Created by local artists Rian L. Moses and Virginia Murphy, Richmond Now! recently released its second downloadable Activity Book filled with illustrations and education about the Black Lives Matter protests in Richmond and beyond.
Richmond Now! began as a way for artists and friends Rian L. Moses and Virginia Murphy to find an outlet for emotions and a way to support local organizations during the Black Lives Matter protests over the summer. Before Minneapolis police murdered George Floyd in late May, Moses and Murphy had started an art exchange between the two of them. After the nationwide protests began, they decided to take the project to new heights and share it with the community.
Moses and Murphy created a downloadable activity book, complete with illustratable photos from local protests, activities, quotes, and short pieces of writing. Although the original plan was to make the book available through their personal Instagrams, Moses spearheaded making a separate account and website — and Richmond Now! was born.
“I felt like there was a big spark with this, and that it can be positive for a lot of other people, not just us,” Moses said. “We wanted it to be more interactive not just for kids, but for anyone.”
Coloring books seemed like the perfect choice — ideal for younger kids and now popular with adults as well. Designing a book with Richmond-based photography would mean that the project could appeal to all kinds of people.
“I really wanted to honor what people in Richmond were saying and doing but for all levels, which is why I think the coloring book is so accessible for all ages,” Murphy said.
For Moses and Murphy, having something that anyone could pick up, understand, and use to learn was key. Murphy spoke about how many parents may be unsure about how to introduce topics like police brutality and racial injustice to their small children. The coloring book serves as a better facilitator of those necessary conversations, and can be instructive for older users as well.
“The simplest things can still be explained to the most complex thinker,” Moses said. “It might be easier if it is simple at first, and then build upon that.”
Richmond Now! released the first volume of their activity books in mid-June, and decided to use an honor code system of donations to local organizations like the Richmond Community Bail Fund and Richmond For All. People who wanted to download the book made donations, and anyone who wanted one but could not afford to donate could download the book for free.
After the success and positive reception that greeted the first volume, Moses and Murphy decided to open a call for artists to submit work for a second issue. This time, they decided to work with Worthdays, a local nonprofit that supports children in the foster care system through organizing various celebrations and special moments.
“We wanted to find an organization that was actually helping an individual,” Moses said. “If we can just make one person happy, then I think we’ve done our job with Richmond Now! and what future Richmond could be.”
The second issue, which focused on change in Richmond, came out September 8. For this issue, Moses and Murphy are looking to print copies to distribute to local schools and around the east end and southside, as well as make the book accessible to people who might not have access to the Internet or printers of their own. They started a GoFundMe to offset printing costs.
“We started [the project] for ourselves initially — I guess it sounds kind of selfish — but as a coping mechanism for us,” Moses said. “But with the second issue it seems like the feedback I’ve gotten that other people have really enjoyed using as a tool for themselves.”
While Richmond Now! started as two friends bonding and sharing their art, Moses and Murphy have grown it into an education project for all in Richmond, with plans for a third volume in the works.
“We love the partnership that has already begun with people submitting works,” Murphy said. “We’re really open for this to grow and be something more than just a project.”
Top Image: Art courtesy Richmond Now!