Announcing The 2023 Richmond Class Of Next City Vanguards

Next City today announces the class of 43 Vanguards who will convene in Richmond, Virginia September 19-22. This is our 15th Vanguard conference, an annual experiential gathering of rising urban leaders who work to improve cities across sectors. View the full cohort here, or at the bottom of this announcement.

The 2023 Vanguard fellows work in sectors including worker cooperatives, food security, affordable housing, equitable public space and community engagement. They work for such influential groups as PolicyLink, Chicago Community Trust, Dallas Truth Racial Healing and Transformation, the UCLA Anderson School of Management, and Bloomberg Associates. From Richmond itself, Vanguards work with the Maggie Walker Community Land Trust, Lynx Ventures and the City of Richmond, among other organizations.

The Next City Vanguard Conference, presented by the Weissberg Foundation, will be run by Next City in partnership with a Richmond-based host committee. The conference is supported by a grant from the Mellon Foundation

“As a Virginia-based family foundation, the Weissberg Foundation is excited to be one of the sponsors for the 20203 Next City Vanguard Conference hosted in Richmond, VA,” says Maco L. Faniel, director of organizational learning and development at the foundation.

“To advance racial justice, we are committed to listening and learning from those harmed by colonialism and racism in the Commonwealth. We look forward to the conversations, learning more about the injustices that produced inequities in the former capital of the Confederacy, and hearing about what individuals and communities are doing to build power and create a just future.”

With a population of nearly 227,000, Richmond is a mid-size city with a handful of historic districts including Jackson Ward, known as the “Harlem of the South,” and Shockoe Bottom, once the center of Richmond’s slave trade. In recent years, there has been a renewed effort to acknowledge the history of enslaved people in the city, and with that, an exploration of what reparations could look like for their descendants. Additionally, there are people working to recognize the histories of Richmond’s Indigenous groups, Jewish communities, and other immigrant populations.  

In addition to its past as the capital of the Confederacy, Richmond has present-day equity challenges to overcome. Earlier this year, for example, the city council declared a housing crisis in Richmond. The local transportation agency has a bus operator shortage, which has led to reduced service. And annexation, redlining, urban renewal have all contributed to the current lack of greenspace. But there are people and organizations working to implement and push for solutions that will ensure all people in the city are able to thrive.

“I’m grateful that we’re taking Vanguard to Richmond this year. Taking place in a city that is grappling with its racist history, this convening offers an opportunity to learn about the effort it takes to repair harm and not repeat it,” says Next City Editorial Director Deonna Anderson. “We’re hopeful that this years’ Vanguards, speakers and other people who we engage with while in Richmond will learn from each other and stay connected afterward to continue building a more just Richmond in the future.”

Among the cohort of impressive and dedicated Richmond Vanguards are: a Renton, Washington-based fund development director who has moved $100 million to community organizations; a Tulsa artist and activist who helps Tulsans and service workers find their role in the complex world of development, housing, and transportation; a program manager who is improving access to capital for small businesses in Chicago; and a developer working to make a more equitable downtown in Memphis. From Oakland to Detroit to Richmond, this class of innovators demonstrates ingenuity and resilience to tackle the regional challenges of our delicate urban landscape. See the entire Vanguard group here.

Vanguard was launched by Next City, a news outlet with a nonprofit model. Next City’s mission is to unleash the transformative power of solutions-based journalism to equip communities and their leaders with the knowledge and connections to reimagine cities as liberated places of economic, environmental and racial justice. We accomplish this by using our journalism and events programming to uplift diverse perspectives and marginalized narratives. For this international conference, we chose 43 Vanguards from a highly competitive pool of applicants that came from around the world.

This year’s convening will be the first with a focus on bringing together people who value truth and reconciliation as a pathway toward building more equitable cities. 

The conference will unfold as a three-day series of presentations, workshops and neighborhood tours. Additionally, Next City will hire a journalism fellow based in Richmond, who will spend the next year reporting on how the city is reckoning with its racist past through truth, reconciliation and reparations.

For questions about sponsorship or press inquiries, please contact Events Director Sara Schuenemann by email at or by phone at (302) 409-0631‬.

Our 2023 Richmond Vanguards:

Saladin Allah
Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center
Niagara Falls, NY

Kolby Ari
Oklahoma Historical Society
Tulsa, OK

Rachel Askew
NEXT Consulting Firm
Tacoma, WA

Christian Bennett
Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership
Youngstown, OH

Madeline Brozen
UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies
Los Angeles, CA

Justin Chenault
North Hill Community Development Corporation
Akron, OH

Elijah E. Davis
Historic African American Neighborhood District Summit (HAANDS)
Birmingham, AL

Samuel Diaz
1000 Friends of Oregon
Portland, OR

Chris Eagan
Chicago Community Trust
Chicago, IL

Ethan Ellestad
Music and Culture Coalition of New Orleans
New Orleans, LA

Ted Elmore
Richmond BridgePark Foundation
Richmond, VA

Brianne Fisher
Urban Sustainability Directors Network
Colonial Heights, VA

Namon Freeman
Bloomberg Associates
New York, NY

Ubax Gardheere
Cultural Space Agency
Renton, WA

Bernard Harkless
Lynx Ventures
Richmond, VA

Tram Hoang
Minneapolis, MN

Mrill Ingram
Michael Fields Agricultural Institute
Madison, WI

Alaina Jackson
Global Detroit
Detroit, MI

Rashaunda Lanier-Jackson
Chesterfield, VA

Hannah LeGris
Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government (LFUCG)
Lexington, KY

Elizabeth Loring
expLoring exhibits & engagement, LLC
Worcester, MA

Ra’Shann Martin
St John Center
Louisville, KY

Amanda Miller Amankona
Independent Consultant for U3 Advisors | Reimagining the Civic Commons
Nutley, NJ

Imran Mumtaz
UCLA Anderson School of Management
Wesley Chapel, FL

Mallory Nezam
Justice + Joy
Saint Louis, MO

Prince Osemwengie
Inclusive Action for the City
Los Angeles, CA

Gus Pedrotty
City of Albuquerque
Albuquerque, NM

James Rodges Powell
Hudson, NY

Laura Quintero Chavez
Dallas Truth Racial Healing and Transformation
Duncanville, TX

Jasmine Rangel
Sayreville, NJ

Britt Redd
Principal Planner for Land Use Strategy
Indianapolis, IN

Ryan Rinn
Capital Projects Planner
Richmond, VA

Brett Roler
Downtown Memphis Commission
Memphis, TN

Matthew Slaats
Matthew Slaats Consulting LLC
Crozet, VA

Samuel Storey
Downtown Partnership of Baltimore
Baltimore, MD

Ari Takata-Vasquez
Viscera Studio LLC
Oakland, CA

Adina Tatum
Northside Common Market
Lexington, KY

Brendan Trewella
Small Organization Solutions
Cleveland, OH

Lark Washington
The Maggie Walker Community Land Trust
Richmond, VA

Taylor Watson
The Alcachofa Agency (self-employed consultant)
San Antonio, TX

Charles Yang
Department of Energy (via ORISE)
Glen Allen, VA

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