Mayor Reflects On ‘Strong Woman’ Recognition
By LAINE GRIFFIN
Daily News-Record 5/24/19
HARRISONBURG — Harrisonburg isn’t done celebrating Mayor Deanna Reed’s recent accomplishment of being named one of the seven recipients of the 2019 Strong Men and Women in Virginia History awards. Although she was already honored in February at the Richmond Marriott award ceremony, at 7 p.m. Thursday she will be honored through an exhibit and reception at the Massanutten Regional Library’s Central Library.
Reed said she does not know who nominated her for the honor but “it was so amazing to me because I just remember receiving an email saying I had been nominated to be recognized as one of the strong women of Virginia history.”
The awards have been given out annually since 2013 by the Library of Virginia and Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation to honor black Virginia residents who rose to the position of leadership in their fields.
Reed is the first person to win the award in the Shenandoah Valley, according to documents from the Library of Virginia.
Among those honored were Gladys B. West, a mathematician and educator from King George County who helped invent the modern GPS; Kwame Alexander, a writer and youth advocate from Fairfax County; and the late William T. Stone, a judge and civic leader from Williamsburg.
“Here I am among the woman who invented the GPS and Kwame — a well-known author — and I’m a part of this experience with them,” Reed said. “It’s just incredible and really humbling to me that people think of me in that way when I’m just an everyday person trying to make a difference in my community and change lives.”
The event is free to the public and the exhibit will include five banners that have a picture and biography of the seven recipients. The exhibit will only be at the Massanutten Regional Library until June 29, at which point it will travel to the location of another award winner.
“This exhibit — I’m blown away by that,” Reed said. “It’s nice to be reflected on in other areas all over the state with these other recipients.”
Reed, who is the program director for the On The Road Collaborative after- school program offered at Skyline and Thomas Harrison Middle School and Harrisonburg High School, will be supported by the presence of students from the program. them.”
A book of poetry and personal writings by the students from the “On the Road VOICES” class will be presented at the exhibit, with students reading some of their poetry and personal writings.
Reed, in addition to her education program work, is the city’s first black female council member and mayor.
“Many people ask me if I see more of a future in politics, and you know, I don’t because I didn’t get into [politics] because I wanted to be a politician,” she said. “I truly just wanted to make a difference in my community.” She said she feels that she is fulfilling her life mission by empowering all people, “and as long as I’m doing that, I feel like I’m fulfilling my calling.” Michael Parks, Harrisonburg’s city manager, said Reed being honored is a testament to her hard work and all she does to elevate the city. “Mayor Reed doesn’t stop caring about Harrisonburg when she steps out from behind the dais — that mission is what drives her every day as both a resident, a community advocate and as an elected official,” he said in an email Thursday. “It makes our city a stronger and more caring place, and we are better off for it.”
Anu Beheraj, an English teacher at Harrisonburg High School and teacher at the VOICES program, said Reed has been nothing short of an amazing supporter.
“When this program started and I became a teacher for it, she was supportive of me exploring new and different ways to help teach the kids,” Beheraj said. “I was thrilled when I heard she was one of the recipients.”
She said because of Reed, she has given students support and helped them find their voice and express themselves through their writing.
“I want to thank her for all she has done and the effort she has made in the lives of so many young people,” Beheraj said. “Every day she shows how much she cares about education, diversity and English learners.”