Latinos in Richmond: Breaking the Black and White Binary

Latinos in Richmond: Breaking the Black and White Binary is an event organized by University of Richmond with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Library Association. The goal was to inspire Richmonders to take a step forward in breaking the black and white binary by opening the floor for engaging conversation and providing insight for Latin-Americans along with other racial groups.

Dr. Debra Schleef, co-author of Latinos in Dixie: Class and Assimilation in Richmond (2009) led the panel for the Latinos in Richmond: Breaking the Black and White Binary event at the Valentine on February 25, 2016.  Nearly 100 individuals attended the event.

Dr. Schleef’s book focuses on the experience of Latinos in the Richmond, Virginia area. Just a few years ago Latinos represented only a small minority class in the United States. Today, Latinos are the largest minority group. In the aforementioned book, the authors examine the experiences of middle-class Latinos who moved away from non-traditional places of settlement, and the relationships they have with the working-class Latinos who immigrated later.

The other panelists for the event included Tanya Gonzales, City of Richmond, Office of Multicultural Affairs; Juan Santacoloma, Chesterfield County Multi-cultural Liaison; The Rev. Sylvester Turner. Director of reconciliation programs for Hope in the Cities. The panel was moderated by Mary Wickham, Sacred Heart Center’s Executive Director.

The panelists commented on topics such as the historical significance of Latinos to the City, the State, and the South; the importance of education in altering both public perceptions about Latinos; and how Latinos imagine themselves in relation to their communities.

Rev. Sylvester “Tee” Turner weighed in on the importance of education in altering both public perceptions by dishing out a room-silencing statement, “If we define you, it’s never going to be good for you” when speaking on how critical it is for Latinos to educate other races on their cultural background.

Juan Santacoloma, a Latin-American working as the multi-cultural liaison for Chesterfield County, added people of other races must understand the Latin-American culture; even being fluent in the language is just a small step towards progression.

The Valentine is currently working on a new project surrounding the local Latin-American community titled “Cuento e Historias” or “Stories and Tales”, where we will be collecting stories from Latin-Americans in our community.  The project will culminate in an exhibition opening in the Spring of 2017.

For information on this project or to share your story, contact Wanda Herandez at

After the event there was a reception, where attendees were able to meet and greet the panelists along with continuing the much-needed conversations that will better advance the city of Richmond.

Richmond Times-Dispatch Columnist Michael Paul Williams covered the event. Read his column.

View pictures from the event below:

During the reception attendees continued the conversation. A lot of business cardsand contacts were exchanged.

A Latin-American woman informs the panel and attendees of the experiences Latin-Americans face.