RISE founders reflect on working in the community
WAYNESBORO, Va. (WHSV) – RISE is a Waynesboro-based social justice organization that aims to uplift the black community.
Founders Sharon Fitz and Chanda McGuffin didn’t know each other very long before starting the organization, but both say that’s what they were called to do.
“It’s about rising through, through and above challenges. Black excellence again. Have that hope and use your voice. Being able to speak truth to power and speak truth only to your ordinary people,” Fitz said.
In 2018, Sharon Fitz and Chanda McGuffin embarked on a journey to empower and educate the community around them and beyond through a social justice organization focused on uplifting the black community.
“I don’t think people really realize the magnitude of the RISE situation,” McGuffin said.
After school, summer school, anti-racism book club, an all-black library, corporate training, conferences, civic engagement and campaign training are just a few of the initiatives of the organization and its non-profit foundation.
“Nothing has ever exceeded the vision, the promise or the calling. It’s something we’ve always been 100% sure of. We’ve been called to do it together the way we did it. At that time,” Fitz said.
Whether it’s cultivating diversity in literature.
“We knew we wanted a library. We knew it embodied our mission to restore voice and hope to the black community,” McGuffin said in a 2020 interview.
Or call out the hate when the KKK flyers come to town.
“We need to continue to give people the opportunity to come together, to talk, and to voice our concerns,” Fitz told WHSV in 2019.
Call for federal investigations following two shootings involving an officer.
“We are not saying that people are not guilty of the crime for which they are arrested or for which they are arrested. We say they should be treated with dignity and respect. They are human beings and they have to spend their day in court,” McGuffin explained on Zoom in 2021.
Fitz says it’s important to come forward for the community for tough issues, but it’s equally important to educate people outside of the community.
“We need to be able to have conversations with those who have never thought about it because it’s not a problem for them, so it’s not a problem. Or those who actually have different notions about it” , she explained.
That doesn’t mean they have to change everyone’s mind.
“If it’s ten people or if it’s a hundred. It is the quality of the impact at that time. We made soldiers. We made soldiers of those moments,” McGuffin added.
Fitz and McGuffin say the organization has several events in the works for this year, including their Women’s Summit in May 2022. Each event brings them closer to their mission to change the narrative and support the black community.
“Once we have more and more people under RISE leadership, having the important conversations that need to happen, making the changes we’re looking for, it’s going to change the whole trajectory of this community,” McGuffin said. .
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