Richmond, Virginia’s downtown district has an up-and-coming vibe. Boutique storefronts and apartment buildings appear recently rehabbed. Restaurants and coffee shops housed in historic buildings are retro hip. At the intersection of Broad and Adams streets, a new statue of Maggie Walker, a former slave’s daughter who became America’s first female bank owner, stands proudly.
But elsewhere in this city that once was the capital of the Confederacy, history has a heavier footprint via the lasting impact of decades of discriminatory urban policies. The result has been what lifelong Richmonder Duron Chavis, community engagement coordinator at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, calls a “toxic cocktail of concentrated poverty” as well as entrenched inequities in education, health, and housing.