A few weeks ago, friends and family gathered in Charlottesville for a send-off as Kiara Redd-Martin left to pursue graduate studies at Norfolk State University. Kiara has made such an impact on Charlottesville and on Wayside that we also wanted to mark the occasion with some recognition of her work.
Last year, a Charlottesville weekly newspaper reported on a late-night brawl in such a sensationalistic, racially-charged way that it attracted the attention of white supremacist groups around the country. Kiara responded by joining together with Kishara Joy Griffin to form Operation Social Equality which was instrumental in getting the other side of the story into the media and organizing a march and protest that started a much deeper conversation about race in Charlottesville.
In the media frenzy following riots after police murdered an unarmed black man in Ferguson, MO Kiara organized one of the more militant and energetic protests that Charlottesville has ever seen, highlighting the same conditions locally. “I was so impressed with Kiara’s leadership,” said Wayside coordinator Jeff Winder, “There are always so many forces ready to coopt in a moment like this. But Kiara stood firm and stayed the course – keeping the focus on the voices of people directly affected.”
We’ve been fortunate to work with Kiara both in Charlottesville and at several Wayside workshops were she helped to deepen the analysis and the connections that were built. When asked about her involvement with Wayside she had this to say,
“Wayside has been a great opportunity to meet such a diverse group of ethnic backgrounds. It’s inspiring to see Wayside will welcome any one with open arms and without prejudice, and for that I am honored to be apart of such a great establishment. The leaders of wayside challenge my beliefs in a way that solicits growth and verification of my own personal thoughts about how i can combat social inequalities, they motivate me and i will forever remember wayside”
For those who have been worried about what will happen to local organizing in her absence, have no fear. Kiara has already returned once to speak at a community forum on police brutality and is consulting with Kishara Griffin on another upcoming local campaign.
All of us at Wayside want to express out respect and gratitude to Kiara and we can’t wait to see what comes next.