We had the good fortune of connecting with Verkeya Holman-Davis and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Verkeya, can you talk to us a bit about the social impact of your business?
Throughout my lifespan, community has been key to my growth and success. I endeavored when thinking about what Verkeya Speaks could be, wanted to first and foremost give back to my community. So many people over the years have poured into my life. My parents raised me in Union Baptist Church in the Village of Harlem, NYC. My church has been a community of people who have ensured that not only my spiritual growth was fostered, but my educational and emotional growth as well.
My school community, Frederick Douglass Academy a local Harlem, NYC school was also a place where I was able to gain an education, but learn some life lessons and explore my artistic self. I am very much still connected to my Union Baptist Church family and now they are fostering the growth of my son. My high school English teacher continues to live in my neighborhood, I have called her and visited many days continuing to acquire support and more life lessons.
As we prepare to make critical changes to Verkeya Speaks, we hope to impact the New York City community by creating opportunities for Share Black Stories our most recent live series via Facebook. We want to hear some of the trails and triumphs of Women of Color in particular. We also plan to create a scholarship fund for young women who are seniors in high school who wish to continue their educational growth in college or vocational training. This year we will award a young woman who participated in our Six Week Young Women’s Empowerment Workshop Series prior to the pandemic. It is our goal to bring back the workshop series in the future. It is my belief that with one young woman being supported you continue to support the generations to come.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I have learned to wear many hats, I am a Social Worker by trade. It has not been easy. I struggled in high school and went to college gaining a degree in Elementary Education. While education is important, I wanted to address the social and emotional needs of young people. After graduating with my masters I worked in some places where my skills were fostered, but also hindered. Systemic racism has played a part in the hinderance of my growth. My biggest lesson, is find a way to keep going despite the challenges. Lean on those who understand, but advocate for what is right even if it ostracizes you.
In 2020, I became a published author. This was a challenge for many reasons. It took me 10 years to write my first novel. I had no idea how it would get published, but I learned to ask questions. Some people are willing to share information, although there are those people who are not willing to share. Thankfully, I was introduced to a woman who helped me navigate through the process of self publishing. The biggest lesson is choosing an editor wisely.
Verkeya Speaks started from the some tragedies I have experienced. My initial goal was to make space to have difficult conversations about various topics including, but not limited to child loss, (In)Fertility, systemic racism. While these topics are difficult, I hoped to create community among those who wished to participate in the difficulty of the conversations. During the pandemic, I decided to continue this work by having live conversations. The most difficult part in this is knowing when to ask for help. Sometimes, things get really big and you have to know when to ask for others to assist on the journey and bring in their expertise. I know many things, but not everything. I am a mother and also have a chronic – illness, Lupus. I sometimes have to take some hats off and just focus on one.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
This is a complex question and encompasses many different things.
No matter who it was though, lots of my favorite spots in NYC consist of eating decadent meals.
First I would take a train ride with my guest to Williamsburg Brooklyn. You can’t come to NYC and not ride the train. Going from Manhattan to Williamsburg provides the opportunity to ride the train above ground which can be quite fascinating. When we get to Williamsburg, we would go to Pies and Thighs. Nothing like good fried chicken and pie. After having our meal and provided its a sunny day, we would walk over the Williamsburg Bridge back to Manhattan and go to Doughnut Plant to pick up more treats to go.
This is an opportunity to walk through China Town to Ground Zero to see the Freedom Tower and then across to the South Street Seaport to relax by the water.
42nd Street Times Square is a must see. Everyone loves shopping and the Vessel at night at Hudson Yards. There is also an indoor mall to shop. A NYC favorite is Dallas BBQ… They have good wings and great drinks.
Because I am from Harlem, 125th Street to take pictures in front of the Apollo is a must as well as Mother Zion AME church which was an Underground Railroad refuge. We would have food at Melba’s which is southern cuisine.
Central Park for a garden party in what was Seneca Village, a community of predominantly African Americans whom owned property… Some history while we eat and play games and enjoy nature.
Adventure to the Bronx awaits to visit the Bronx Zoo… As a mom, I always try to include family fun activities.
Must do trip to Koronet for giant pizza slices and a trip to Rockefeller Center and to get banana pudding at Magnolia Bakery.
New York has various things to enjoy in each season, due to COVID we have become limited in things to enjoy like Broadway Shows or Alvin Ailey dance performances at Lincoln Center. These are some of my favorite things and life is different, but we are SURVIVING!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
There are some dynamic women who have played a role in my successes… First and foremost my mother, Veronica Jackson who showed me that no matter how hard it gets, keep going. My mother with a husband and three children went back to school to become a nurse. I watched as she went from nursing student to charge nurse to running the Labor and Delivery Department. Her dedication to maternal health is astounding. She also served in the Air Force Reserves and recently retired with the rank of Lt. Colonel. My mom has shown me how important it is to climb the ladder and mentor those coming up behind you all while focusing on your family.
Second Ms. Loyd-Blackman, my English teacher from high school. She allowed me to explore the writer inside me and made me see how much potential I had. If not for her, I would not have gone to college. Ms. Loyd-Blackman was not only concerned about my academics, but my life. She continues to talk with me about life and guides me through my career challenges and goals.
Lastly, my auntie, Staci Lightburn who practiced lots of straight talk with me during adolescents. Staci was empathetic enough to understand that I was navigating through some difficult times. She helped me get my first part time and full time job out of college and gave me my first experience of my own apartment by allowing me to live in her basement apartment, for a fee of course. Even when she was dying, she was still coaching me through life. “Go back to school and get your masters.” were the last words she spoke to me. I remember my graduation party, reading the cards of family and friends and I burst into tears because I wished she was there to witness this moment. My mom reminded me that she was there and proud of me.
My mom, Veronica, Ms. Loyd-Blackman and Staci poured into so many women and young people in the New York City area. It is my turn to do the same.