RICHMOND, Va. — By day, Rudene Mercer-Haynes is a successful practicing attorney. After her long hours, she still finds time to put her faith into action and help others in the community throughout the pandemic.
Haynes is a breast cancer survivor passionate about sharing facts about women’s health and community wellness.
When the pandemic hit, she didn’t have to think twice about collaborating with the religious and medical communities. It all started with a phone call.
“We started tackling the misconceptions and misinformation about the spread of COVID. So I said, how about Fact and Faith Fridays and from there it really took on a life of its own,” Haynes said.
Partnering with Dr. Robert Winn of the Massey Cancer Center and Dr. F. Todd Gray of the 5th Street Baptist Church, their collaboration turned into something that captured national attention.
“Dr. Fauci, First Lady Biden got involved. Senators Tim Kaine, Mark Warner,” Haynes said.
Since its founding, it’s been a conversation that has focused on a range of social issues affecting black and brown communities, from voting and education issues to criminal justice reform. Haynes still meets with local pastors on a weekly basis. This work landed her on the Valentine and Community Foundation’s list of winners for the 2022 History Makers Award for Community Health Promotion.
“A lot of times we think of history as something that happened in the past and, as you know, we’re going to make sure that we understand that history is still being made. And that we need to identify the people in the community who are making history today,” Bill Martin, director of the Valentine Museum, said.
“It’s special because somebody looked at what we were doing and realized that it was having an impact in the greater community of Richmond. We were able to really, I think positively, have an impact on people in making sure people get vaccinated, making sure people take care of themselves and their loved ones. And I really think we’ve saved a lot of lives just by trying to get accurate information out there,” Haynes said.
Organizers said last year the focus was on the COVID response. There was a public nomination process and Leadership Metro Richmond graduates selected the winners.
This year, six prizes will be awarded. The 17th annual Richmond History Makers event will air live from Virginia Union University on March 8 from 5-6 p.m.