By Bonnie Newman Davis
Throughout Women’s History Month this March, Urban Views RVA is featuring Richmonders as they reflect on women who they admire or have made a difference in their lives. This week, Naila Holmes writes about two women who are her mentors and role models.
Growing up in Louisiana, there were more women in my family than men, so it wasn’t hard to find exemplary role models. It is inevitable that my career and passions are in part due to the educators, caregivers, cooks, and entrepreneurs in my family.
I moved to Richmond, Virginia in 2013 to start a new career. The hiring manager was Beblon G. Parks. We became inseparable very quickly as I shadowed her for months to learn the policies and positions at the Virginia Education Association (VEA). I learned so much in our short time as colleagues. She had a friendly disposition with everyone regardless of race and socio-economic background, an unwavering management style, a masterful training ability, and delicate facilitation skills in very challenging and diverse environments. I admired her poise and charismatic personality. Beblon was always ready and dressed for any occasion. We spent many hours traveling across the Commonwealth, and I had to keep up with her! She would always say, “If you’re going to hoot with the owls at night, you better be able to soar with the eagles in the morning.” I love that we connected as confidants and colleagues. I also loved that she and my mom hit it off instantly. I am grateful that she gave me the opportunity to spread my wings. When she retired the next year, I became her successor. I still consider her my “mentor-mom” and we now spend many holidays and special occasions together as family.
Also in 2013, I became invested in Cedar Street Baptist Church of God within months of moving to Richmond. Pastor Dr. Anthony Michael Chandler, Sr. and First Lady Dr. Taleshia Chandler “Lady C” welcomed me with open arms, as did many church members. I was in awe of Lady C’s sweet spirit, angelic voice, beautiful smile, and jazzy style. We always exchanged pleasantries, compliments, and laughs after service. In 2015, Lady C’s life took an unexpected turn as she and her family announced her diagnosis of stage four breast cancer. Lady C did not go into seclusion, but instead continued to sing, worship and live her life as a daily testament of courage and resilience. She travels the world to share her testimony with two books and an anointed voice that ministers hope to those who have experienced life-altering circumstances. I recall her encouraging me one day and I said to her, “I can never complain about my day after witnessing your perseverance every day.”
Naila Holmes is director of Human and Civil Rights for the Virginia Education Association.
Bonnie Newman Davis
Journalist, Journalism Educator, Media Consultant
Executive Director, BND Institute of Media and Culture Inc.