Happy New Year! Who Is Your Person of the Year 2012?

I met some amazing people in 2012.

My opportunity to meet them came after I approached central Virginia editors and publishers with an idea.

I asked them to allow me to share the stories of about a dozen people from the area’s increasely diverse communities. I wanted to spend a year introducing you to a few of the people who make up our region’s rich cultural tapestry.

I wrote to the publishers: “Central Virginia’s region continues to become more racially and ethnically diverse. That diversity is seen especially in Richmond, Henrico and Chesterfield counties along with the Tri-Cities area.”

For instance, in Henrico, nearly 30% of the population is black, 6.5% have an Asian heritage and almost 5% are Hispanic. In Richmond, 57% of population is black, 3% are Hispanic and about 2% are Asian. In Chesterfield, nearly 22% of the population is black, more than 7% are Hispanic and more than 3% are Asian. In Petersburg, 79% are black, nearly 4% are Hispanic and 1% are Asian.

I noted in my letter to the publishers/editors that while minority populations in central Virginia are increasing, media coverage of these key communities is not keeping pace. I offered to help them share more stories that reflected the African-American, Asian American and Hispanic communities along with the region’s Virginia Indian population.

Tom Lappas of the Henrico Citizen and Ervin Clarke of Urban Views Weekly took me up on my offer. On January 5 , 2012, we launched Virginia Tapestry: Reflecting Our Rich Diversity.

For the past 12 months, I have shared stories. Each person that I’ve written about brings something different to our community and each one intrigued me in one way or another. As I met each one, I recalled what I would tell young reporters as I coached them about finding stories on their beat: Everyone has a story. It’s up to you to find that story.

When I started Virginia Tapestry, I had no idea that I would meet a young Chinese man who moved to Henrico County, worked in his family’s restaurants for years, and then took a leap of faith by starting his own nail salon despite the struggling economy. Andy Zhang said he did it because owning a business was his wife’s lifelong dream.

I didn’t expect to share the story of Jessica Stewart, a Chickahominy Indian woman, who was working on her masters degree in education while also dreaming of one day becoming her tribe’s first female chief.

I didn’t know exactly what to expect when I started the series but I knew that there were hundreds of stories worth sharing.

Along the way I discovered that any one of the people that I met while doing the Tapestry series could very well be my “Person of the Year.” But I can’t choose just one. They all deserve the honor.

Who is the most interesting person you met in 2012? Who is your “Person of the Year” ?

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