American Association of Suicidology Announces New Communications Coordinator

WASHINGTON, DC, USA, January 3, 2018 / — After an exhaustive nationwide search, The American Association of Suicidology (AAS) is pleased to announce the selection of Chris Maxwell as its first full-time Communications Coordinator.

Chris brings nearly 9 years of experience in suicide prevention programming and advocacy. His passion toward understanding suicide, harnessing the capability of social media to prevent it, and efforts to advocate for the voices of those with lived experience exemplify the bright future of the organization. Prior to this position, Chris co-chaired the communications committee for the board of directors of AAS, paving the way for innovative and industry-leading media collaborations.

“I am thrilled that AAS is in a position to hire a communications coordinator and so glad to be able to continue to work with Chris who was amazing, even as a very part-time volunteer” said AAS President, Julie Cerel, PhD.

“We are pleased that someone who has worked so tirelessly for suicide prevention emerged as the best candidate” said AAS Executive Director, Colleen Creighton. “Chris brings a deep understanding of the issue along with such a creative sense of new, innovative ways to get AAS more engaged on this issue. I’m excited to have him join our team at this pivotal juncture.”

“I’m incredibly excited to work with AAS staff and membership to enhance the mission of AAS through new projects and initiatives,” Maxwell said in a statement. “The field of suicide prevention is at a turning point. Now is the time for us to amplify the voices of our members and to guide the public in ways that will truly provide education and prevent suicide.”


About AAS: Founded in 1968 by pioneering Psychologist Dr. Edwin S. Shneidman (1918-2009), AAS is based in Washington DC, it promotes suicide prevention as a research discipline, public awareness programs, public education and training for professionals and volunteers. The membership of AAS includes mental health and public health professionals, researchers, suicide prevention and crisis intervention centers, school districts, crisis center volunteers, survivors of suicide loss, attempt survivors, and a variety of lay persons who have in interest in suicide prevention. You can learn more about AAS at

For the media: We urge members of the media to share suicide prevention resources in all of their reports. Responsible reporting on suicide and the inclusion of stories of hope and resilience can prevent more suicides. You can find more information on safe messaging around suicide here.

Colleen Creighton
American Association of Suicidology
email us here

Dr. Janet Smith Warfield to be Featured on CUTV News Radio

SARASOTA, FLORIDA, UNITED STATES, January 2, 2018 / — Every day each of us uses words to try to understand our world and communicate that understanding to others. But do we realize we can choose our words intentionally and powerfully to co-create the kind of world in which we want to live?

Janet is a renowned international speaker, workshop facilitator, Amazon Best Selling Author, and creator of Word Sculptures. Word Sculptures is an art, not a science. Janet has been playing and experimenting with this art for more than fifty years.

“You can choose to hear another person’s words not as the truth of the situation but as their perception of It,” says Janet. “It may be their truth but it’s not necessarily the truth. People create their own word sculptures of what is transpiring in their lives. Each of us creates word maps of our experiences, each in our own unique way.”

Fifty years ago, Janet had a sudden, unexpected, unifying, holistic experience. When she tried to talk about it, she was met with blank stares. Her challenge became: how does one use analytic, divisive words to communicate a unifying holistic experience? It was like trying to use a screwdriver to hammer a nail. When Janet changed the word “communicate” to “facilitate,” she realized that the intention behind her words would always be the same: to open up peoples’ minds, to clarify the meanings of the words we use, to transcend the words, and to unify, align, and bring people together.

As an example, if someone is angry with you, instead of arguing, you can simply say, “I am so sorry. What can I do to make things okay”?

“Everyone’s perception and way of word-mapping what they experience is absolutely valid,” explains Janet. “It’s really important when you’re doing the mapping of your own experience to do it without censorship. This does not mean you necessarily use the same words when speaking with another.”

According to Janet, the way we understand our world and the words we use to describe it evolves from our personal upbringing. We are all conditioned to think certain ways from the time we are born. Words separate, divide, and categorize. The fact Is, in every single moment all of us are dancing with words, wisdom, our emotions, and our experiences. If we want to live in a peaceful, powerful, prosperous planet, each of us can set our intentions and with our words co-create our reality.”

“We would all be dancing and co-creating with one another if we followed these guidelines,” says Janet. Each of us possesses a unique gift with which to serve the world and one another. Our spiritual path is finding that magnificent gift and courageously and humbly offering it back to dutifully serve the entire planet.”

According to Janet, It’s vital we follow this path or we will obliterate and destroy the human species. By choosing our words wisely and experiencing them within ourselves, we can transform that radiant, luminous energy into something courageous, life-affirming and beautiful.

“Words can separate and divide us or they can bring us together,” says Janet. “Each and every one of us gets to choose our own words in each and every moment. When we become aware of the tremendous power of our words and choices, we can co-create a peaceful, powerful, prosperous dynamic planet that respects the unique offerings of each and every one of us. There is only one rule: do no harm.”

CUTV News Radio will feature Dr. Janet Smith Warfield in an interview with Jim Masters on January 2nd at 1pm EST and with Doug Llewelyn on January 9th at 1pm EST.

Listen to the show on BlogTalkRadio.

For more information, visit

Lou Ceparano
(631) 850-3314
email us here

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Top weekend events: ‘Motown,’ San Diego International Auto Show, Kids’ New Year’s Eve at Legoland

“Motown The Musical”

8 p.m. tonight; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday; 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday. San Diego Civic Theatre, 1100 Third Ave., downtown. About $22-$107 (plus fees). (619) 570-1100 or

The Broadway musical about the Detroit record label that changed the face of American music is back in town for a second touring visit. Among the show’s 60-plus songs are such enduring classics as “Where Did Our Love Go,” “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours” and “My Girl.” JAMES HEBERT

San Diego Tango Festival

9:30 p.m. Sunday to 6 a.m. Monday. Wyndham San Diego Bayside, 1355 N. Harbor Drive, San Diego. $45 (price increases Dec. 27).

With the San Diego Tango Festival in town between today and Monday, a New Year’s Eve milonga (tango dance party) is a must-do for lovers of the Argentine dance and music genre. Dance all night long — literally. Tango-specific DJs get this party started in the Wyndham main ballroom at 9:30 p.m., and keep the party fresh until 6 a.m. CYNTHIA ZANONE

1 and 8 p.m. Saturday, and 1 p.m. Sunday. Welk Resort Theatre, 8860 Lawrence Welk Drive, Escondido. $59 ($80 with pre-show meal). (888) 802-7469 or

There are a whole lot of takes on the “Scrooge” story out there, and a whole host of those pesky Dickensian ghosts. The Welk goes the musical route with this 1994 adaptation, which boasts a score by the Broadway and Hollywood heavyweights Alan Menken and Lynn Ahrens. Larry Raben directs the show — the last at the Escondido theater before the place is closed for renovations. JAMES HEBERT

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

African American Creates Job Avenue For Hwidiem Youth

Nana Amo Kantinkrau

Nana Amo Kantinkrau

An African American philanthropist, James Carl Kennedy, who is also a Development Chief of Hwidiem in the Ashanti Region, has initiated a project in collaboration with KnB Products Ltd, to create employment for the youth of the area.

Carl Kennedy, known as Nana Amo Kantinkrau, disclosed that, the initiative would see him buying products from KnB Products Ltd, to be given to the youth of the area to sell. The income from the sales, capital and profit, would be channeled into projects for the community.

The initiative would also see KnB selling its gel, hand washing soap, hair pomade and skin care products to Carl Kennedy at a highly subsidized price as part of its contribution to the partnership for the development of the area through job creation.

According to James Kennedy, who prefers to be known as an American African, “part of the proceeds would be used to finance the education of the children in the Hwidiem area and beyond. Some orphans and needy children would also benefit from this initiative”.

Mr. Collins Obeng Agyare, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of KnB Products Ltd, said his company would train some of the youth to manufacture the products so they could be set up after training.

“The initiative is part of our corporate social responsibility in partnership with Mr. Kennedy, to respond to the needs of the community and the nation at large,” Mr. Agyare noted.

Mr. Agyare, called for support from government, corporate bodies and philanthropists like Kennedy to support the initiative for the betterment of the living conditions of the people.

Since 1999, James Carl Kennedy has been undertaking development projects at Hwidiem, where he has built a toilet facility for the local Primary School, procured computers and connected the school to the internet and supported the educational and health needs of many deprived pupils. He has also adopted some children in the area.

He is one of the founders of KnB Products Ltd and in 2013, while in he was in Ghana to start a branch in the country, he lost his business partner Ken Berry.

He is hopeful the initiative would bring relief to many of the unemployed youth in the area while helping the community undertake some development projects with proceeds from the sales of KnB range of products.

He advised Ghanaians to patronize KnB products as their contribution to the success of the initiative.

Daily inspiration through The Power of a Vacation

The Power of a Vacation by Amy Hinote

The Power of a Vacation by Amy Hinote

New book by Amy Hinote, editor-in-chief of VRM Intel, delves into the power of travel for the mind, body and soul

I initially decided to write this book to show vacation rental providers how much what they do matters.”

— Amy Hinote

EVANSTON, ILLINOIS, UNITED STATES, January 2, 2018 / — Amy Hinote, founder and editor-in-chief of VRM Intel Magazine, the vacation rental industry’s leading news source, has published The Power of a Vacation, a book of daily travel inspiration aimed at encouraging travelers through the joy of wanderlust to open themselves to new adventures and to experience the world in a different way.

The book is a yearlong calendar compilation of quotes, fascinating facts, excerpts from studies, song lyrics, and more about the importance of taking a vacation. From Confucius to Rick Steves to Maya Angelou to Ernest Hemingway, The Power of a Vacation takes the reader on a yearlong journey, reminding him or her each step of the way how much the journey itself adds to one’s life and enhances the joy of discovery.

On her motivation for compiling the book, Hinote said, “I initially decided to write this book to show vacation rental providers how much what they do matters. But the more I got into it, the more I realized that there are centuries of observations about the importance of travel. It was a fun project that helped me realize how much traveling has meant in my own life.”

Readers are in for a treat as each day includes a meaningful reminder on how, through leisure travel, we are able to see the world with fresh eyes and how our mind, body, and spirit lift through new adventures.

For April 21, we are asked by Victor Hugo in Les Misérables, “What is most melancholy and more profound than to see a thousand objects for the first and the last time? To travel is to be born and to die in every instant. . . .” On October 12, we are advised by Tennessee Williams, “Make voyages. Attempt them. There’s nothing else.”

Liberally sprinkled with up-to-date facts about the mental and medical benefits of travel, The Power of a Vacation serves as a reminder that, from time to time, we all need a vacation.

The Power of a Vacation is now available for purchase through Amazon.


Notes to editors

About Amy Hinote

Amy Hinote is the founder and editor-in-chief of VRM Intel Magazine, which provides news, information, and resources for the vacation rental industry. As a fellow traveler, Hinote recently completed her second yearlong road trip through Europe, Canada, and the United States. Her appreciation of the many men and women who work in the travel industry is the source of her inspiration for the magazine, the VRM Intel news site and the regional events she hosts. Hinote resides between Evanston, Illinois and Orange Beach, Alabama.
For more information about VRM Intel, visit

Jessica Gillingham
Abode PR
+44 1225 471893
email us here

Should Police Violence Be Viewed as a Public Health Issue?

On Dec. 2, 2017, community members gathered to mark the second anniversary of Mario Woods’ death. Gwen Woods, hands on her hips and donning a T-shirt with her son’s face on it, marched the crowd down the T-Sunnydale streetcar tracks on San Francisco’s Third Street to the site of her son’s death.

“I can’t let it go, you guys, because he didn’t deserve that,” Woods said, tears streaming down her face, after arriving at the site. “One thing I taught him, no matter what the plight, you have a voice. We all have a voice.”

The impact of her son’s death sent shock waves throughout the community, which is still mourning his death.

Some local health professionals are advocating that the impact of police violence should be studied and treated as a public health issue. Advocates say people of color are the most at risk, yet the responsibility for providing healing resources has fallen on community members to take care of their own.

There is a disconnect between more traditional public health and the growing field of health equity,” said Sari Bilick, public health organizer at Human Impact Partners. “[There’s] the folks who are really trying to transform the field of public health to look at health inequities that exist, versus the people who are more in the traditional field of public health that looks at health as a result of genetics and individual behaviors.”

The American Public Health Association governing council voted not to adopt a policy statement addressing police violence as a public health issue. (Courtesy of Sari Bilick)

No Longer Written Policy

In November, the American Public Health Association general council voted to withdraw a policy statement temporarily adopted last year that identified a four-part strategy for preventing law enforcement violence, which the statement called a “significant” public health issue across the country.

“The fact that they’re not passing this statement that directly impacts black and brown communities sends a message that they’re not willing to stand up for those communities,” Bilick said.

The “Law Enforcement Violence as a Public Health Issue” policy statement has since been removed from the association’s website.

A rewritten version of the statement is slated to be presented in fall 2018, according to Megan Lowry, a spokeswoman for the association.

“In this moment, I think it’s really important that, as the largest public health organization, APHA takes a bold stand and doesn’t shy away from publicly condemning police violence,” Bilick said. “If the biggest public health org in the country takes a stand on it, that will prompt more research, more journal articles, more responses within public health to police violence.”

The APHA’s government council voted 65 to 35 percent against the policy’s adoption, although there was a strong showing of support by some APHA members who held a rally and wore pins for the policy at the conference, according to Bilick.

“These are people’s bodies, that’s our jurisdiction,” said Rupa Marya, faculty in the division of hospital medicine at UCSF and organizer with the Do No Harm Coalition. “I think that in general the governing bodies of the APHA are largely white, and they’re largely not affected by police violence.”

There are not enough studies addressing the relationship of police interactions to people’s health or exploring prevention techniques, according to Rhea Boyd, a pediatrician who practices in Palo Alto. But she hopes the health community will still take action based on the evidence that is available.

“We don’t need data to start doing things about it,” Boyd said. “I think we can use data that we already know about exposures to violence. We can use data that we already know about racial disparities in police interactions and just put two and two together and start putting together initiatives to actually start addressing it.”

Rhea Boyd is a pediatrician in Palo Alto. (Courtesy of Rhea Boyd)

A Local Stance?

On a local level, Boyd and other health advocates penned a letter to the San Francisco Police Commission to urge the city to create a coordinated effort to address all acts of violence, including police violence.

“I think there’s a lot of city agencies that would benefit from the conversation,” Boyd said. “Given the stature of the health department and the police department, they have the power to do more and to convene meetings to make a prioritized list of how we might go about this.”

This led to the Police Commission encouraging then-Mayor Ed Lee to facilitate a wraparound effort of the Police Department, Police Commission, Department of Children, Youth and Families, Department of Public Health and other city agencies to create a better public health response to violence.

“Without a meaningful public health response that intervenes in the cycle of violence, too many of our communities will continue to experience the predictable, poor outcomes that come from sustained exposure to chronic adversity and trauma,” the letter said.

It was in December 2015 that SFPD officers shot and killed Mario Woods in the Bayview district. His death spurred an uprising of community action, use-of-force reforms and a Justice Department review of the police department.

The SFPD also adopted a memorandum with the Department of Public Health for a coordinated approach when dealing with incidents that involve people in crisis, creating a Crisis Intervention Team.

Police commissioner Joe Marshall said he is not aware of any meeting between the agencies listed in the letter to address the topic at hand, though the creation of the CIT shows effort.

“I think the department has reached out in the spirit of what they suggested in the letter to create a spirit of practices that are actually put in place by using the best in public health thinking,” Marshall said. “Those things that have happened are major and have gone way beyond what was suggested in that letter because they’ve now become either policy or practice.”

While Boyd said the CIT and joint trainings are a step in the right direction, the effort her group hoped for hasn’t come to fruition when specifically addressing police encounters.

“Those programs can be expanded, not just to individuals who have mental illness but to everyone, really,” Boyd said. “If you would rather, when a crisis shows up in your home, have a neighbor respond to your crisis rather than an armed, militarized officer, then I think that needs to be a new service line that a collaboration between our health departments and our police departments could provide.”

The San Francisco Public Health Department declined to comment about police violence for this article.

Gwen Woods is embraced on Dec. 2, 2017, the second anniversary of her son’s death in San Francisco. (Audrey Garces/KQED)

A Long-Term and Pervasive Impact

Asantewaa Boykin, a registered nurse and co-founder of the Anti Police-Terror Project, recalls her earliest memory of the police. It brings her back to being a young girl, as she watched an officer’s dog chew through a neighbor’s leg.

She still has nightmares about it.

“As someone who understands what witnessing violence does to health, as somebody who thinks through the greater implications of any one act of violence in a community, that certainly it affects the victim who’s involved,” Boyd said. “But it has collateral damage to the immediate community and to all those who are now at risk because that type of violence is deemed in some ways acceptable or OK.”

Images of police use of force reach farther than ever before. In some cases they appear at the touch of people’s fingertips while scrolling through their news feeds, and in some cases they’ve even appeared in real time on Facebook Live.

“When you talk about trauma, [it can occur] knowing that someone down the street got murdered by police … or when these videos go viral, and you think about how many people are impacted by these videos,” said Boykin.

The first steps toward creating accessible healing for the communities who are most impacted by police violence begin with bringing in more diverse therapists and tailoring services toward the people who most often need them, according to Boykin.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s 2016 statistics, 5.8 percent of psychologists are African-American, 4.2 percent are Asian and 6.9 percent are Latino.

“I know, for instance, I’ve seen a therapist, and I’m much more comfortable if that person resembles me,” Boykin said. “The traditional Western sense of therapy is not something that a lot of people of color can identify with or feel comfortable with.”

Taking Research into Their Own Hands

Marya has teamed up with other health professionals to take a study, requested by the Justice for Mario Woods Coalition, into their own hands. They plan to explore levels of trauma faced by communities impacted by police violence, especially in cases where people do not feel they experienced justice.

“I have yet to hear anyone at the Department of Public Health in San Francisco speak up about these issues in a concerted, consistent way, to be that voice in the city demanding that not only are the police trained differently, but that there’s some accountability and transparency,” Marya said.

The “justice study” will begin with an online survey that Marya and her team members will analyze.

A separate study that was published last year, titled “SOS: Stress on the Streets,” explored police practices in Ohio with a specific focus of the impact on black people. The study was conducted by three nonprofit organizations: Human Impact Partners, Ohio Justice and Policy Center and Ohio Organizing Collaborative.

“This report shows that for many black people in the United States the perceived color of their skin means more uneasy interactions with police than others in our society, and stress and anxiety that in turn result in poorer physical and mental health,” it reads.

The report’s recommendations rang true with the calls from local health advocates: Involve public health departments to enhance transparency and study the health impacts of policing practices and help resolve systemic issues.

But Bilick said this approach is not apparent in most local public health departments.

“That first step of getting public health departments to even prioritize this as something that they should be collecting data on is a big jump from what people are doing now,” Bilick said.

Police commissioner Joe Marshall sits in his office at the Alive and Free building in San Francisco on Sept. 19, 2017. (Audrey Garces/KQED)

The Question of the Role of Police

There are differing opinions as to whether police have a place in collaboration with health providers in the healing process from their impact.

Although Boykin would like to see more health care professionals facilitate healing from trauma induced by law enforcement, she does not want police institutions to be involved.

“That’s like asking someone who has been abused to go sit down and have a conversation with the person that abused them,” Boykin said. “We would not apply that equation in any other situation. It would be considered ridiculous.”

Marshall, on the other hand, believes police should be involved. “Absolutely, because they’ve caused a lot of damage,” he said. “This is what I tell people. Police aren’t going anywhere. So you gotta make it work. You gotta change it if you want to make it work.”

The next important focus for the department, he said, is getting all officers trained in crisis intervention. Currently about a quarter of the department is trained. He added, “I think we’re making strides here, but it’s something you have to work at all the time.”

And some believe the police have more work to do when it comes to reform and transparency to allow people to truly heal.

“Without that accountability, there’s no reason for people to feel like they’re safe within their communities,” Marya said.

Community members hold signs at the Anti Police-Terror Project’s monthly meeting, held in Frank H. Ozawa Plaza in Oakland on Sept. 20, 2017. (Audrey Garces/KQED)

Community Fills the Gap

Thirty years ago, Marshall co-founded an organization, Alive and Free, which created a unique approach to addressing trauma in young people. He authored a prescription that treats violence like a social disease by identifying and addressing risk factors.

“Therapy is a bad word to them because they’ve been involved with therapists who look at them like they’re crazy,” Marshall said.

Through weekly peer meetings, he creates a sense of trust.

Marshall said he sees therapy-like results without labeling the meetings as such. It has become an outlet for young people to talk about issues they face without feeling judged.

“They’ve been to funerals, the neighborhood is decimated, death is all around them, their fathers are in jail and now they have a lot of emotional residue,” Marshall said. “These young people are faking it all the time because they’re hurting all the time. This is literally the walking wounded pretending like they got it all together. They don’t.”

Boykin, co-founder of the APTP, also helped to create an group with a goal of sustainability.

The coalition focuses on ending murder and violence against communities of color by law enforcement agents. Boykin described it as a multigenerational and multi-ethnic group of organizations and community members that is “unapologetically black-led.”

“It kind of started to feel like we were waiting for black folks to be murdered by police and then we were reacting to that murder, versus doing something that was sustainable,” Boykin said.

The coalition trains first responders to teach them how to treat injuries, conduct trauma-informed investigations and connect people with support and means of healing. The group believes this approach works as a preventative measure that addresses the need for healing before and after anticipated trauma.

They provide those affected by police violence with their database of healers, such as acupuncturists, marriage family counselors, nurses and massage therapists to make available for victims and their families. The coalition holds monthly support groups with leaders who are people of color.

A sign hangs at a gathering for the second anniversary of Mario Woods’ death in San Francisco, California on Dec. 2, 2017. (Audrey Garces/KQED)

Still, health advocates hope to alleviate some of this responsibility that has fallen on the community.

“It’s our job as health care professionals,” Boyd said. “This is the gap where community organizing has stepped in, but the weight of this belongs on health care professionals.”

Boyd also believes that health care professionals have the responsibility to give validity to the mental and physical effects police violence has on communities.

“All of the rest of the people who hold fear, who hold shame, who don’t feel secure in their daily environment, that’s real and it’s not in your head,” Boyd said. “And it could affect you long term, and I think people are owed something because it will affect them long term.”

Should Police Violence Be Viewed as a Public Health Issue? 2 January,2018Audrey Garces

His Pet Monsters

Trenton Doyle Hancock uses ’80s kid culture and an expansive fantasy world to explore identity, racial politics and growing up fundamentalist Christian.

Trenton Doyle Hancock uses ’80s kid culture and an expansive fantasy world to explore identity, racial politics and growing up fundamentalist Christian.

by Michael Agresta
January 2, 2018

A visit to the Northside Houston studio of Trenton Doyle Hancock, Art League Houston’s 2017 Texas Artist of the Year, can feel like a descent into the basement playroom of a Generation X arch-nerd Peter Pan. Tall shelving units near the entry are piled with a motley array of classic toys and action figures, from Transformers to old Fisher-Price favorites — overflow, Hancock explains, from the more selective collection he keeps in a “museum” at his house. Down an aisle, past stacks of well-worn board games, the space segues from playroom to workshop. There are dozens of half-finished canvases and sculptures, as well as cut-out geometric patterns, paints and found materials, such as the colorful collection of plastic bottle caps awaiting assemblage.

“I always have at least a few toys in whatever studio I’m working in,” Hancock explains. “If I’d rather go play with my toys than paint my paintings, I know something is wrong. My paintings have always been in competition, in a way, with the toys.”

Hancock’s visual art contends with the fictional universes of He-Man, The NeverEnding Story, Garbage Pail Kids, The Phantom Tollbooth and other beloved 1980s fonts of pop-culture mythology in other ways as well. The better part of his artistic output over the past 20 years is set in a consistent parallel reality inhabited by exotic species with names like Bringbacks, Vegans and Mounds. Like the magic-ring quests and battles for galactic power of more famous fictional universes, Hancock’s fantastic histories and racial taxonomies resonate with the big, unresolved questions of how we order our familiar, everyday reality.

action figure, 80s, his pet monsters
Trenton Doyle Hancock in his Houston studio with his Torpedo Boy prototype action figure.  Michael Stravato

For nearly two decades, Hancock has been one of the most prominent visual artists in Texas, from his inclusion in the 2000 and 2002 Whitney Museum of American Art biennial exhibitions to more recent solo shows in galleries and museums across Europe and the United States. Even so, Hancock has long described himself disarmingly to the press as a “professional child.” While this description is on one level tenderly accurate — he tells me that he rarely goes out to eat at a restaurant without an action figure in his pocket — his work transcends child’s play. Hancock’s unabashed cultivation of his preadolescent imagination can mask a sophisticated artistic strategy, one that has carried him from a fundamentalist Christian household in the northeast Texas town of Paris to this year’s place of honor among visual artists from across the state.

Hancock, 43, is a study in apparent contradictions: He’s an art-world insider making what looks at first like outsider art, a black artist painting representational canvases featuring very few black bodies, and a lifelong Texan thriving in the New York-centric art world. He makes pop-culture-inspired work for a highbrow audience, and for his next trick, he hopes to reverse that equation and bring his upmarket, gallery-fare work to Hollywood. Above all, Hancock seems to think and work with simultaneously the wide-open imagination of a child and the discernment of a mature theorist of art, identity, psychology and culture.

Hancock’s appetite for such contradictions was established early, in Paris. He grew up with a stepfather who ran a karate dojo, preached fundamentalist Christianity and enjoyed performing feats of endurance for the entertainment of neighborhood friends. Hancock recalls him lying on a bed of nails and encasing himself in a 4-by-4-foot glass box for an hour.

“I didn’t know any other reality,” Hancock says. “We’d go to the drive-in movies, you’d see Chuck Norris and Bruce Lee, and go home and here my dad is doing the same stuff. It was literally like growing up with a superhero. A guy that has the book of God on one hand, and can recite all these Bible verses, and on the other hand he can break a brick over his head. You don’t mess with that guy.”

While Hancock’s stepfather could be stern and forbidding, his mother was a schoolteacher — as had been her mother, her mother’s mother and her mother’s mother’s mother. The combination of influences, Hancock says, prepared him for any path he might have chosen to take in life. “You have this idea of education and ambition, and of breaking boards with your bare hands,” Hancock says. “It’s like, ‘OK, this painting thing? I think I can do that.’”

Hancock also learned from his stepfather a valuable lesson about trusting his instincts and voice. “He was a ringleader,” Hancock says. “Because these weren’t folks that were traveling to large city centers very often, there was an inbred logic that happened in our small town that circulated and recirculated. Instead of following culture, you make it.”

Though Hancock still holds a brown belt in karate, he acknowledges that he is out of practice — and is even more so with the strict Baptist doctrine that was the bedrock of his upbringing. Though he eventually felt the need to push back against his family’s faith, Hancock gratefully acknowledges his stepfather’s influence in encouraging him to think of culture and racial identity as a matter of possibility, not predetermined form.

“I want to be a strange example of a black man,” Hancock says. “Growing up, you’re supposed to be into certain things, and I was, in a peripheral way, into hip-hop and things like sports. It was much stranger to want to retreat to your bedroom and draw pictures all night.”

As early as kindergarten, Hancock says, he already knew he wanted to be an artist, and he wrote as much in a keepsake book, though he had only the faintest idea of what an artist was. He got hooked on comic books in fifth grade, and by the time he arrived for college at East Texas State University (now Texas A&M University-Commerce) he was interested in the intersection of fine arts and underground comics. Of particular interest to young Hancock was the artist Gary Panter, who designed the world of Pee-wee’s Playhouse and attended East Texas State in the early 1970s.

Panter and his wild college cohort became known as the Lizard Cult; Hancock and his friends sought to re-establish the movement, in league with their professor Lee Baxter Davis. “We started taking over the print department, the drawing department, painting and sculpture, and just making crazy things, crazy worlds,” Hancock says. “We kind of became Lizard Cult, Part Two.”

One can imagine how attempting to revive something called the Lizard Cult could create problems for Hancock with his deeply religious family. “They were worried about my eternal soul,” he acknowledges. “There was a point when I learned to stop asking questions. Before that, I was very curious, and I wanted to know what they thought of all of these alternative ways of thinking. I think it scared them to death. … They were like, ‘Oh, my goodness, you really need to pray! It’s OK to ask questions, but not too many.’”

But it was too late — in Commerce, Hancock was exposed to a new world of art, film, ideas and fellow searchers. Bit by bit, he began to absorb new ideas, influenced by Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell.

“I was like, ‘OK, I can substitute this in, and take this bit of Christianity out.’ And eventually I was left with something that was more or less totally new,” Hancock says. “Art, obviously, was the huge thing, but I think the other thing was this idea of the collective unconscious, that there is a much bigger world out there, and we all speak the same language. You just have to get to it, this universality.”

his pet monsters, art
“Plush Torpedoboy Box Art,” 2014  Courtesy Art League Houston/James Cohan

As Hancock developed his own vision to replace the Biblical narratives of his youth, he was also thinking deeply about what it meant to come of age as a black man. He began painting the creatures he calls Mounds — heavyset, immobile black-and-white-striped figures — as a college-era experiment in depicting black men in prison uniform. While devouring the works of James Baldwin and studying the ways that representations of black bodies were bought and sold in the contemporary art world, Hancock felt drawn to the image of the chain-gang convict. “The idea of being in a prison and not being in a prison was very real to me,” Hancock says. “Just by the sheer nature of having brown skin, there is this sense of you can only go so far. I was trudging through images like black men in prison and going, ‘Well, if that’s in some sense my reality, I’m going to deal with it in the work.’”

Almost immediately, however, Hancock began to toy with the image. He took away the figures’ arms and legs so they were stripped of agency, like bowling pins set up to be knocked down. Later, he widened out their lower halves, rendering them symbols of comfort and abundance: “this very stationary character,” he says, “who just soaks up the richness of the Earth and gets bigger and plumper and more interesting as they get older.” Hancock began plotting how to use these figures to escape from the confines imposed on a black man in America.

“You’re bound by these invisible fences, but if you’re tricky enough, you can jump those fences, you can renegotiate the boundaries, and that’s what I wanted to do,” he says. “Say, here’s what society says I am, here are the things I know about myself, but I can yell as loud as I want, and no one’s going to believe me. But art gives me a way, because there is such a respect for the medium of painting, or performance, or sculpture, that you can Trojan-horse these very radical ideas into people’s lives.”

Even before Hancock finished college, his work attracted interest from curators like Sue Graze, who offered him his first gallery show, in Dallas, in 1997. “He was so different,” Graze says. “He had this quick trajectory because he was so focused, omnivorous and intelligent.’”

his pet monsters, agresta, art
“Comparison Piece, Big Smaw, Version 2,” 1999  Courtesy Art League Houston/James Cohan

Next came graduate school at Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia, where Hancock developed his Vegans, the mortal enemies of the Mounds. Hancock based these skinny, red-eyed, goblin-like creatures on his then-girlfriend’s animal-product-eschewing roommates. He was annoyed by their preaching and constant judgment, but the caricature masked a more personal invective.

“It just reminded me of growing up under the Christian rule,” Hancock says. “There were still some things I wanted to take out on my folks and on the televangelists. I was like, ‘I can substitute Vegans in for them. Then, I can develop my inner satirist. They’ll never know.’”

In the mythological world of Vegans and Mounds, Hancock found an inexhaustible supply of imagery and narrative to explore the ideas that moved him. All that was missing was a home base, and that answer came easily, thanks to a postgrad residency at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. “Once I got here, it was like someone turned on a faucet. It just poured out,” Hancock says of Houston. “There’s a comfort level here, but there’s a lot of room to grow and do what I want to do, on my own terms.”

Since his return to Texas in 2000, Hancock has pushed into new types of art-making, moving from drawing, painting and assemblage into performance, sculpture, film and even ballet. He has introduced new elements into his world, including the mysterious Bringbacks — humanoid figures that share the black-and-white-striped patterns of the Mounds but are much more oriented toward movement and action — and a lifelike version of himself.

In retrospect, Hancock’s career has been remarkable more for its consistency than its variation. “It’s wild to say, but it’s 100 percent continuous,” Hancock says. “My knowledge about life deepened. My work broadened. But at its core was still this burning drive to see images, to get at something that was beyond the religion that was fed to me, and construct my own hierarchy of symbols. … I’m searching for the same stuff.”

hancock, his pet monsters
“Fix,” 2007  Courtesy Art League Houston/James Cohan

Hancock acknowledges the Lost Boy aspect of a life unwaveringly committed to making art from the imaginative perspective of his 5- or 6-year-old self. “The older I got, the more I was like, ‘Oh, you actually have to fight to maintain that purity,’” Hancock says. “I’m still on that fight. I’m pretty good at it, probably to a fault. Some people might say, ‘You need to grow up.’”

One thing is changing, though: Increasingly, Hancock admits, the toys are winning the battle with the paintings. Not that he’s losing his creative focus, but he’s finding himself more interested in the idea of adapting his Mounds-and-Vegans mythology to outlets outside the world of fine arts, including commercial toys and movies. He has formed a company, TDH Properties, and begun marking some canvases with its logo, though it’s not always clear how much it’s a part of the art. “It started as fictional for a short film that I made,” Hancock says of the company and logo. “Now I’m like, ‘I wanna explore my inner Warhol.’”

Looking ahead, Hancock is focused on finding a platform for his fictional universe in mass-audience pop culture, possibly in Hollywood. He’s composing a 400-page graphic novel that lays out the groundwork of his mythology and is thinking of how that might be streamlined into a more straightforward, Star Wars-style hero quest. The impulse comes from watching the next generation of his family soak up influences as Hancock once did from his beloved ’80s movies, comics and games, and wanting to be part of that transmission to kids growing up in places like Paris, Texas, today.

“My cousins all have kids, so it’s really interesting watching them grow up and saying, ‘Oh, my God, I remember being there,’” Hancock says. “If I’m going to have a Luke Skywalker, it might as well be someone that looks like me.”

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

100 biggest newsmakers of 2017

Monroe Mayor Bobby Kilgore welcomes Adam Blaser, of Family Heritage Insurance, to town at the firm’s ribbon-cutting ceremony in March. He is one of the county’s 100 biggest newsmakers of 2017. UCW file photo

While 2017 felt like an atomic bomb of negativity from a state, national and international perspective, Union County seemed to be shielded from much of the fallout (except for a few issues).

Here’s a look at people that made the year memorable.


• Janet and Kyle Baker – The Bakers celebrated the culmination of 20 years of work with the opening of Sospeso Coffee Roasters in downtown Waxhaw. The company competed for bragging rights in a coffee roasting competition this fall at the N.C. State Fair.

• Jeni Bukolt – Bukolt’s firm, Haven Creative, conceived of “The HAW,” a nickname and branding campaign for Waxhaw that created a backlash among some residents worried they’d be labeled hillbillies. She appealed to residents not to be cruel and assured them that she loved the town.

• Mark and Julie Fox – The couple owns Fox’s Alley Bowling, Bar & Grill, which  took home several awards from the Best of the Weeklies readers choice contest, including Best Date Night, Best Lunch Spot, Best Service and Best Wings.

• Neil Gimon – Gimon’s The Dreamchaser’s Brewery continues to build momentum after winning a Best of the Weeklies award, as well as earning a Rising Star nomination with the Union County Chamber of Commerce.

• Pat Kahle – The Union County Chamber of Commerce continues to offer a robust slate of programming under Kahle’s watch. It also received kudos from the Carolinas Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives for its social media efforts.

• Michael Lutes – Lutes is president of Carolinas HealthCare System Union. The hospital has partnered with the Union County Public Schools on a Health Sciences Academy and organized charity events like Tickled Pink. The chamber presented the hospital with the 2017 Community Impact Award.

• Dennis Moser – The Moser Group partnered with Wingate University to collect supplies for hurricane victims, earning recognition from Congressman Pittenger on the U.S. House floor. The firm also proposed a project that would change the downtown Wesley Chapel.

• Ernesto Reina – The 23-year-old Waxhaw resident has grown his Jolly Rolls rolled ice cream concept from his garage to multiple storefronts in the Charlotte region. He opened his Matthews store in April.

• Carlton Tyson – The Union County Chamber of Commerce recognized Tyson with the 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award. After many years in real estate and commercial development, Tyson has supported the Edward Carlton McWhorter Hospice House and South Piedmont Community College.

• Mike Van Wingerden – Van Wingerden works as general manager for UTC’s Monroe plant, which won the 2017 Employer of Choice Award from the Union County Chamber of Commerce.

• Stephen and Susan Bonilla – The Bonilla’s first venture, Passionate Paws Animal Hospital, has been a success. They won Best of the Weekly awards for grooming and vet, as ell as the Union County Chamber’s Rising Star award.


• Rhett Brown – Brown, president of Wingate University, is considering the idea of moving its Ballantyne-based programs to Waxhaw in a joint venture with South Piedmont Community College. Enrollment at the university had grown 40 percent since 2011.

• Paul Campbell Jr. – Campbell, with experience mentoring teachers at Monroe Middle School, applied to open Ballantyne Charter High School for 2019-20. The school would target western Union County with its flipped learning model, which allows students to apply what they learned from instructional videos watched at home.

• Andrew Houlihan – Houlihan crossed the one-year mark as superintendent and celebrated the opening of the Health Sciences Academy at Monroe Middle School. He uses social media to highlight student and staff achievement.

• Erin Kirkpatrick – The real estate agent serves on the board of directors for Union Day Schools, as well as the point person in interacting with county leaders in hopes of building a future home on the Nixon property in Waxhaw.

• Melissa Merrell – Merrell chaired the Union County Board of Education, which approved a five-year strategic plan in September that seeks to close achievement gaps and prepare students for life.

• Catherine Perry – Union County Public Schools named Catherine Perry its Principal of the Year. Perry began her tenure at the school as a fifth-grade teacher. She’s served as principal there since 2013.

• Maria Pharr – Pharr, who joined South Piedmont Community College in January as president, joined a feasibility study team to explore opening a campus on Waxhaw-Marvin Road. She sees opportunity to reach western Union County that commute to Charlotte for classes.

• Larry Robinson – Robinson, an award-winning theater teacher at Central Academy of Technology and Arts, was arrested on charges of sexual misconduct. Police said he had a sexual relationship with a student in 2014 and 2015.

• Barry Ross – The Waxhaw resident submitted paperwork to the state in hopes of opening Apprentice Academy High School of North Carolina. The focus of the charter school would be career and technical education.

• Amanda Stinchcomb – Stinchcomb won Teacher of the Year honors for Union County Public Schools in the spring. She has taught at Western Union Elementary since 2015.

• Ann Walters – The headmaster welcomed students to a new two-floor expansion that included 18,000 classrooms and a dining area. Enrollment jumped to 1,750 students with just as many on the waitlist.


ª Surluta Anthony – Anthony was the only one of three incumbents to get re-elected to the Monroe City Council. She was appointed to the National League of Cities 2018 Human Development federal advocacy committee to help shape policy.

• Elizabeth Callis – Callis halted Weddington Mayor Bill Deter’s attempt for re-election by earning nearly 57 percent of the vote in the November election. She’s the daughter of Ed Howie, the town’s fourth mayor.

• Heather Danenberg – Danenberg mounted a strong write-in campaign in an attempt to become mayor of Marvin. Her 427 votes fell just 36 shy of Mayor Joe Pollino, who was unopposed on the ballot.

• Amanda Fuller – Fuller started a petition against a development project that would bring commercial uses to downtown Wesley Chapel. Neighbors rewarded her with a seat on the village council.

• Brenda Byrd-McMillon, Kat Lee and Tracy Wesolek – This trio emerged victorious among 10 people running for the Waxhaw Board of Commissioners, including three incumbents.

• David Scholl – Scholl edged out his Stallings Town Council colleague, Rocky Crenshaw, by 20 votes to continue serving on the board. He now represents District 2.

• John N. Martin – Martin’s message of protecting neighborhoods and promoting smart growth resonated well with Stallings voters. They elected him as a District 1 councilman.

• Shirley Howe – The Indian Trail Town Council appointed Howe to fill Amy Stanton’s vacant seat after years of attending meetings as a citizen. Voters elected her back on the board in November.

• Mike Head, Monty Keistler and Jerry Morse – The trio won seats to the Indian Trail Town Council, ousting incumbents Gordon Daniels and Gary Savoie, as well as filling a vacancy left by Mark Wireman’s departure.

• Lynda Paxton – Paxton, who served eight years as mayor of Stallings (2005 to 2013), returned to politics this year, running unopposed for the open District 1 council seat.


• Eddie Cathey – The sheriff proved he’s not a paper pusher when he responded to a burglary call in November on Lancaster Highway that led to an arrest.

• Scott Cole – The NCDOT engineer made trips to Matthews, Indian Trail and Stallings to answer questions and assure residents that superstreets were a safer, more efficient means to moving people along highways.

• Cindy Coto – Coto presided over Union County as manager during its 175th anniversary. She worked with elected leaders on issues, such as the fire tax, as well as made key hires like the public health director.

• Greg Ferguson – Waxhaw lured the longtime Huntersville town manager to lead the town, following Warren Wood’s departure to Hickory.

• Ed Goscicki – Goscicki, executive director of Union County Public Works, described the Yadkin River Water Supply Project, as the largest project Union County has ever undertaken. The project has been in the works for a decade and will bring water from Lake Tillery into the county.

• Dennis Joyner – Joyner began as public health director for the county on Dec. 11 after working the same role in Stanley County since 2005. He’ll serve as president of the N.C. Association of Local Health Directors next month.

• Scott Kaufhold – Three Indian Trail town council members went rogue, terminating Kaufhold’s contract in February without meeting with the full board. Mark Wireman compared the firing to a “witch hunt.”

• Michelle Lancaster – The N.C. City and County Management Association named Lancaster as Assistant Manager of the Year. Lancaster serves Union County in that capacity. She’s also a board member of the United Way of the Central Carolinas.

• Dena Sabinske – Sabinske went from being the parks and recreation director of Stallings to the same role with Waxhaw. One of her biggest accomplishments was Stallings Municipal Park.

• Patrick Sadek – Sadek became town manager of Indian Trail in November by taking the same route as his predecessor Scott Kaufhold – an engineer promoted to interim town manager.

• Robyn Stuber – Stuber became administrator for the Village of Marvin, putting her in a position to oversee the construction of a new village hall.

• Phil Thomas – The Fairview mayor lobbied UCPS and Union County to have the old elementary school donated back to his town. He also presided over a government that opened its first park, as ell as sponsored its first fall and winter festivals.

• Jay Tryon – Tryon directs the parks and recreation department in Indian Trail, which plans on opening an inclusive playground for children of various needs at Crooked Creek Park.

• Warren Wood –Wood shook up Waxhaw in January by announcing his intent to become city manager of Hickory. Wood stayed on for a few months to ensure a good transition.

• Dylan Cole and Corey Helms – Monroe Police Chief Bryan Gilliard said their actions exemplify what being a police officer stands for after they saved two adults and three small children in a fire on Dec. 26.


• Keith Adams – His charity, Commons Heart, helped 492 people file taxes for free, collected 1,000 turkeys for Thanksgiving dinner and held courses to help the community better understand poverty.

• Kathy Bragg – Bragg hired a chief operating officer to oversee daily operations of the Union County Community Center, so she could focus on raising money for a new building and fund development.

• Steven Furtick – A Christian satire website published a fake news story that Elevation Church’s pastor signed a $110 million contract with Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church, prompting Furtick to set the record straight on social media.

• Jeff Gardner – Gardner serves as lead pastor of Threshold Church, which is building a new 26,250-square-foot home on a 10-acre campus at 3501 Antioch Church Road in Weddington.

• Jennifer Gordon – Gordon’s charity, Carolina Waterfowl Rescue, helps sick and injured animals, but the charity sustained a devastating fire in November that killed 44 birds. The community stepped us its efforts to support the rescue with more donations.

• Gloria Haney – Seems like the only people busier than Haney around Christmas is Santa Claus. Haney directs the Union County Christmas Bureau, which operated this season in the former Sears site at Monroe Crossing Mall.

• Sandi McGarrah – Known as “The Nature Lady,” McGarrah is leading the formation of a North Carolina Wildlife Federation chapter, dubbed the Stallings Nature and Wildlife Club. She’s a familiar face for participants of Stallings Parks and Recreation programming.

• Ann Ramkissoon-Sheperd – The Realtor started The Sheperd’s Lodge Ministries as a resource for people with mental disabilities. It organized a summer camp for about 20 people at Mineral Springs United Methodist Church over the summer.

 • Natisha Rivera-Patrick – Rivera-Patrick took over as executive director for the Greater Matthews Habitat for Humanity, which continued to provide affordable and decent housing to families in Matthews, Mint Hill and Stallings. The charity began building its 107th home in December.

• Bonita Simpson – Simpson directed the Union County Youth Ballet’s 25th anniversary performance of “The Nutcracker Ballet” in December. The ballet also presented “Coppelia” in March at Wingate University.


• Frank Aikmus – Aikmus chaired the Union County Board of Commissioners for most of the year. He’s served on the board since 2012 and lived in Union County since 2007.

• Michael Alvarez – The Indian Trail mayor talked openly in March about enduring 35-plus rounds of radiation treatment for a rare form of cancer. After that battle, he worked to restore the town leadership’s reputation after some negative publicity.

• Dean Arp – Arp introduced 17 bills during the 2017-18 session of the N.C. House of Representatives. Six of those were signed into law, including a bill that staggers the terms for the Union County Board of Education.

• Wyatt Dunn – Dunn earned another term in the November election. He also expressed concern about the incoming superstreet along Old Monroe Road, noting that it would take away from the small-town atmosphere and hurt business.

• Gary Evans – Evans, a mainstay at Indian Trail Town Council meetings for years, stepped up to serve when Mark Wireman resigned from the council. He served from August until the election.

• Rick Foulke – The former Army physician and retired oncologist announced plans to run for Craig Horn’s District 68 seat in the N.C. House of Representative. Foulke, a Democrat, said he doesn’t like how Republicans put education and health care “on the chopping block.”

• Craig Horn – EdScoop mentioned the state legislator as an EdTech Hero for his work in expanding digital learning in every North Carolina classroom. Horn is serving his fourth term in the N.C. House.

• Bobby Kilgore – The Monroe mayor continued to represent city leaders at community events and ribbon cuttings, as well as issue proclamations for various milestones, such as the 200th anniversary of President James Monroe’s presidency.

• Steve Maher – Maher served as mayor in a year in which Waxhaw had to hire a new town manager, tried to recruit high-end retail and faced social media backlash for some of the handling of traditions.

• Robert Pittenger – Congressman Pittenger tried to build public support for an idea to turn U.S. 74 into an interstate, which would make commutes from Charlotte to Wilmington much faster. He also pushed for the Charlotte area to have its own National Weather Service station.

• Jerry Simpson – County commissioners appointed Simpson to serve as chairman in December. He last served in this role in 2012.

• Lance Simpson – The county commissioner pumped the brakes on a rezoning request for office space in December on Providence Road South because the petitioner was too vague in terms of what he wanted to develop.

• Amy Stanton – Stanton received a lot of criticism from Indian Trail Town Councilmen David Cohn and Mark Wireman for her role in firing Town Manager Scott Kaufhold in February. That same month, police arrested her on simple assault charges. She resigned in March and left Union County.

• Tommy Tucker – Tucker announced over the summer that he was not running for re-election to the N.C. Senate. The small business owner has served four terms in the senate.

• Mark Wireman – Wireman resigned from the Indian Trail Town Council in July during the tail end of his first term. Wireman cited work commitment and demands as reasons for stepping down.


• Kasey Brooks & Alison Belk – Kasey Brooks is not only coaching girls’ basketball at Piedmont, but she’s also instructing players alongside former Parkwood rival Allison Belk. Brooks and her assistant coach still talk trash to each other.

• Tim Carson – After building a championship football program at Weddington, Carson is heading to the county he grew up in to build a program that didn’t win in 2017.

• Daniel Owens – The Wingate offensive lineman earned a place on the Associated Press NCAA Division II All-America second team for his role in creating opportunities for running backs.

• B.J. Muckelvene – The American Football Coaches Association recognized the Waxhaw native as a second team offensive player. He logged three punt return touchdowns and 23.7 yard per return.

• Avery Pardue – The 12-year-old won the American Taekwondo United Nationals tournament over Memorial Day Weekend. She trained at WOW Taekwondo in Waxhaw.

• Joe Reich – Reich won SAC Coach of the Year honors for leading Wingate football to a 9-2 record (6-1 SAC) and No. 24 ranking. The Bulldogs ranked as high as No. 12 in a season that took them to the NCAA Division II playoffs. Reich is in his 17th season at the helm.

• Steve Smith Sr. – Smith, one of greatest all-time Carolina Panthers players, officially retired from the NFL. He spent much of the year providing NFL analysis and helping charities in the Charlotte area.

• Tim Speakman – Speakman coached the Parkwood Rebels to a 27-3 record and 2A state championship in softball. He coached the football team in the fall. The football team won only two games; however, the program changed conferences and went up to 3A classification.

• Andrew Stark – Stark returned to Union County Weekly to serve as sports editor while battling cancer. The community raised at least $11,000 for him through a campaign.

• Powell Williams – Williams told Union County Weekly that repetition plays a huge role in his coaching style. The Weddington Warriors girls soccer team listened, winning its second straight 3A state title in May.


• Jill Alvarez – The Indian Trail resident started a Facebook group, dubbed Union NC Rocks. They focus on painting messages on rocks and planting them for others to find. People post pictures of their finds on Facebook.

• Jack Campbell – Campbell served as grand marshal of the It’s a Wonderful Life Christmas Parade, an event he’s marched in since the early 1980s. He served in Vietnam, as well as provided leadership to the local VFW Post.

• Jordan Garrick – The Girls Scouts Hornets’ Nest Council named Garrick a Young Woman of Distinction. The Weddington High alum followed in her mother and grandmother’s footsteps earning her Gold Award.

• Pat Kitto – Kitto was among Waxhaw residents that did not appreciate the Town of Waxhaw branding known as “The HAW.” Kitto presented a petition to commissioners in January with 400 signatures against “The HAW.”

• Karen Ledford – The Wesley Chapel resident donated two automatic external defibrillators to Optimist Park in Weddington after first-responders used the device to save her life in 2013.

• Christine Mann Darden – “Hidden Figures,” a film about African American women that worked for NASA, proved to be a smash hit after debuting wide release in theaters Jan. 6. Christine Mann Darden, who was featured in the book that inspired the film, spoke about her experiences with NASA in many public appearances.

• Nina Meadows – The Monroe Library of the Union County Public Library closed Dec. 1 to Jan. 1 for refurbishing and reconfiguration. Meadows, executive director of the library system, said these changes will meet the changing needs of the community. The library system also took steps to strengthen its connection with Union County Public Schools.

• Barbara Moore – Moore chaired the Union County Historic Preservation Commission, which advocated for Siler Presbyterian Church in Wesley Chapel to have a historic designation for its 1917 construction.

• Dak Richardson – The sheriff’s deputy encouraged a 64-year-old with a cane finish the Sun Valley High school NJROTC Spartan 5K. Seeing the moment, several other people joined them across the finish line.

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The new class


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It’s a new era in the House of Delegates, with many firsts for the chamber this year.

The first Latina and Asian-American women.  Probably the first delegate to give birth to premature twins during her campaign.

And, in a race that made national headlines, the House will include the first openly transgender delegate.

Delegate-elect Danica Roem, a Democrat, defeated conservative Republican Bob Marshall, who last year had introduced a bill that would regulate the use of public bathrooms in schools and government buildings by transgender people. Marshall had represented the Prince William County district since 1992.

This year also will mark a major transition for the House of Delegates. During the fall election, Democrats gained at least 15 House seats. Two races still are not finalized. The Virginia State Board of Elections has scheduled a random drawing for Thursday to determine the winnner in the 94th district, unless a recount court intervenes. Republican Del. David Yancey and Democratic challenger Shelly Simonds are tied after the recount, and the race could determine control of the House. Democrats also are challenging the results of the 28th district, where some voters were given the wrong ballots. 

“It’s definitely a very new day in the House of Delegates,” says Del. David Toscano, D-57th, who has been the minority leader.  “We’ve got so many new people who are younger; [at least 11 Democratic] women were elected. We’ve got more people of color. There’s greater diversity in our caucus and with that, there’s new energy and new ideas that are interjected right away.”

But the changeover comes with a major learning curve. There will be at least 19 new delegates this session (16 Democrats and three Republicans). But they aren’t the only legislators learning the ropes. An analysis by the Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP) shows that 47 of the 100 House members have served four years or fewer.

“People need to find their way around Richmond, which has its own ways of doing things, and they are not particularly user-friendly,” says Stephen Farnsworth, director of the Center for Leadership and Media Studies at the University of Mary Washington. “And I don’t think this new crop of delegates is going to want to be seen but not heard. A lot of them will take a very vigorous approach to lawmaking.”

Toscano agrees. “Finding a way to accommodate all these new ideas, take the best ones and get them passed will be a challenge, not just for new members but for veteran members,” he says. “I think it’s a good challenge to have because I think we benefit by the influx of new ideas, and we benefit by having people with widely divergent perspectives and experiences in the world.”

Business leaders will need to work with the new wave of delegates to explain their issues, says Bob Holsworth, managing partner of Richmond-based consulting firm DecideSmart. Nonetheless, he told business leaders gathered at Williamsburg in December that economic development can be a uniting factor for Democrats and Republicans. “Despite the partisan fervor in Washington, what we’re seeing in Virginia is a strong emerging consensus around economic development issues,” he said.

Virginia Business reached out to Roem and the other 18 delegate-elects, asking them why they ran for office and what their legislative priorities will be. The profiles were written before recounts had been completed in December.

Dawn M. Adams, D-68th
Richmond, Chesterfield and Henrico counties
A Richmond health-care professional for more than 32 years, Adams made Medicaid expansion a major issue in her campaign. She has worked as a registered nurse, nurse practitioner, health-care access advocate and researcher, and professor at Old Dominion University. She most recently was director for the Office of Integrated Health for Virginia’s Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services.  Adams will be the first openly lesbian member in the House. Her race, which she won by 325 votes, was due for a recount on Dec. 20.

Hala S. Ayala, D-51st
Prince William County
The founder of the Prince William County chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW), Ayala had been encouraged by Democrats to run for elected office for the past five years. But the timing didn’t seem right for the single mother of two children, who now are in their early 20s. Then President Donald Trump was elected, and she feared discrimination against women, immigrants and gays. “Nobody wants to be separated, nobody wants to be excluded, and we certainly didn’t build this state or this country on those ideas,” says Ayala, whose father immigrated to the U.S. from El Salvador. Ayala was a cybersecurity specialist with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for 17 years, but previously had worked for minimum wage and was on public assistance. “Having access to a higher working wage would have meant I not only could have given back to my community but thrive,” says Ayala. She defeated incumbent Republican Rich Anderson.

Emily M. Brewer, R-64th
Suffolk, Franklin and Isle of Wight, Prince George, Surry, Southampton and Sussex counties
As a small business owner, Brewer says she brings to the General Assembly a commonsense approach to business regulation. She owns a wine and craft beer store in Suffolk and is a board member of Suffolk Business Women. One of her primary goals is to expand business opportunities throughout the region. Brewer is meeting with local leaders to learn their legislative needs. “I think what’s most important before deciding what legislation to support is really having a listening ear and seeing what the needs of the community are,” she says. Brewer, who was adopted, also wants to work on foster and adoption reform. She defeated Democrat Rebecca Colaw for a seat previously held by a Republican.

Lee J. Carter, D-50th
Manassas, Prince William County
In 2012, Carter was installing light controls for a Virginia company in Illinois when he was injured from an electrical shock. “The experience I had with the workers’ compensation system was so horrendous that I decided to step forward and run for office because I would not allow what happened to me to continue happening to other people,” he says.  Carter ended up paying out of pocket to cover his medical expenses. A North Carolina native, he moved to Virginia in 2011 after serving five years in the U.S. Marine Corps, where he completed tours in the Mediterranean and Middle East. His legislative priorities include increasing the mini­mum wage and Medicaid expansion. “I’m going to be fighting to make sure that all Virginians who work full time make a living wage because no one who works 40 hours a week should ever live in poverty,” says Carter.

Kelly K. Convirs-Fowler, D-21st
Virginia Beach, Chesapeake
Convirs-Fowler’s 8-year-old daughter was devastated by Hillary Clinton’s loss in 2016. “That really struck me more than the [presidential] election itself,” says Convirs-Fowler. “I was worried about the framework of how she saw the world and how she saw herself and women in the world. I really wanted to make sure that I was actively changing that and the perception that she had.” A former public-school teacher, she started a business rehabbing homes in the Hampton Roads area. Eventually she earned her real estate and broker’s licenses and now leads a team of four women. Her legislative priorities will include promoting equality for women, addressing flooding and infrastructure issues in her district, working on consumer rights issues in real estate and easing the region’s transportation woes. Convirs-Fowler defeated Republican Del. Ron Villanueva.

Karrie K. Delaney, D-67th
Fairfax and Loudoun counties
Delaney’s interest in politics began with her first job after college working as a counselor for a group foster home in Florida. “I saw firsthand how much policy can fail some of our most vulnerable,” she says. Delaney also volunteered as a sexual-assault crisis counselor and was appointed to the West Melbourne City Council as a Republican. After moving to Northern Virginia in 2006, she became communications director of a nonprofit whose mission is to end sex trafficking. She now is chairwoman of the Fairfax County Library Board of Trustees and owns her own consulting firm for nonprofits. Her priorities include creating a “world-class” educational system and improving transportation. She also wants to improve economic development in Northern Virginia. “I think we have a very talented skilled workforce here, and I think we need to look for ways to really tap into this talent that is already living in our community,” she says. Delaney defeated incumbent Republican Del. Jim LeMunyon.

Jennifer D.Carroll Foy, D-2nd
Prince William and Stafford counties
Foy found out she was pregnant with twins just weeks after announcing plans to seek the Democratic nomination to fill an open seat. “I was knocking on thousands of doors while I was going through morning sickness, with swollen feet and ankles and multiple doctor’s visits,” Foy recalls. During the campaign, she was put on bed rest and then delivered the twin boys prematurely at 22 weeks in July. Foy is no stranger to challenges, however. She is a public defender and was a foster mom for eight years. Foy also runs a nonprofit for fostering children. She was a member of the third graduating class at Virginia Military Institute that included women cadets. “I contribute a lot of my success to my time at VMI because it gave me great time management and organizational skills,” says Foy. “It taught me to work with people who may not agree with you or maybe don’t even want you in the room.” Foy’s district was previously held by a Republican who retired.

Wendy W. Gooditis, D-10th
Loudoun, Clarke and Frederick counties
Last February, Gooditis attended a town hall held by Republican Del. Randy Minchew. She was angered by the recent election of Trump and her inability to find medical care for her 57-year-old brother, who suffered from alcoholism and PTSD. Gooditis looked at Minchew’s conservative voting record and was prepared to work for a Democrat running against him. At a meeting of Clarke County Democrats, a neighbor suggested Gooditis run instead. Two weeks into the campaign, her  brother died, and she almost dropped out. “Throughout the journey of trying to get him the care he needed, I met so many families and individuals who couldn’t get the care they deserved, and this is why the expansion of Medicaid is so important,” she says. Gooditis moved to Clarke County 25 years ago with her husband. An accomplished equestrian who at one point was short-listed for the U.S. Olympic team, she previously was a teacher. Since 2013, she has been a RE/MAX real estate agent.

Elizabeth R. Guzman, D-31st
Prince William and Fauquier counties
Guzman’s biography reads like a classic immigrant success story. She came to the U.S. from Peru as a 25-year-old single mother with a high school education. She worked three minimum-wage jobs to make ends meet. Eventually Guzman earned associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees in becoming a social worker. Today she is the division chief for administrative services for Alexandria’s Center for Adult Services. Guzman was inspired by Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who encouraged his supporters to run for elected office. “I live in Prince William County, where people who look like me have been portrayed as criminals, gang members and people who came to do harm in this country,” she says. Guzman defeated eight-term incumbent Del. Scott Lingamfelter to become one of the first two Latina members of the House of Delegates. Her priorities include an increased minimum wage, universal pre-K education, Medicaid expansion and more funding for public education.

Chris L. Hurst, D-12th
Radford and Giles, Pulaski and Montgomery counties
Hurst found it too difficult to continue on as an anchor at Roanoke television station WDBJ after his girlfriend, Allison Parker, and cameraman Adam Ward were murdered during a live 2015 interview. Hurst began freelancing and wanted to find a way to serve the constituents who had supported him in the wake of the tragedy. His priorities include bringing economic prosperity to Southwest Virginia. “I’m primarily focused on ways that we can encourage rural economic development and policies that will help increase access to venture capital,” says Hurst. In Giles County, he points out, manufacturing jobs have been replaced with lower-paying services jobs. “We need to make sure we try to continue to redevelop some of our rural downtowns and provide better infrastructure to pave the way for more companies that want to locate in the district.” Hurst defeated Republican incumbent Del. Joseph Yost.

Jerrauld C. “Jay” Jones, D-89th
Politics is in Jones’ blood. His grandfather was the first African-American member of Norfolk’s school board, and his father held the 89th District seat for eight terms. Jones, 28, didn’t think about running for office until incumbent Del. Daun Hester stepped down to run for Norfolk city treasurer. “It was certainly something I’d thought about doing at some point in my life,” says Jones. “We were in a climate where things were very uncertain in December 2016, and it was a chance to serve the city that I was born and raised in.” Jones, now a civil and commercial litigation attorney, worked at Goldman Sachs before going to law school. His legislative priorities include addressing sea-level rise, reforming the criminal justice reform and improving transportation.

John J. McGuire III, R-56th
Henrico, Louisa, Goochland and Spotsylvania counties
A former U.S. Navy SEAL, McGuire thrives on a challenge. After his mother left him on a street corner when he was five years old, he bounced in and out of foster care. After graduating from Henrico High School, he joined a Navy Seal training program. McGuire was one of only 19 graduates out of 200 candidates. After 10 years in the Navy, he founded SEAL Team Physical Training Inc., an intense physical training program in Richmond, which now has 50 employees and offers motivational speeches around the world. McGuire won the seat left open by the retirement of Republican Del. Peter Farrell. “I want to support ideas that lower taxes, create jobs, better support our law enforcement and first responders, improve education, and I want to do something about the opioid epidemic,” he says. Disturbed by the nation’s anger and division, McGuire decided to run for office. “I wanted to get off the sidelines and get involved and use my leadership and team-building experience to bring people together,” he says.

David A. Reid, D-32nd
Loudoun County
Reid grew up with his father and four siblings in the Rockbridge County mountains in a home without an indoor bathroom. Eventually he moved to Richmond, where he lived for six years in a United Methodist children’s home. His foster parents moved Reid and his younger brother to Oklahoma, where through grants, scholarships and work study, he became the first in his family to graduate from college. Reid was an intelligence officer in the U.S. Naval Reserves for 23 years and has worked in the Northern Virginia business community for 30 years. He now is a chief strategy officer with Axiologic Solutions in Fairfax County. His legislative priorities include reducing Dulles Greenway tolls, extending Loudoun County kindergarten to full-day programs and reducing the cost of higher education. “Education allowed me to break the cycle of poverty that my family had lived in for generations, and so I think it’s important that we make an effort to invest in education so that it does not become a financial burden on graduates.” Reid defeated Republican incumbent Tag Greason.

Debra H. Rodman, D-73rd
Henrico County
For 13 years Rodman has been an associate professor of anthropology and women’s studies at Randolph-Macon College. Fluent in Spanish, she assists families fleeing Central America and often serves as a witness in U.S. federal courts for refugees seeking political asylum. Her priorities include Medicaid expansion, raising teacher pay, expanding job-training programs, addressing the opioid crisis through rehabilitation and protecting women’s health concerns.

Danica A. Roem, D-13th
Prince William County, Manassas Park
Roem has gained national attention as a transgender candidate who defeated a conservative Republican. But Roem, a former newspaper reporter and editor, is focused on the nuts and bolts of governing. She has detailed plans for easing congestion on Route 28, driving high-paying jobs to Prince William’s Innovation Park and using state incentives to help ease BPOL (business, professional and occupational license) taxes. Roem also has detailed knowledge of a problem many localities face: aging water infrastructure. “It’s so important, and it’s so boring that reporters won’t touch it, but [these issues are] the bread and butter of governing,” says Roem. She says her experience as a reporter at the Gainesville Times and Prince William Times gives her valuable insight into Prince William’s needs. “My ideas are the product of nine years, two months and two weeks of reporting about my home county and understanding how economic development works.” Equality also is important to her. She wants to see the Virginia Human Rights Act expanded to cover sexual orientation and gender identity and to ensure discrimination is prohibited in health care, employment and housing. “During the campaign, I said I’m running to make, and I’m now working to make Virginia, a more inclusive commonwealth.”

Robert M. “Bob” Thomas Jr., R-28th
Stafford County, Fredericksburg
A member of the Stafford County Board of Supervisors for six years, Thomas is familiar with issues affecting local governments. Many of his priorities address their concerns: providing funding for school nurses, changing tax incentives to encourage investment and not allowing developers to count stormwater retention ponds as open space in developments. “We think that kind of flies in the face of the whole point of clustering, which is to provide open space for the community,” says Thomas. He served in the Marine Corps for eight years. Thomas then worked for a government contractor for three years before founding an IT contracting firm, Capriccio Software, which now has about 25 employees. Thomas and his wife have eight children ranging from 4 years to college age. As a hobby, the family raises 50 Katahdin hair sheep. Thomas decided to run for the seat left open when House Speaker William Howell announced his retirement. His election was subject to a recount and has been under scrutiny since, due to an administrative error, 147 voters cast ballots in the incorrect delegate race.

Kathy K. L. Tran, D-42nd
Fairfax County
Tran’s fourth child was due on Trump’s inauguration day. Worried about the country’s direction, she and her husband named the baby Elise Minh Khanh. Elise for Ellis Island, where her husband’s family first arrived in the U.S. to escape antisemitism, and  Minh Khanh, which means “bright bell” in Vietnamese. “I decided to run a month after she was born,” Tran says. “I had given a very aspirational name to this tiny baby, and I realized I couldn’t just be on the sideline.” Tran was seven months old when her family fled Vietnam. After 13 months as refugees in Malaysia, they were granted asylum in the U.S. Tran has used her knowledge of immigrants’ struggles while working at the National Immigration Forum, an immigration advocacy group. She previously worked for 12 years at the U.S. Department of Labor. Tran won the seat left open with the retirement of Republican Del. Dave Albo.

Cheryl B. Turpin, D-85th
Virginia Beach
Turpin spent much of the past year campaigning. She lost a special election last year for the seat left open when former Del. Scott Taylor was elected to Congress. Del. Randy Holcomb and Turpin faced off again in November’s regular election. “That was trial by error,” Turpin says of her first campaign. She has been politically active for several years, volunteering on campaigns ranging from city council to school board to statewide and national elections. Turpin has been a high school AP Environmental Sciences teacher in Virginia Beach for 24 years.

Schuyler T. VanValkenburg, D-72nd
Henrico County
For years, VanValkenburg had been concerned about what he saw as General Assembly neglect on issues such as education and health care. “That’s what drove me to do this run and talk about these issues,” says VanValkenburg, “because for the last couple of election cycles, not many people had run, and these issues weren’t aired. I saw that as part of the problem.” A government teacher at Glen Allen High School, restoring school funding cut during the Great Recession is a big priority. “At the time that was appropriate, but 10 years later it’s not,” says VanValkenburg. He also wants to see school accreditation reform, with more focus on critical thinking, reading comprehension and analysis. VanValkenburg says he also wants to continue Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s transition to a new economy. “We need to be looking at things like: How do we move into clean energy? How do we move into this health-care market that is evolving? Into technological fields? And we need to continue that progress so we’re not as dependent on federal spending.” VanValkenburg won in a seat left open by the retirement of Republican Del. Jimmie Massie.