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Listen, Learn, Love: Grassroots group aims for a more diverse, inclusive Virginia Beach

A new grassroots initiative aims to "show the entire country how a city can LISTEN to one another and affect real change."

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — A group of business, faith, and civic leaders gathered in Virginia Beach for Juneteenth to announce the creation of a new grassroots initiative called "Listen, Learn, Love."

Their aim: fast-track the diversity and inclusion conversation throughout the Virginia Beach community and to "show the entire country how a city can LISTEN to one another and affect real change."

The organizers said each word in the name has a specific goal.

Listen: To create inclusionary spaces to engage the gap in racial/civil disparities, economically and socially. 

Learn: To listen with the intent to comprehend pain in order to effectively progress toward healing from past traumas and injustices.

Love: Intentionally stand for the rights of all lives, and against the oppression of all. Demonstrate to the world that Virginia Beach understands how to care for its people and visitors. 

"Something in the Water demonstrated that we are capable of coming together and uniting as a community," the group said in a news release. "This movement afoot is to rebrand Virginia Beach to say that 'We are open, we are inclusive, we are a city that values everyone... That values Black lives.'"

Virginia Beach resident Cecelia Reid is uniting her community through her Chalkwalk4justice. 

“Everyday of the week I’m somewhere down here on the boardwalk. The boardwalk is 3.5 miles long and you will find me down here and I will have chalk, please write your messages," said Reid. 

Reid said every Saturday will reveal a large chalk message. 

“This is about community, love and peace," said Reid. 

The group's founding members include City Council members Aaron Rouse and Guy Tower. 

“This isn’t about politics, this isn’t about statements, it’s about humanity, this is about bringing our cultures together and learning from each other," said Rouse. 

Other members include Monique Adams, James A. Cervera, Nneka Chiazor, Mike Culpepper, Laura Habr, Reverend Jason Knight, Richard Maddox, Donna MacMillan-Whitaker, Kate Pittman, Dr. Amelia Ross-Hammond, Mariah and Mike Standing, Jaketa Thompson, and Robby Wells. 

Member Jaketa Thompson said the goal is to unite everyday citizens. 

“To gain understanding and step that space and have uncomfortable conversations, so we can become a sanctuary for human rights," said Jaketa Thompson. 

"We acknowledge the pain our Black citizens in Virginia Beach are feeling," they said. "We are committed to doing better. We can do better if we Listen, Learn, and Love."

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