RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — At just 25 years old, Chloe Edwards is the youngest person to be honored as a 2021 Richmond History Maker. However, she has earned the title as much as any of her seniors.
Edwards was given the History Maker title for championing social justice. For her day job, she is the Advocacy & Engagement Manager at Voices for Virginia’s Children (VVC). She also founded Racial Truth & Reconciliation Virginia, the state’s first ever racial truth and reconciliation league.
“Advocates never really do this for recognition, but because we recognize a need in the community, but this social justice work really carries a heavy amount of weight,” she said. “So to be recognized for it is affirmation that yes, we are making a difference.”
Edwards said as a black woman, the daughter of a recovering addict and someone who has gone through Virginia’s foster care system she “specializes in all that I’ve been through.”
“My perspective has helped guide my lens and want to change the trajectory of the future of other children who went through similar experiences,” she said. “But also to create an inclusive society that uplifts justice for all.”
Edwards majored in English with a minor in social justice and said she often found herself writing about her identity as a black woman or her childhood as a coping mechanism. What moved her on to her current track was a mentor who introduced her to the child welfare field.
The 2021 Richmond History Maker said she started really getting into activism during her time at college because of the racism that was happening on campus. She also had a mentor introduce her to the child welfare advocacy field.
She said advocates typically listen to the needs of the community and then connect it to political opportunities.
“But the fact that the opportunity has to exist and it does puts politicians on a pedestal to enact that change as the community desires,” Edwards said.
On the other hand, she said activism is where you’re organizing people impacted by an issue on the grassroots level and then they demand change and create that opportunity themselves.
“We saw that with the special session this year, and not just COVID-19 interventions but also the criminal justice policies that were introduced,” she said.
Because of this, Edwards said she doesn’t want to just advocate for change, she wants to make a tangible difference in the community. That’s what led her to found Racial Truth & Reconciliation Virginia.
“We really wanted folks to concentrate their efforts on trauma informed policies, but equity informed policy, and justice and recognizing the types of racial, cultural and historical trauma,” Edwards said.
She said 28 other networks across the state came together to form the league. Their first conference took place Aug. 2-8, 2020, and had more than 900 participants with only a month of planning. Edwards added it was even recognized by Gov. Ralph Northam through a proclamation.
Edwards said Racial Truth & Reconciliation Virginia is now a long-term initiative because “deconstructing 400 years of oppression is going to take the same amount of time if not more in order to transform our system of systemic racism.”