toward Equality in Publishing (STEP) Contest.  As a national award-winning journalist, Robin specialized in narrative nonfiction projects as part of the Special Projects/Investigative team for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Her work led to a Knight-Wallace Fellowship at the University of Michigan. A freelance writer since 2009, her clients include corporations and universities.

Robin holds a degree in journalism from Marquette University. She is a recipient of residencies at the Rowland Writers Retreat, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the Djerassi (Jer-ras-z) Resident Artists Program.

When not writing, Robin  volunteers with organizations empowering local writers and teen girls. A native of Philadelphia, she lives near Richmond with her husband and is working on her second book.

Joining us at the BND Institute of Media and Culture today is Ashley Brown, who interviews Robin about her book and career as a writer and journalist.

Ashley, 17, is a senior at Hampton High School where she is in the International Baccalaureate Program, vice president of Committees for the class of 2022, and a member of Hampton High’s volleyball team at Hampton High School. Ashley also is a volunteer for the YMCA where she plans meetings and is chaplain for the Leader’s Club, which operates out of the YMCA. In addition to Leader’s Club, Ashley is a representative in the YMCA’s Youth and Government Program. “My future interests include, studying philosophy, law, and journalism. My hobbies include volleyball, sewing, gardening/caring for houseplants, speech/debate, and art,” says Ashley.

Please click this link to enjoy this interesting and informative dialogue between Robin and Ashley!

Turning Teens’ Adventures into Books and More with Author and Journalist Robin Farmer

Award-winning author and journalist Robin Farmer will lead a creative writing workshop and discussion for middle and high school youth at 11 a.m. on November 6, 2021. The program will be based on her 2020 novel, “Malcolm and Me,” ” which explores themes of faith, racism and coming of age in the 1970s that are partly autobiographical. Farmer, who originally is from Philadelphia and now lives in Richmond, Virginia, has written articles for the Washington Post, Richmond Magazine, Hartford Courant and the Richmond Times-Dispatch. During her presentation, she will show middle and high school students how they, too, can take real-life incidents and turn them into essays, books and even movie or television scripts! Attendees may sign on to Zoom by using this link.