This summer, Yahusef Medina joined the Virginia Humanities team as our new Associate Director of Community Initiatives. Previously, he served as a specialist in both education and juvenile justice and focused on helping youth in historically underrepresented communities achieve personal and academic success.
Yahusef’s new position was created as part of a shift in the way our Community Initiatives office will work with the public. We caught up with him to talk about what’s changing in Community Initiatives and what it’s like to be in a new job at the same time he’s become a new father.
You’ll be working closely with Justin Reid, who has been with us for a while and has been directing Community Initiatives since 2019, but this Associate Director role is new. What will Virginia Humanities be able to do now that it couldn’t before?
Yes, Justin has been a great mentor throughout my transition and I’m honored to be working with him in this new role. We strongly believe that community intersects with every aspect of Virginia Humanities programming because everything we do here is to serve and enrich the lives of all Virginians.
Adding the Associate Director position makes it possible for the Community Initiatives office to build out more programming, operate with more efficiency, and provide greater support to other programs and departments within Virginia Humanities.
If we had a time machine and could jump forward a year or two. What do you hope would be different about Virginia as a result of this new position?
Great question! I’m really looking forward to the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Fellowships opportunity we will be offering soon. I believe it will become a hallmark of Virginia Humanities programming and something that can deeply benefit the lives of many Virginians.
The initiative will provide up to ten scholars that either attended or are affiliated with one of Virginia’s HBCUs with the opportunity to become a Virginia Humanities fellow for 6-9 months.
We are excited about this project and look forward to the effect these fresh perspectives will have on humanities in the Commonwealth and beyond.
You’re joining us right at the same time we’re moving into a brand-new office and opening a new public humanities center. What’s your favorite thing about the new space?
The new downtown location of Virginia Humanities’ office is convenient and the layout of the space is communal and modern. I really appreciate and enjoy it!
You were recently part of a panel discussion for Hispanic Heritage Month (presented by VCU’s Office of Multicultural Student Affairs) about Afro-Latinidad and what that means within the greater Latin American identity and culture. What is the most important thing you hope people took away from that discussion?
I really just want people to walk away knowing how and where Afro-Latin@ culture within the United States context began. Latin Americans of African descent are gaining more visibility in recent years but we have been here and contributing to the culture in many ways for a long time.
You made a big career change right in the midst of the pandemic and shortly after becoming a new father. (Congratulations by the way!) That’s a lot of change in a short period of time. What drew you to this position and to Virginia Humanities?
Yes thank you, it is an exciting time for me and I’m thankful to be here! It was a true blessing how everything worked out. I think it’s important to note that I’m also relatively new to Virginia and while I was aware of some of the work Virginia Humanities did like the With Good Reason podcast and Encyclopedia Virginia, I was not wholly familiar with Virginia Humanities as an organization. As I learned more, I really connected with the integrity of the work and the values of the organization.
As for the position, the focus on creating programs to highlight and uplift historically underrepresented communities and voices throughout Virginia was one of several points that deeply resonated with me. I also identified with the vision for the position and felt that my experience could add value to the Community Initiatives office.
Please join us in welcoming Yahusef to the Virginia Humanities team! You can learn a little more about him by reading his staff bio. We hope to be introducing you to several other new staff members over the next few weeks.