Henrico’s Newest Fitness Trainer Talks Healthy Hearts and Black History Month

Every February, the United States honors the contributions and sacrifices of African Americans who helped shape the nation. In our diverse, multicultural community here at Henrico, seeking to understand and support our peers goes a long way to promoting positive relationships and elevating respect for the experiences and insights of all cultures. 

This month, we encourage you to participate in celebrating the black community’s rich cultural heritage, triumphs, and adversities. In Henrico County, there are many opportunities to immerse yourself in Black History Month and engage our community through events and connections.

Building positive relationships with others has benefits beyond forging connections and deeper understanding. Studies show that having positive, close relationships with others can improve your ability to recover from stress, anxiety, and depression and can benefit your heart health. Each February, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and The Heart Truth celebrate American Heart Month by motivating Americans to adopt healthy lifestyles to prevent heart disease.  

To understand more about heart health, a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Division team member interviewed Sydnei Douglas, a trainer and health enthusiast in the Department of Human Resources’ Fitness and Wellness Division, to ask her thoughts about the importance of heart health. These are some of the highlights of the conversation:

 Why is heart health so important?

Sadly, cardiovascular disease is a public health crisis as it is the leading cause of death in the United States. About one person dies every 33 seconds in the U.S. from cardiovascular disease or related conditions. A big reason for this could most likely be hypertension—high blood pressure—which is the number one cause of cardiovascular disease. About 40-45% of the U.S. Adult population has hypertension. That’s almost half of our adult population! 

I think it’s important for our employees to be aware of this and to take steps towards prevention. It’s never too late for a change. Start with the small steps. 

What do you think people should know about heart health or heart disease?

When you think about our workplace setting, a good portion of our employees experience a high volume of sedentary activity because of sitting at our desks. Sedentary behavior and lack of physical activity can also play a huge role in cardiovascular disease. For employees, it’s important to note that we do sit down a lot of the time throughout the day, so one of the things we can do is be more intentional about moving more and getting more physical activity in our daily lives. 

What are three things one can do to be more intentional about heart health? What advice would you give?

The first thing would be to move more. The steps you take towards prevention don’t have to be super intense. Everybody is on a different journey and physical level, so start with what is capable for you. Perhaps start with taking the stairs or getting up to walk around at certain times during the day. Being more physically active in small increments over time is a great way to start being more intentional with your heart and overall health. 

We offer many classes throughout the day at the Training Center for employees to be active. It is also a great way to make connections with other employees! Exercising in groups brings about a sense of community, holds you accountable, and empowers you to overcome challenges. 

Changing your diet is a big one. A small step I recommend is cutting down on fried foods. Fried foods are filled with fat, which can cause plaque buildup in your arteries and blood vessels. We offer many classes and workshops—for both physical activity and nutritional knowledge—throughout the year that our employees participate in. 

Get involved with the programs we have available. You can find this information on the Fitness and Wellness SharePoint site

If you are a smoker, choose a quit date. There are good resources out there that provide knowledge and support throughout your journey, including Employee Health Services and our Anthem Employee Assistance Program (EAP). And if you aren’t a smoker, vow never to start!

Even if you have high blood pressure, which is a huge risk for cardiovascular disease, it can be reversed. Making healthier choices now can improve your heart health over time. 

How can employees celebrate American Heart Month and Black History Month in February?

A good way would be to attend our Heart Health Initiative program in February! I will be doing a bunch of different workshops and educational initiatives to help our employees understand how to improve our heart health. You can register online or email me at [email protected]

Week two of this initiative will be dedicated to health equity, where we will be talking about health disparities regarding cardiovascular health in the black community. This is a great opportunity to educate yourself about the history behind these disparities and the social determinants and recognize black healthcare professionals and clinicians who have impacted cardiovascular health. 

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Highlighting Henrico’s Lesser-Known History

Note from the Editor: In honor of Black History Month, we wanted to highlight a way our employees have created to raise awareness and educate others about the lesser-known history of Henrico County, including our rich Black History. We encourage everyone to learn and recognize the enormous cultural contributions and civil rights achievements of African Americans. You can visit your local library to peruse a Black History Month-themed display in February and find related reading and research material year-round at HCPL in print and online. You may also join in with Recreation & Parks’ Black History Month programming across the county, and it’s all free!

Henrico County is well-known for its history. Whether it’s the founding of the County in 1611 or its numerous battlefields from the American Civil War, Henrico’s history is all around us. Unfortunately, the history of Henrico County’s previously underrepresented communities may not be as well-known. The Recreation & Parks Division of History, Heritage & Natural Resources is working to change that daily. During the COVID-19 shutdown of 2020, the History team sought a new way to connect with audiences who needed an outlet from the daily news of positive COVID cases. The solution was to create a Henrico History Progress newsletter along with a history Facebook page to safely engage the public from the comforts of their own homes.

The Facebook page began by posting information about Henrico County’s history. Dates, anniversaries, and commemorative events were highlighted when those dates arose each year. But as simple a format as Facebook can be, it spurned into some complex research and deep diving into amazing topics. For example, a post about the R.F.& P. Park in Glen Allen and how it came to be, became a newsletter article and a YouTube video about the history of the R.F.& P. railroad, which grew into more information about the Pullman Porters who worked the trains! Our history team also understands that history can be a weighty topic at times, so the newsletters also contain a bit of levity for readers of all ages. 

The Down on the Farm entry tells stories from the point of view of the animals from Meadow Farm. There have been entries from the cows, pigs, turkeys, and, of course, the sheep! They are as much spectators of history as we are.

Over the past three years, the history team has released seven newsletter editions. Still, one thing remains the same through them: the team remains committed to sharing the facts (and sometimes gossip) of lesser-known Henrico History. The team has recently been working very closely with the community of Bungalow City to record oral histories and scan photos and documents. Where is Bungalow City, you ask? Bungalow City is a tight-knit community of Eastern Henrico off Nine Mile Road. It was created as an alternative to the racially exclusive Highland Springs, and stories of great strength and resilience come out of this small community. 

Famed Civil Rights photographer Louis H. Draper grew up in this small community. His work features celebrities like James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, Malcolm X, and Jackie Kennedy. Still, his passion was showing everyday people in everyday moments. The team’s work with Bungalow City will be featured in an upcoming newsletter and translated into historical markers and access to archival content about the neighborhood.  

The newsletter and the Facebook page have been great resources to inform and engage the public in the History team’s programming. Whether it is lectures, children’s programs, scavenger hunts, tours, or history-focused presentations, our history team has something for everyone. Also, the team is always looking for more subject matter to cover. At times, topics arise naturally, but often they are brought to the forefront by a need from the community or their respective board members.

In addition to our programs and historic signage program, henrico.us/history/landmarks/, the County owns and operates six National Register Properties and four landmarks of early 20th-century history. Some are easily accessed or have regular visiting hours, while others are open by appointment. To inquire about a tour, please email [email protected].

 With support from leadership, coworkers, and peers, the work of the History Division is possible. We invite everyone to participate in our programs, tour our properties, and engage with us in the virtual world by following us on Facebook and signing up for our digital newsletter. Access past editions at henrico.us/rec/history/.


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Celebrating Black History Month in Henrico

Henrico County Public Library (HCPL) is offering many opportunities for you to engage with Black History this February.  We would like to invite our fellow Henrico employees to join us at a lecture, film screening, book discussion, performance, or even a cooking or dance class as we explore Black history and culture. Visit henricolibrary.org/events for the full calendar with complete details and up-to-date listings.

“The Life and Legacy of Miss Virginia Estelle Randolph”

Sat., Feb. 5, at the Fairfield Library at 2:00 PM &

Sat., Feb. 12, at the Glen Allen Library at 2:00 PM

Biographer and filmmaker Elvatrice Belsches will take the audience on a multimedia journey amplifying the extraordinary contributions of Virginia E. Randolph in the areas of education, public health, and juvenile justice reform. Belsches is currently working on a documentary of Randolph’s legacy and is the recipient of a VA Humanities grant for her project.

“Black Film Festival”

Wednesdays in February at 2:00 PM, Libbie Mill Library

Featuring the following film screenings:

2/2 Akeelah and the Bee

2/9 Bad Boys for Life

2/16 Us

2/23 Soul

History in Focus: The Ragged Road of Reconstruction

Sat, Feb 19, 1-4pm at the Virginia Randolph Museum. Tours every 30 minutes.

After the American Civil War ended in 1865, localities around the country began to offer schooling to the public. What were these schools like? What curriculum did they cover? Where were the schools in Henrico County? Join us for a 30-minute, focused-history tour at the Virginia Randolph Museum. This program is recommended for participants 13 years or older. Information: [email protected]

“Soul of a Community”

Sat., Feb.19, at 2:00 PM (virtual)

The Valentine Museum in conjunction with Henrico County Public Libraries presents “Soul of a Community.” From early settlement and the rise of the domestic slave trade to business ownership and thriving communities, explore how Black Richmonders have redefined the River City and inspired a region and nation.

“Never Forgotten: The Legacy of a Historic Black Cemetery”

Tues., Feb. 22, at 6:30 PM, Libbie Mill Library

A presentation by Nathan Burrell, Deputy Director of Virginia’s Department of Conservation and Recreation, who assisted in recovering historic African-American gravestones along the Potomac River in Virginia. In the 1960’s, the headstones were removed from Columbia Harmony Cemetery in Washington, D.C., sold for scrap, then used as an erosion barrier on the banks of the Potomac River in Virginia. Recently, the headstones were rediscovered and this year several dozen were removed and placed in National Harmony Memorial Park in Maryland. Burrell will share the history of the cemetery, the stories of those who were buried, and how descendants have reconnected with their family’s lost memorials.

42 Film Screening”

Tues., Feb. 22, at 6:00 PM, Gayton Library

Commemorate African American History Month with a movie that honors a groundbreaking achievement in professional sports. Celebrate the accomplishments of Jackie Robinson and his joining the Brooklyn Dodgers by watching the movie 42, starring Chadwick Boseman and Harrison Ford, with us.

“The Organ Thieves: Author Talk by Chip Jones”

Thurs., Feb. 24, at 7:00 PM, Tuckahoe Library

Pulitzer Prize-nominated journalist Chip Jones discusses his book The Organ Thieves: The Shocking Story of the First Heart Transplant in the Segregated South about the circumstances surrounding the death of Bruce Tucker a black man who, in 1968, went into Virginia’s top research hospital with a head injury, only to have his heart taken out of his body and put into the chest of a white businessman.

*This program has a tie-in to the “Tuckahoe Real Stories Book Discussion”. This discussion group will be reading The Organ Thieves, then discussing, and formulating questions for the author at their meeting on Tues. Feb. 15, at 7:00 PM at the Tuckahoe Library.

“An African Cultural Experience”

Sat., Feb. 26, from 12:00 PM to 2:00 PM, Varina Library

The Varina Area Library in partnership with The Next Star Arts Program invites you to come get a taste of West African Culture. In celebration of Black History Month, this family event will feature a display of African artifacts, drum circle, storytime, Ghanaian dance instruction, a panel discussion, and so much more! You don’t want to miss this event!

“Bayou Soul: Regional Creole Cuisine”

Sat., Feb. 26 at 2:00 PM, Varina Area Library

Take a journey through the history of Creole Soul Food. Chef Charles Robinson, of Sunday Service Soul Food and Black Folk Food, is back to prepare a handful of Creole dishes, teach us their history, and show us what makes this cuisine so great. Bon Apetit!

Book discussions featuring titles by black authors in February

  • Libbie Mill LGBTQIA+ Book Discussion, Tues. Feb. 1, at 7:00 PM, Libbie Mill Library- 100 Boyfriends by Brontez Purnell
  • Glen Allen Book Discussion, Thurs. Feb. 3, 7:00 PM, Glen Allen Library-The Vanishing Half by Britt Bennett
  • Savvy Sandston Book Discussion, Wed. Feb. 9, 7:00 PM, Sandston Library – Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin
  • Tuckahoe Afternoon and Evening Fiction Discussion, Thurs. Feb. 10, at 1:00 PM and 7:00 PM, Tuckahoe Library- Home by Toni Morrison
  • Fairfield Black Authors Book Discussion, Tues. Feb.15, 7:00 PM, Fairfield Library- Blacktop Wasteland by S. A. Crosby
  • Libbie Mill Afternoon and Evening Book Discussions, Tues. Feb 15 at 1:00 PM & 7:00 PM, Libbie Mill Library- Thick: and Other Essays by Tressie McMillan Cottom
  • North Park Evening Book Discussion, Mon. Feb. 14, 7:00 PM, North Park Library-The Yellow Wife by Sadeqa Johnson

We hope to see you at the library in February!

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Black History Month

Black history month commemorates the rich contributions and achievements of Black Americans in the United States and across the globe.

We invite you to explore some of the holidays, heritages, and celebrations observed throughout the month of February. As you explore, we encourage you to find unique ways to recognize the rich histories, cultures, and traditions behind these occasions while honoring your own. For a full listing of holidays and celebrations, please visit the Holidays, Heritages & Celebrations page on SharePoint.

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Connections to History and Community

In the 2020 State of the County, Henrico’s leaders reflected on the numerous projects and accomplishments achieved throughout the year; underlining the importance that “everything we do is about strengthening Henrico’s connections;” not only our connections to the people of our community but to our history as well. As County Manager, John Vithoulkas, said, “The decisions we make today have a direct impact on our community tomorrow, just as decisions made years, even decades ago, benefit us today.”

Years ago, Richmond Planet editor John Mitchell, Jr. decided to establish Woodland Cemetery for the interment of Black residents during a time of strict segregation. Today, there are over 30,000 graves on this 29-acre land laid out in a radial design that pays tribute to African American leaders. At its heart are circles named after Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington, with John Jasper Road bisecting it north and south. Local contractor William R. Mason built an impressive front entrance with granite pillars and an iron gate. The company soon built a chapel and keeper’s house in the rear of the property. Woodland Cemetery is the final resting place of prominent individuals such as tennis champion and civil rights activist Arthur Ashe Jr. and the Rev. John Jasper, founder of Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church in Richmond, as well as doctors, dentists, bankers, and a woman who spied for the Union during the Civil War. It was once touted as “the Most Remarkable Tract of Land ever set apart for our people in the State.”

Unfortunately, over the years, this historic cemetery was neglected and fell into disrepair. Last year, many Henrico County volunteers spent their time pulling weeds, mowing the grass, and cleaning headstones as a jumpstart to the Woodland Cemetery Restoration Project. Then, with the aid of a $25,000 grant, the nonprofit Evergreen Restoration Foundation was able to purchase the property and hopes to fulfill plans to restore the grounds as a place of reverence and honor for those buried there. “We’re going to get this under control,” Marvin Harris, executive director of the Foundation said of conditions at Woodland Cemetery. “We’re going to bring this back to where it used to be, with the help of the county. Henrico has really embraced this project a thousand percent. They make it a lot easier for me to stand up here right now and indicate to the public that we will get the process done.”

Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, Ashe’s widow, welcomed the plans for Woodland Cemetery and expressed gratitude to its new owners and Henrico. “Many leaders in Richmond’s African American community are buried at Woodland Cemetery, including my late husband, Arthur Ashe. I support these efforts to restore the Cemetery and unlock the rich stories of those buried there. A holistic understanding of Richmond’s poignant history may be the best way to lead us all into the future.”

This cemetery is one of many historical, local landmarks that connects us to our past. It holds so much history and is still in need of volunteers and donations to see it restored to its former glory. If you are interested in getting more involved, please contact Evergreen Restoration Foundation. If you would like to learn more about local history, here are a few resources and other historical sites:

Veronica Davis, Here I Lay My Burdens Down: A History of the Black Cemeteries of Richmond, Virginia (Richmond: Dietz Press, 2003)

Selden Richardson, Built By Blacks: African American Architecture and Neighborhoods in Richmond (Richmond: Dietz Press, 2007)




Have you ever wondered about holidays that are observed throughout the year? To find out more, we invite you to explore the Holidays and Celebrations page to learn about the histories, cultures and traditions behind these occasions.   


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Black History Month at the Library

Henrico County Public Library is committed to engaging and inclusive programming and services year-round.  We also observe commemorative months, which enable us to focus our efforts throughout the year on celebrating our diverse community.  This February, library staff have planned a wide array of events for adults, children, and teens that recognize the enormous cultural contributions and civil rights achievements of African Americans for Black History Month.  You can also visit your local library to peruse a Black History Month-themed display in February and find related reading and research material year-round at HCPL in print and online.  Read on for a highlight of Black History Month events at HCPL. 

For a complete list or events and their descriptions, please visit our events calendar.

Other ways you can engage with black history, literature, and culture at HCPL include: 

  • Joining our Black Authors Book Discussion Group at Fairfield Library 
  • Encouraging teens in your life to join the Diversity Club for Teens at Varina Library 
  • Visiting the Trailblazers Wall at Fairfield Library for interactive, multimedia biographies of black people who changed the course of history in Henrico, the state, and the nation 
  • Keeping an eye on our events calendar for regular programming about black history and culture. 

Upcoming Black History Month events at HCPL 

Classic Film Series at Fairfield Library 
Feb. 3, Mon, 1:30 PM  Their Eyes Were Watching God 
Feb. 10, Mon, 1:30 PM  Remember the Titans 
Feb. 24, Mon, 1:30 PM  Fences 

The Black Film Canon at Libbie Mill
Feb. 3, Mon, 2:00 PM  Straight Outta Compton 
Feb. 4, Tue, 2:00 PM  Do The Right Thing 
Feb. 10, Mon, 2:00 PM  Cooley High 
Feb. 18, Tue, 2:00 PM  Creed 
Feb. 24, Mon, 2:00 PM  Get Out 
Feb. 25, Tue, 2:00 PM  Boyz N the Hood 

Revisiting the Founding Era Discussion at Varina Library 
Feb. 4, Tue, 7:00 PM

Black History Month Trivia for Teens at Tuckahoe Library 
Feb. 5, Wed, 5:00 PM

I am 400: The Art of Jerome and Jeromyah Jones at North Park 
Feb. 5, Wed, 6:30 PM

Book Discussion: The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American History in the Old South at Twin Hickory Library 
Feb. 5, Wed, 7:00 PM

Coretta Scott King Read-Aloud at Fairfield Library 
Thursdays in February, 6:00 PM 

VMFA Presents: Frederic Remington and the Buffalo Soldiers at Libbie Mill Library 
Feb. 11, Tue, 6:00 PM  

An African Culture Experience at Varina Library 
Feb. 15, Sat, 2:00 pm 

Petersburg Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen at Libbie Mill 
Feb. 15, Sat, 4:00 pm 

Teen Book Night at Varina Library 
Feb. 18, Tue, 7:00 PM 

African Tales with Dylan Pritchett   
Feb. 19, Wed, 6:00 PM at Fairfield Library 
Feb. 22, Sat, 10:30 AM at Twin Hickory Library 
Feb. 22, Sat, 2:00 PM at Libbie Mill Library 
Revisiting the Founding Era Conversation at Tuckahoe Library 
Feb. 19, Wed, 7:00 PM 
VCU Presents: School Desegregation in Virginia at Tuckahoe Library 
Feb. 20, Thu, 6:30 PM 
20 and Odd: Africans’ Arriva in 1619 screening at Twin Hickory Library 
Feb. 21, Fri, 10:00 AM 
Reconstructing Family: Post-Emancipation Records at the Library of Virginia at Sandston Library 
Feb. 22, Sat, 10:30 AM  

African American art at the VMFA at Glen Allen Library 
Feb. 27, 6:00 PM 

Bright Star Theater Presents: Black History Hall of Fame 
Feb. 22, Sat, 10:00 AM at Sandston Library 
Feb 22, Sat, 1:00 PM at North Park Library 

Bright Star Theater Presents: Rosa Parks and Friends at Gayton Library 
Feb. 29, Sat, 4:00 PM

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