Meet a few Black leaders in Roanoke making history

Published: Feb. 11, 2022 at 5:53 AM EST
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Countless Black leaders are on the frontline of change, but who are they, and what inspires them?

Meet Sherman Lea Sr., Verletta White, Archie Freeman, and Patricia White-Boyd—all black leaders in Roanoke city – making history in their own way. They sat down with WDBJ7 to talk about Black leadership, and the significance it holds in 2022.

“Leadership. That is going to be defined by whomever thinks that person is a leader to me. Let me tell you what I think; a leader is a person I think that can have a vision,” said Roanoke city Vice-Mayor Patricia White-Boyd.

“Leadership is the ability to inspire others,” said Roanoke City Mayor Sherman Lea Sr.

“I quote Dr. Maya Angelou when she said to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud,” said Roanoke City Public Schools superintendent Verletta White.

“Leadership is what we do every day,” said Archie Freeman III, the chief academic officer for Roanoke City Public Schools.

Roanoke City Superintendent Verletta White grew up with education being her North Star.

”I had teddy bears lined up in the basement teaching to my teddy bears, you know when I was in elementary school, so I’ve always known that I wanted to teach,” said White.

She knew teaching could impact generations.

“I do believe that I am the first appointed superintendent, female Black female superintendent in the city of Roanoke, but again I fall, and I walk in the footsteps of Mrs. Doris Ennis, who served as interim superintendent in 2004,” said White.

Roanoke City Vice Mayor Patrica White-Boyd says for her, being a leader can begin through volunteering. She says her journey started in the early 2000s.

“Our next campaign was President Obama’s, and I was actually his Grassroots Coordinator here. Yes,” said White-Boyd.

Each one of these leaders never expected to be in the positions they’re in now – but they all knew one thing, they wanted to give back.

“I stayed involved with helping with campaigns I just felt like I needed to do something you know,” said White-Boyd.

“Coming to Roanoke and really opening up the dialogue about equity and opening up the dialogue about making sure that they’re, that we are fair, and that we are personalizing instruction for every learner,” said White-Boyd.

White recognizes there’s a divide in our country, but she is hopeful for the future.

“Sometimes I think people are tired of the division. I think that they want to come together. And I think they want to have these conversations. We want to get to know each other better and understand our cultures better and what better time than the present,” said White.

Vice Mayor White-Boyd says volunteering and inspiring the youth to give back is one way to continue the legacy of strong leadership in Roanoke.

“At some point, you know, the mayor, now we’re gonna retire, we’re gonna be done. And it’s usually time and it’s time for new leadership and time for new people to come up,” said White-Boyd.

“We were in leadership positions, need to make sure we share with that up-and-coming generation what we’re doing, how we got where we are, and to stay focused, and don’t quit,” said Lea.

Because they want to inspire the youth to continue to pave the trail, like other black leaders before them.

“My advice would be not give up. Keep pressing, keep pushing,” said Freeman.

“Because there are extraordinary leaders of color throughout the city, you know, Roanoke’s diversity is its strength,” said White.

Each one of these leaders agrees they wouldn’t be where they are today without the guidance and inspiration of a long list of leaders like: Mrs. Anita Price, George ‘Kila’ Miller, Claudia Whitworth, Doris White, Brenda Hale, and many, many more.

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