Noah Page, the First Transgender Candidate for Office in Henrico County, Brings Empathy, Original Ideas, and Passion for Hip Hop

by | Mar 9, 2023 | COMMUNITY NEWS, HIP HOP & RAP, POLITICS, QUEER RVA, RICHMOND POLITICS, VIRGINIA POLITICS

Noah Page is the first transgender person to run for an office position in Henrico County, marking a historic moment. However, her candidacy should not be defined solely by her gender identity. Page is an individual with original ideas and a strong desire to aid others. Her unique background affords her a profound comprehension of how the government treats minority groups, which in turn gives her an essential quality – empathy. Page’s extensive work helping homeless individuals and victims of domestic violence, while experiencing both firsthand, adds another layer of understanding and compassion. As a result, Page is well-positioned to construct policy that is not only beneficial but also honest.

Furthermore, it is essential to recognize the need for diverse points of view in government, particularly from younger individuals. The world has undergone significant changes in recent decades, and younger generations have been brought up under the policies implemented by older generations that can seem out of touch. Noah Page, as a representative of the present, possesses the proper empathy and solid ideas necessary to address current challenges, should she win a seat on the Henrico Board of Supervisors.

Oh, and she loves hip hop.

ed note: Supporters can sign up to meet Noah Page at a private event next week HERE

Who are you? And what do you do?

Noah Page. People are familiar with my work in the arts, which has touched a lot of different nonprofits. Most visibly, I’ve been the vice president of the Virginia Center for Public Press ( ed. note: The nonprofit parent organization and FCC license holder of  WRIR-LP 97.3 FM Richmond Independent Radio), where I’ve tried to create equity in the arts as best I can, racially and for LGBTQIA+ people. This has involved throwing rap shows and creating grab content for the Internet and for radio. 

What has equally motivated me to get into running for office, like I’m doing now, is work that is less visible to most people. For a long time, I’ve been working for nonprofits that run domestic violence shelters. And those programs are equal parts housing/housing instability and violence prevention. It’s not just about stopping the dangerous violence situation, it’s also about getting that person out of our shelter and into a new home that they can sustain and be upwardly economically mobile in the long term.

What is it about that work that put you on the path to wanting to run for office?

It feels like a direct line to me from that work to wanting to run for office. In doing this job, we’ll often interact with different parts of the local government, whether it’s police departments or HUD at the federal level. And we have chances to get them to change what they’re doing in meaningful ways. I’ve gotten police departments in Hanover and Richmond City to adopt measures that are proven to reduce violence and violent crime. We’ve also gotten them to start the process of letting people into rapid rehousing, which is the most effective rent assistance program that there is. 

But we always ended things at a point where we could still be doing more. You hit a wall at some point where you need somebody a little bit more powerful, who’s more sensitive to these issues. It started to feel like the only next natural step for me was, instead of going and talking to the people making these decisions, to just become the person making these decisions.

That’s incredible. And that’s in Henrico, right? Or did you do that work in Richmond?

I’m running in Henrico– that’s where I live. But I’ve worked at domestic violence shelters and those programs in Richmond City and Hanover County. I have wondered before if maybe that’s why I haven’t made much progress on these issues in Henrico County, because I’ve worked professionally in them and Richmond City and Hanover. But there are some really obvious steps that Henrico could take that are proven to reduce violence in the same kind of ways that we did in Richmond City in Hanover County. It’d be great if we could make those things happen in Henrico, too. 

Most people have a sense that there’s a lack of resources within the system. So you’re in a good position to be an advocate for others since you’re very familiar with how everything works. And now you’re looking to help make policies. 

Exactly, yeah. One of my strengths as a candidate is I do have a lot of experience changing the way the government operates on these things. And I’d be a great person to change the way our local government operates. It’s the knowledge and experiences you gain from the skill set that you have to develop to work in his area. 

How does your experience as an LGBTQIA+ person influence your work? 

LGBTQIA+ people, as well as communities of color, experience housing instability and all types of community violence at a disproportionate rate compared to the rest of the population. It is important to me to meditate on this– that’s why I got into this work professionally. I also have personal experience with housing instability and violence. 

There’s a lack of familial support or a perceived lack of familial support for a lot of people with those identities. I think that experience that I’ve had personally prepared me in a special way to be ready to handle these issues because these are the biggest issues that we face in our region, and really our country. We have a housing crisis in Richmond City, that experts call an emergency, and we have a gun violence epidemic. These are problems for our whole country, but they have to be acted on locally.

How difficult is it to make a decision from going from being a civilian to wanting to be in politics? Was that a choice you made before the pandemic or during it?

The pandemic gave me time to learn about the system of politics in a way that was conducive to me starting to think about running for office. It felt like a really natural progression for me. I had advocated for these issues and for better policies around violence prevention and housing for a long time. I just felt like the next step was, I guess I better run for office. I better become the person responsible for this. 

You know, I’m glad that you mentioned the pandemic because I don’t know if I really thought about that until we were talking before you started recording. I’ve done so much in the arts, and I do think it is important for people to understand that rap and hip hop are as much of a reason why I decided I needed to run as my professional work. That may be confusing for some people, but if you have an understanding of that genre then it probably isn’t. During the pandemic, there was less chance to have live music; it was harder to create content. At first, people had to figure out how to do a video podcast like RVA Mag did. So there was a pause where I had some free time– and I’m not the kind of person to sit around. It gave me a chance to dig more into policy and what our local government was doing. That was an instigator in my decision to run.

That’s fascinating. It’s probably a whole other interview in itself. When can people actually vote? When is that happening? 

Our general election will be in November and it looks like I’m probably going to be in a primary, which would be on June 20th. There is someone else who hasn’t yet taken all the steps to qualify to run in the Democratic primary, but I think it’s their intention to.

What exactly are you running for?

I’m running for the Board of Supervisors in Henrico County. I get asked constantly by people, like– what is that?

That was my next question.

It’s basically a position that combines some of the powers of a mayor with a city council person. It’s more similar to a city council I would say. 

How many people are on that Board of Supervisors? And would you be covering just any policies that come through? 

Five. Yeah, there’s a wide array of policies that the Board of Supervisors can touch. When it comes to a position like this, people mostly think about infrastructure around things like walkability and public transit. They think a lot about schools– and those are important issues in my campaign too. I think that there is a link between those factors and things like violence prevention that is hard for people without a thorough understanding of local government to see. 

It’s more obvious how the Board of Supervisors relates to housing, because it’s involved with zoning, and there are actions you can take to encourage the development of affordable housing. You can incentivize developers with affordable dwelling unit ordinances, inclusionary zoning, or an affordable housing trust fund to build homes that are more affordable, which affects the cost of living by keeping your biggest expense– your home– lower. 

The most effective violence prevention is building healthy communities. And public transit and walkability– that kind of infrastructure is the basic building blocks. Public transit helps people access jobs, if the Pulse gets extended out into Henrico, which they really want to do, it’ll make a huge difference for a lot of people economically. That’s the best deterrent to violence– when you have a healthy community. 

But again, there’s so much nuance to these issues that you really need someone like myself, who has experience navigating all the layers. I’ve talked to the workers union of bus drivers for the GRTC and that expansion into Henrico is in peril of not happening based on how GRTC chooses to treat its workers. I’m a very pro-labor candidate. But yeah, violence and housing and the crises that we have around them are the results of so many small problems. Somebody like me has a lot of understanding of those nuances and of those different granular spots to tackle.

Well, you’ve lived those things. You’ve dealt with violence or homelessness firsthand and that’s a way to build empathy for sure. You’re like a combination of empathy and practical knowledge. And I think this conversation is important because Henrico is one of the fastest-growing areas in Richmond Metro City. So these things have to be figured out sooner rather than later.

And that growth is a big part of why we have such an opportunity in Henrico. To your point, people often think about Henrico County and Chesterfield as just another part of Richmond. But we have a wealth of resources in Henrico. We have the best possible credit rating that a local government can have. We have the extremely affluent communities of the West End and people often talk a lot about inequity between the western part of Henrico and the eastern part of Henrico. I think people tend to miss that the western part of Henrico, and I really hope that I can be a champion of this in my campaign, it’s filled with people who have hearts and want to do right by their neighbors down the street in eastern Henrico. 

People think that these affluent communities are up to something or not using their resources wisely. And there may be some truth to that when you look at the inequity of public facilities and how spending is done. But the strength of my campaign is all the people who have hearts and want to look out for everybody in the Greater Richmond area. They would back me as I set out to make these policies that will affect everyone.

Noah Page
Photo courtesy of Noah Page

I’m sure you’ve thought about this and it needs to at least be asked. Henrico, Chesterfield, and the surrounding counties tend to be more conservative. Does being the first trans woman to be running for office make it tougher? 

Yes. I’m glad we’re talking about this. But at the same time, I hope it isn’t my whole identity. It’s not quite what you think. So that part of Henrico, specifically where I’m running, which is the Three Chopt District, encompasses Short Pump, Innsbrook, a little chunk of land near Tucker High School, and what’s really far West End. These areas have been growing even more than the rest of Henrico and it’s been becoming more blue as it does, leaning more democratic. 

I think that again, reflects it being like “the rest of Richmond,” as a lot of people think of it. So it’s not as conservative as it used to be. And one of the reasons I decided to run is because this part of Henrico is very flippable. We have a three-two Republican majority on the Board of Supervisors right now. And this is probably the most flippable of the five districts, so we have a good chance of getting a lot of democratic stuff done. 

As far as the transgender aspect, I’ve been more surprised by the liberal response to it, to be honest. You know, there are people who are in our democratic party who are worried that I wasn’t viable as a candidate, because Henrico might not be ready for a transgender woman, even as a Democrat, even as a progressive. In my experience knocking on doors, those people are wrong. And also I do want to be clear that the leadership of our party, our chairperson, Alsúin Creighton-Preis, is an ally. It’s not like our leadership is structurally anti-transgender. 

And people have asked me in these hyper-liberal spaces questions that maybe aren’t transphobic, but just uneducated. You’d be surprised by the kinds of things that people will say– unless you’re a transgender person. A few days ago I was at a campaign kickoff for another Democratic candidate. And you think that it would be a very liberal space, a very progressive space. And there was somebody there who was asking me these questions like why I had short hair, and where were my boobs? 

What the hell is that about?

I kind of appreciate the honesty of it. Because I think people are thinking that and people have a lack of understanding of these identities still. But it’s also funny to me. It’s important for somebody to have conversations with people like that. Someone should ask, “Well, do you think any other woman is less of a woman because she has short hair or doesn’t have big boobs?” Is that what we evaluate women based on?

I think there’s an education that’s going to happen just by you being the first. But I feel that you are going to make good policy regardless. That should be the overall, most important thing. 

Thank you. I try in my every action as I’m running to demonstrate that I’m a hard worker. I want to show that we’re working hard in our campaign to show that we’ll work hard when I get elected to make good policy for everybody. That’s why I’ve helped out on the Herb Jones for Congress campaign, and the Jennifer McClellan campaign while I’ve been running my own campaign. I’ve collected signatures to help get Schuyler VanValkenburg, Rodney Willett, Susanna Gibson, Madison Irving, and a number of other people on the ballot, even Misty Whitehead. So I am working hard, like you said, for all of us with everybody’s interest in mind.

noah page
Photo courtesy of Noah Page

What are the next steps for you? Did we leave anything out?

It’s really just going to be keeping up the hard work. I basically don’t get to have a life until months from now, when the election is over. Those are the next steps. We, of course, are always working on fundraising– people can donate by going to Noahpage.org. We appreciate even small donations, they make a huge difference right now. We’re always working on contacting more voters. Up until the election, the name of the game is just knocking doors. 

If there was something that we left out, I would like to talk about rap and hip-hop. That is a huge part of who I am, and why I wanted to run. RVA Magazine has been specifically important to me on this, not just because I’ve created content for y’all, but also because you are one of the largest outlets that are even making an attempt to bring this into the rest of the art space. There’s a real inequity there for the arts community not even recognizing this genre of music. 

My hope is to help people understand, and I’ve been working at this for a while, that this is a genre of music that is so important. It speaks to the experience of a whole group of people. The inequity around it speaks to a lot of the problems we have in government. I got involved in rap and hip-hop in the first place because I realized, kids like Lithium God, who should have every chance to make their music, couldn’t walk into a bar and ask to perform there and get a show like I could when I was at age. And there’s no other difference between me and him.

Except he’s black and you’re white. 

Yes. I mean, it’s also about class perceptions when it comes to music. I don’t think there’s a real difference in class, but there’s a perception there– so it’s not just about race, but it is a large factor.

So, rap and hip hop really formulated your ideas of inequality and frustrations with the government?

Yeah. So by getting to know those people, I’ve been trying to help them get shows and just get their music represented and heard by more people. You can’t help but get to know them personally and start to love them really. They have a lot bigger problems in their life than being able to get their art seen. Again, when we talked about communities of color also being disproportionately affected by housing instability, and by violence, those things have systemic causes. 

We have a lot of great charitable organizations and things around town that can help, but our government is the biggest charitable organization, and it can make the biggest difference in fixing policy and funding. There’s a real importance to politics that hip hop has that needs to be recognized as we move into the future. It’s a genre that’s very listened to by the voting demographics, by kids who are in Gen Z, who are voting more than other generations. People in their early 30s love hip-hop. Hip-hop is the most listened-to genre in Richmond when you look at streaming and other ways to quantify listenership with music, but it’s lacking in representation in the art scene. You can see a rock show every night of the week but it’s hard to find a rap show.

This is very similar to what happens with good policy ideas. You hear a lot about them, and people believe in them a lot, but you don’t see people out there really championing them and putting them into practice. I think of Raphael Warnock as a great example. There was a moment when he was the most important Democrat in the country when Georgia announced it was going into a runoff election. And the place he decided to be at that moment was at an event thrown by Lil Baby. 

And there are so many things like that, that just exemplify the importance of this genre. We’re seeing Noah-O and Skinny Hendrix down at our state legislature, advocating for policy. That warms my heart so much. people I’ve been friends with for so long.

That’s really interesting. People see a picture of you and think, that’s Noah. She’s running for office. But Noah also loves hip-hop. It’s going to be interesting to see how your campaign unfolds and how your policy ideas hopefully come to the top after being formulated by your experience of having to deal with being at the bottom. 

Absolutely. Yes, this genre filled the seeds of trying to fix the equity problem.

Follow Noah Page on Instagram @noahpage4u
Visit her website at noahpage.org

Main photo by Kimberly Frost : @kimberlyfrost
Copy edit by Audrey McGovern

R. Anthony Harris

R. Anthony Harris

I created Richmond, Virginia’s culture publication RVA Magazine and brought the first Richmond Mural Project to town. Designed the first brand for the Richmond’s First Fridays Artwalk and promoted the citywide “RVA” brand before the city adopted it as the official moniker. I threw a bunch of parties. Printed a lot of magazines. Met so many fantastic people in the process. Professional work: www.majormajor.me




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