*Untold Virginia is a new series from RVA Mag, told through the eyes of photographer Jason Lappa and the words of political director Landon Shroder. Reporting on under-represented stories throughout the Commonwealth, Untold Virginia takes readers into unexpected spaces to tell the stories of people and communities who remain on the margins of mainstream media.
There is no question Richmond, Virginia is a dichotomous place with a story to tell. Yet picking the right story is always the challenge for any photojournalist or writer. Part of this challenge is balancing the obvious with the not so obvious, and exposing it in a way people can connect with as they go about their daily lives. In a perfect media climate, one not beholden to advertisers and sponsors, Stunt Sunday would have been covered by every press outlet in Richmond. Not only does it represent a critical subculture (among many) that is thriving just beneath the surface, it’s one of the main faces of the city that remains undervalued. The reasons for this are obvious to anyone who casually observes Richmond, and I wasn’t surprised when one of the participants, speaking about downtown Richmond, told me dryly, “We used to be very present, but they ran us out of there too.”
Nonetheless, on August 27 at Broad Rock Park – Stunt Sunday – organized by Michael Thompson, known as Black Mike, brought together car clubs from all over the mid-Atlantic, some as far away as Baltimore. Yet it would be a disservice to this community to assume that the cars and motorcycles were the focal point of this event. While they factor prominently into this photo essay because of their visual characteristics, the event itself was one to promote unity, civic responsibility, and to encourage kids to make positive decisions. The participants in the event were diverse, hospitable, and full of camaraderie, even toward us as outsiders. JP, one of the promoters of Stunt Sunday, told us, “We come out there and do community work. We do back to school drives… pass out bookbags, school supplies for the kids out here.”
Stunt Sunday is one of the many untold stories of Virginia, one that remains on the margins for all the reasons Richmond and the Commonwealth continue to struggle with. At a glance, one could be forgiven for being intimidated by the cars, bikes, music, and tattoos, but only for a minute. Connecting communities and coming together as a city can sometimes start with realizing that we all celebrate our own unique cultures in our own unique ways. That should be worth something to all of us.
“We formed this club last year. We got a couple hundred cars in the area.”
“We got support from VA Beach, Maryland, DC. We drive down there, they come here.”
“Richmond is deep. Richmond is way deep.”
“This is to show the kids you don’t have to sell dope to have nice things.”
“We don’t have as much space downtown. We have more freedom out here [Southside].”
“Cars are a way to get people on our real focus, which is taking care of the community.”
“When I got free time, I put it in the car. I work a regular job and still get what I want.”
“We are showing the kids there is another way.”
“Come together, put aside the differences we got, and do it for the love of everything.”
“You don’t have to go out and run the streets to get things you want.”
“Love of cars, love of music, and love of the community. That’s what it is.”
*Words by Landon Shroder. Quotes by JP and Peanut, organizers of Stunt Sunday.