Sunday is a special day in Jackson Ward, where people from the community fill more than 15 churches with song and prayer. In all corners of the neighborhood, people rely on church leaders and their fellow congregants to provide a source of strength through good times and bad.
The streets of Jackson Ward are vital arteries that bring new life and prosperity flowing into the community. They also show the lasting effects of a manmade impediment, and how Jackson Ward and Gilpin Court, once integrally connected, were split by an interstate highway into two very different communities.
Jackson Ward today is in transition, from a historically African-American community to one that includes white professionals, students, immigrants, and many others. A walk through this changing neighborhood reveals the individual identities that make communities like Jackson Ward so complex and interesting.
Jackson Ward’s rich legacy has roots in a distinctly African-American Southern culture, including fine food and entertainment. Two Jackson Ward institutions–the Hippodrome Theater and Mama J’s Kitchen–embody the community’s commitment to both preservation and rejuvenation.
Once a thriving center for African-American commerce symbolized by banker Maggie Walker, Jackson Ward suffered a decline in the 1960s and 70s that persisted for decades. Today the neighborhood is enjoying a commercial renaissance of sorts, primed by a diverse business community and new types of customers.
The Far Side of 95
Gilpin Court lies on the far side of Jackson Ward, isolated since the 1950s by an interstate highway, I-95, that divided this once-thriving community. Today, Gilpin Court is mostly known as a sprawling complex of low-income housing projects. Still, there is culture and life in even the most forgotten places.
walk, report, share.
Our class, like the Out of Eden Walk, is designed to explore the creative frontiers of Slow Journalism, a movement away from the super-fast, superficial coverage that dominates modern news media, and towards a more in-depth, deliberate, mindful approach to narrative storytelling using the latest tools of digital technology.
By Fatema Al Darii Sahara Cafe and Grill caught my attention because the owner, Mariam Al Saiyd, is a native of Sudan, and I overheard her speaking with an Arabic accent. Frankly, I was surprised to find an Arab-run business in Jackson Ward. But, this also meant that the food is genuinely authentic. Mariam is Read more about Sahara in Jackson Ward[…]
by Noah Maggin The sign hangs proudly, centered above the bar, in the tornado of commotion within Mama J’s Kitchen. “Welcome to our home,” it reads, “where great memories are made with family and friends.” What better way to comfort diners and encourage them to feel at home? Opened in 2009, Mama J’s truly Read more about Just the Way Mama J Envisioned[…]
by Noah Maggin Imagine strolling down the Deuce on a sweltering Saturday night in the summer of 1935, and ducking into the hottest club south of the Mason-Dixon line: Richmond’s Hippodrome Theater. Soothing jazz emanates from the theater’s front doors as locals and visitors line the sidewalk, eager to witness the artistic virtuosity of legendary Read more about The Cultural Heart of Jackson Ward[…]
by Noah Maggin During Jackson Ward’s heyday as the so-called Harlem of the South, the Hippodrome Theater on Second Street brought Richmonders together with stars of African-American culture, providing welcome relief from the day-to-day grind of the early 20th century. After catching fire in 1945, the Hippodrome was revived and then fell on Read more about Restoring the Hipp[…]
By Fatema Al Darii The Black History Museum (BHM) on West Leigh Street, in the heart of Jackson Ward, is one of the many symbols that showcase both the history and current dynamics of the neighborhood. On the museum’s glass doors, their hours of operation are printed in a white font; a nearby sign Read more about The Bond[…]
by Chance Evans I am Jackson Ward. I have been here for over a hundred years, vibrant and rich, yet I was cut apart and forgotten and left for dead by the city I live in. While many have left, my numbers today are strong, dynamic, and growing. Some want me to be different, but Read more about I Am the Neighborhood[…]
by Sam Craig It may be a man’s world, but it’s run by a woman. Susan Youngs opened It’s A Man’s World, an upscale men’s consignment shop right in the center of Jackson Ward, only seven months ago. “My husband needed to get rid of some of his clothes: cashmere sweaters, ties, old coats. But Read more about It’s A Man’s World[…]
by Sam Craig Maggie L. Walker is commonly known as the first African-American female banker. That may be what the history books say, but if you ask Ethan Bullard it is not the most important thing for people to know about her. “Maggie Walker was from a single parent household, disabled from diabetes and was Read more about Walking Through History[…]
I gesture towards Gilpin Court, craggy and salmon-colored in the distance. “What do you see, when you look over there?” I ask. Fuad Fara, employee and chef at ANA, Gilpin Court’s only deli and convenience store, barely turns around. He grins, sly and sunny. “I see a business opportunity,” Fara says.
by Lucy Nalen Sam Winston, 61, serves as an elder at Temple of God apostolic church in Gilpin Court. Which means he’s a leader of the church that he helped build from scratch on an empty lot 20 years ago. I asked him about the size of the congregation. “Sometimes 20, sometimes 25, sometimes four,” Read more about A Vision, an Empty Lot, an Answered Prayer[…]