Alexandria, VA – The January/February edition of the Alexandria Noir Column shines a light on Ms. Cathy Riddick-Brown. Ms. Riddick-Brown is an avid volunteer, Alexandria resident, and a member of the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW). She is serving her second term as 1st Vice President of the Northern Virginia Section. I spoke with Ms. Riddick-Brown to learn about the organization established by Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune in 1935 and how the Northern Virginian Section supports the Alexandria community.
Zebra: In your role as the 1st Vice President of the Northern Virginia Chapter organization, what are your responsibilities?
Ms. Riddick-Brown: As the 1st Vice President, I am responsible for upholding the organization’s pillars by volunteering and improving the conditions of my section’s community.
Within the Northern Virginia section, various community committees serve Alexandria, Falls Church, Springfield, Arlington, and Fairfax County. Since there was no representative for the Alexandria community committee, I volunteered to become the chair. The section established a budget line for funding to support the Alexandria Black History Museum. One example is when I utilized the community funds to purchase a new bookcase to replace one that was falling down.
Zebra: The National Council of Negro Women’s mission is to address local needs while impacting communities through volunteer efforts. How has the Northern Virginia Section contributed to the Alexandria community?
Ms. Riddick-Brown: Currently, our section provides assistance by donating personal items and other essentials to several shelters to include Artemis House Shelter, Katherine Hanley Shelter, and Bailey’s Shelters & Supportive Housing, in addition to several other establishments in the NOVA area. We also support the James Lee Community Center, where we hold meetings and provide donations to the center.
My current goal is to expand our outreach to support schools in Alexandria, to replicate what we are currently doing in Arlington County.
Zebra: What do you most enjoy about being a part of the National Council of Negro Women?
Ms. Riddick-Brown: The sisterhood is amazing! I have met some really good sisters who also have a heart for the community and want to make a difference. Also, making a positive impact is rewarding. At the end of the day, we all need something or someone.
Zebra: Can you share one or two stories of individuals whose lives have been changed because of your organization?
Ms. Riddick-Brown: I would like to think that many lives have been impacted by the meals we serve to residents at the Bailey’s Shelter & Supportive Housing. Our section serves meals every third Saturday of each month. We also provide gifts to the residents during Black History Month.
Additionally, providing financial support and personal care items to the Artemis House Shelter and the Katherine Hanley Shelter is one of the crowning achievements for the NOVA section.
Zebra: What are your organization’s goals for 2021?
Ms. Riddick-Brown: Our goal is always to follow the National Council of Negro Women’s “Four for the Future” principles, which are promoting education, encouraging entrepreneurship, financial and economic stability, and educating women about good health.
One of our new initiatives is to assist recent college graduates who are NCNW members to pay their local dues when joining the NOVA NCNW section. We have found that it is a challenge for graduating members to pay their dues when they leave college because of other expenses. This allows them to stay engaged with an organization that helped the graduates succeed during their college careers.
Zebra: What are some of your favorite Alexandria establishments, and why?
Ms. Riddick-Brown: I love the Alexandria Black History Museum because I learn so much just by volunteering. Ms. Lillian Patterson is my heart of hearts, and I also love working with Audrey Davis. I am also a member of Shiloh Baptist Church, and the community love that the church provides is immeasurable.
Harambee Books & Artworks is another one of my favorite places to patronize. I appreciate the abundance of artwork and books focused on the African American culture carried in their store.
Zebra: This interview will run in the January/February issue of the Zebra. Are there any events/programs that will take place during this time?
Ms. Riddick-Brown: We have our 5th Oratorical Scholarship Competition coming up on February 27 that will take place via Zoom: (https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-2021-nova-ncnw-oratorical-scholarship-competition-tickets-134517227649?ref=eios).
This competition is for college-bound high school students of African American or African descent. Participants must write no more than 525 words on the theme of Atmospheric Pressure and Social Normality of Today. Winners may receive scholarships of $500, $1000, or $1,500.
The NOVA Section will also be hosting several free line dancing membership drives on January 13 & 27 and February 10 & 24 from 7 PM-8:30 PM on Zoom: (https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83205015868?pwd=TS9HSFUwZ2ZzQTVUOU9nODBBUElzUT09). We encourage everyone to bring a friend and have a good time dancing to the music.
Zebra: How can Zebra readers find out more about the Northern Virginia Section of the National Council of Negro Women?
Ms. Riddick-Brown: You can learn about the National Council of Negro Women on our website at https://www.novancnw.org/. Readers can also follow us on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/NoVASectionNCNW) and Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/novancnwsection/).