CCE Welcomes 2021-22 Community Partner-in-Residence Chlo'e Edwards

October 13, 2021
Edwards outlines her research project on advocacy and activism through the lens of a policy analyst

By Madyson Fitzgerald, '23, Communications Assistant for Equity & Community

At Voices for Virginia's Children, policy analyst Chlo'e Edwards leads advocacy work in public health, trauma-informed care, equity and justice. This semester, she'll be continuing that work via research through the CCE's Community Partner-in-Residence (CPiR) Fellowship.

The CPiR Fellowship provides resources for nonprofit and public sector professionals to conduct in-depth research and exploration on a topic of their choice. CPiR Fellowships encourage the exploration of creative solutions to the world's most complex challenges.

Growing up, Edwards said that her family heavily relied on public assistance and prayers. While her family was in "survival mode," her classmates resided in a different socioeconomic category, sporting Ugg Boots and The North Face jackets, she said.

"That's when I experienced that there was this divide in our society between my community, the black community, and white privilege and power," Edwards said, "but obviously I was still growing up so I wasn't quite as aware as I am now."

Upon high school graduation, "Momma Mason," one of Edward's close mentors, encouraged her to attend Southern University's Minority Law & Research Institute. There, Edwards learned of the Angola Three, an incident where three African-Americans in the Black Panther Party were held in solitary confinement for decades while imprisoned at Louisiana State Penitentiary.

"It awakened my lens to social justice issues in the people we don't learn about in grade school education," Edwards said. "And so my saying is 'Your story connects you to your gifts, and your gifts will connect you to other people who believe in you that often matter.'"

After graduation, Edwards worked in child welfare and foster care advocacy and eventually found herself advocating for the Kinship Guardianship Assistance Program. A few months later, she joined Voices for Virginia’s Children to work on the Campaign for a Trauma-Informed Virginia.

This semester, Edwards will conduct her research for the CPiR Fellowship on "Multidisciplinary Social Justice & Racial Equity Framework for the Policy Development Process at Voices for Virginia's Children." 

"Building a policy agenda requires a variety of multi-disciplinary steps," Edwards' project proposal reads, "including policy analysis, outreach and engagement, equitable research and data analysis practices, network and coalition governance, advocacy and activism, and principles or best practices, including engagement with those most impacted in addition to compensation for their valuable time."

Through the course of this project, Edwards will identify real-life principles that can be applied to the policy development process. One of those objectives is to focus on "equitable research and data analysis practices."

"When you have disparities that impact people disproportionately, you're not able to really gain insight on that unless you  are categorizing the data by race and ethnicity and speaking to those directly impacted, Edwards said. "You can further desegregate the data by age, geography, gender, sexuality and that's when you're really able to witness who's being most impacted by these issues."

Edwards has an impressive history of community engagement. In 2020, she launched Virginia's first Racial Truth and Reconciliation Week, which also served as the launch of Racial Truth and Reconciliation Virginia, the evolution of the Campaign for a Trauma-Informed Virginia. The initiative, which had evolved out of the Campaign for a Trauma-Informed Virginia, was even recognized by Gov. Ralph Northam.

Edwards was also recognized as a Richmond History Maker by The Valentine, the Young Women's Christian Association's Outstanding Woman for the Human Relations & Faith in Action category, and Style Weekly's 2020 "Top 40 Under 40." She is also the president of Black Lives Matter 804.

"What I'm finding in the research so far is just the concept of intersectionality," Edwards said. "People and networks and coalitions are often drawn to their similarities, but we also have to recognize the different subgroups within race, ethnicity, intersection with sexual identity, geography, etcetera."

"We need to recognize that people still view the world with different perspectives, and uplift those differences," Edwards said.


Photo: Scott Elmquist for Style Weekly