WE ARE THE VILLAGE INITIATIVE
Our members are educators, concerned residents, retirees, students and professionals from a range of diverse backgrounds and life experiences—united by a common commitment to educational equity, justice, and inclusion at WJCC Schools and in the Williamsburg community
The Village was born in 2016 after founder Jacqueline Bridgeforth Williams, a life-long resident of Williamsburg, learned of the senseless murder of a young African American man whose family she had known for many years. In response to Jackie’s prayer for guidance, God sent her a vision of a community organization dedicated to educational equity for all children.
The Village founder, Jacqueline Bridgeforth Williams
A small group of supporters soon responded to Jackie’s call to action on social media to address the persistent “opportunity gap” that black children face in schools and eliminate the school-to-prison pipeline, resulting from the disproportionate disciplining of black and brown children. Over time the Village’s message spread and inspired community members to come together weekly, meeting in churches, restaurants and coffee shops, to talk about how to make Jackie’s vision a reality.
One of the first Village meetings in 2016
Soon Village members began making their voice heard at School Board meetings and community events, raising awareness about racial disparities and advocating for equity, while also shining a light on Williamsburg’s unique history of educational segregation and integration and the racial inequities that persist in our community and schools.
The Village attends its first School Board meeting in 2016
William & Mary student volunteers for the Village fill backpacks for Head Start
In 2017 the Village officially obtained its non-profit status as a 501c (3). What sets the Village Initiative apart from other organizations is our grassroots approach, our focus on relationship-building and partnership, and our core leadership’s close ties to the African American community. Our strength lies in our diversity and our commitment to equity for all children. We recognize that educational disparities affect diverse groups of students, including the growing numbers of English-Language Learners in our schools.
The Village has brought its vision to local schools, through tutoring and mentoring initiatives and participation at school events—always with the intention of partnering with schools to support students and give them the tools they need to succeed. Our other direct programming has included “backpacks for success” drives for preschoolers and food assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Village Initiative does not only seek to advocate for equity but also to do the work necessary to bring about meaningful and sustained change. The Village Initiative continues to expand its work while remaining true to its core vision and purpose. We meet regularly on the second and fourth Monday of every month. The Village Initiative strives to be an inclusive organization where all feel welcome. Anyone who shares a commitment to educational equity and justice is welcome at our meetings. In the words of President Barack Obama, “We are the change that we seek.”