April Member of the Month: March for Our Lives Movement

There are moments in life that wholly change your perspective and motivate you to take action.

February 14, 2018. Fourteen students and three staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, are gunned down in their school and another fourteen are wounded.

This tragic day, among too many others that preceded it, would become the catalyst for high school students across the nation to take action and say #neveragain; including MRAYD members, Ta’Quan Grant and Ariana Shahidi.

Ta’Quan and Ariana knew that there was no other option than to act, and despite the hectic life that high school students lead, they both helped to organize Richmond’s March for Our Lives: a walkout and protest hundreds of students strong.

Ta’Quan was born in Henrico County but is a product of Section 8 and public housing in Richmond. Ta’Quan prides himself as a community activist and public education advocate. He serves as the Vice Chair of the Virginia Young Democrats Teen Caucus and as the Richmond Police Department’s Young Adult Police Commission. Ta’Quan has also interned for Senator Jennifer McClellan.

When he isn’t politicking, Ta’Quan can be found at All Saints Apostolic Church, where he serves as Associate Minister. He hopes to one day enter the seminary and eventually become a pastor.

At only 12 years old, Ariana became politically involved when she joined her mother in supporting the re-election campaign of President Obama. Since then she has helped to elect Tim Kaine, Mark Warner, Terry McAuliffe, and most recently, Ralph Northam. Ariana served as an intern on the successful gubernatorial campaign to elect Ralph Northam.

Being an active participant in her community comes naturally to Ariana, a Senior at Richmond Community High School. There she currently serves as yearbook editor, Key Club President, and National Honor Society Vice-President. She was recently elected Vice Chair of Virginia Young Democrats’ Education Caucus. Outside of her activism, Ariana also volunteers with the Children’s Museum of Richmond and St. Mary’s Hospital.

Ariana will be attending the University of Virginia beginning this Fall.

These Young Democrats are not just the leaders of tomorrow, they are the leaders of today. We are proud to recognize Ariana Shahidi, Ta’Quan Grant, and the many students involved in the March for Our Lives moment, as our April Members of the Month.

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7 MRAYD Members Elected at 2018 Statewide Convention

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Metro Richmond Area Young Democrats members at the 2018 Virginia Young Democrats Convention Awards Gala in Charlottesville.

Metro Richmond Area Young Democrats is excited to announce that seven of our members were elected to Virginia Young Democrats Executive Board positions at the 2018 Convention in Charlottesville last weekend.

We are proud of our chapter’s continued commitment to leadership on the statewide level, and we congratulate the following individuals on their elections last weekend:

  • Alexsis Rodgers, President
  • Eugene Chigna, Treasurer
  • Jamie Nolan, National Committee Representative
  • Tavarris Spinks, City/County Chair
  • Adam Sachs, Central Region Vice Chair
  • Ta’Quan Grant, Teen Caucus Vice Chair
  • Ariana Shahidi, Education Caucus Vice Chair

Additionally, MRAYD successfully introduced a constitutional amendment at the convention to make the Virginia Young Democrats national committee position titles gender-inclusive. The positions previously called “National Committeeman” and “National Committeewoman” are now called “National Committee Representatives” and are required to be held by two individuals of different gender identities.

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March Member of the Month: Tyrone Williams.

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It took nine states – Georgia, Kansas, New Hampshire, Nevada, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, South Dakota, and California. Then, he made Richmond, Virginia, home.

After leaving his hometown of Columbus, Georgia, to attend Kansas State University, Tyrone quickly got involved on his campus and the campaign trail. He served as an Ally Advisor and Multicultural Affairs Director, helping to create safe spaces for students and ensuring the voices of minority communities were being heard.

Tyrone served in a volunteer capacity with the campaign to re-elect President Obama, and then with Paul Davis for Governor. In 2016, he was able to take the skills he’d developed as a volunteer and join the Bernie Sanders for President campaign as a Field Organizer.

He quickly rose through the ranks on the campaign, working in seven different states, and ultimately serving in a role with the National Advance Staff. The campaign had become his second home and the people he worked with, like a second family. So, as the campaign came to an end he sought to find that elsewhere. He found that in Richmond, Virginia, with the Jack Berry for Mayor campaign, and then through the special elections of Senator Jennifer McClellan and Delegate Jeff Bourne.

Since making Richmond his home, Tyrone has expanded that second family through both his work and community service. He currently works with New Virginia Majority as a political coordinator, developing and managing relationships with allied organizations in the progressive community. Tyrone serves as an executive member of the Urban League of Greater Richmond Young Professionals, Richmond City Democratic Committee, Living with Sickle Cell RVA, and serves as a Young Adult Ministry Co-chair at First African Baptist Church.

In addition to Metro Richmond Area Young Democrats, he also belongs to the Democratic Black Caucus of Virginia.

As unique and sturdy as the signature wooden bow-ties he makes – a skill he learned from his Uncle – Tyrone has made a home of Richmond and we’re glad to recognize him as our March Member of the Month.

February Member of the Month: Ben Hermerding

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Ben is the Vice President of the Metro Richmond Area Young Democrats and has been a member of the organization since 2015.

A Richmonder by choice, Ben was born and raised in the Minnesota’s Northwoods. Up there, he found his political calling during the Democratic tidal wave of 2006. That year, he volunteered with his local candidate for the Minnesota House of Representatives and witnessed the power of community organizing. He was hooked.

Ben moved to Virginia to attend the University of Mary Washington, of which he is a proud alumnus. He earned his bachelor’s degree in political science and minored in Middle East studies. He spent all four years at UMW as a member of the Mary Washington Young Democrats executive board and one-and-a-half years as president. Under his leadership, those Young Democrats organized and participated in sit-ins, die-ins, and more dorm storms than Ben can count.

After graduating from UMW, Ben was chosen to participate in the Governor’s Fellows Program in the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s office. There, he worked on restoration of rights and saw firsthand Governor McAuliffe and Mayor Stoney’s monumental progress on voting rights.

After finishing the Governor’s Fellows Program, Ben retreated to the mountains of Fauquier County for a Thoreauvian soul cleansing. Governor McAuliffe lured him from the woods by offering him a position in the Governor’s administration. Since then, Ben has served as records manager of the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s office. His favorite parts of his job are serving as the Virginia Indian tribes’ liaison to the state government and overseeing the Governor’s Fellows Program, the same program he once belonged to (and the program whose applications just opened!).

In the words of Paul Wellstone, Ben represents “the Democratic wing of the Democratic party.” His passion comes from a commitment to workers’ rights, voting rights, community engagement, and maintaining the pillars of our representative democracy.

When he is not gallivanting to political events or attending powwows, you can find Ben cycling around the city, drinking copious amounts of coffee, baking, listening to eclectic music, voraciously reading about obscure political elections, and evangelizing Governor McAuliffe’s mantra “sleep when you’re dead.”

Know an outstanding young democrat? Nominate our next member of the month here.