Cassandra Newby-Alexander is an historian at Norfolk State University. She has contributed to several nationally-broadcast documentaries, including The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross, a PBS series presented by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Her many books, including Voices from within the Veil: African Americans and the Experience of Democracy, have expanded the intellectual discourse on the history of African Americans in Virginia.
As Director of the Joseph Jenkins Roberts Center for the African Diaspora at Norfolk State, Professor Newby-Alexander works to make history accessible to the general public, including through a collaboration with the Norfolk Convention and Visitor’s Bureau to produce "Waterways to Freedom," an interactive website on the Underground Railroad. She also helps to plan American Evolution, the Commonwealth of Virginia-sponsored commission to commemorate the first arrival of enslaved Africans in the Virginia colony.
Chauncey Jenkins serves as the Assistant General Manager at Lemaire, the fine dining restaurant at the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond.
A Richmond native, Chauncey began his journey through hospitality at the age of four, assisting his father in the prep kitchen of a commercial restaurant. He later served as a catering aid in his father’s company, helping with dinners and receptions for Virginia public officials.
During his senior year at Richmond Community High School, Chauncey participated in a management externship at The Jefferson, allowing him to complete his senior thesis examining the role of amenities in modern hotels.
Chauncey received his bachelor’s degree at The Cornell University School of Hotel Administration. He interned at The Four Seasons and The Jefferson. Upon graduation Chauncey returned to The Jefferson team, serving in management roles in both the rooms and food and beverage divisions.
Kevin Mitchell is a chef-scholar whose studies and cooking explore African American foodways.
In 2008, Chef Mitchell became the first African American Chef Instructor at the Culinary Institute of Charleston. When the Edna Lewis Foundation formed in 2012 to honor, cultivate, and preserve African American culinary history, Chef Mitchell joined as its founding Secretary. He has served on the board of Slow Foods Charleston since 2013. And in April 2015, Chef Mitchell was Chef Coordinator for Nat Fuller’s Feast, a re-creation of a banquet hosted by the eponymous chef in Charleston in 1865. The original dinner, held at Fuller’s restaurant, Bachelor’s Retreat, celebrated the end of the Civil War with both white and black diners—a first for a major public event in Charleston.
Chef Mitchell continues to research and advance the practice and understanding of African American foodways through his current graduate study at the University of Mississippi's Center for the Study of Southern Culture.
Samantha Willis is a journalist and Richmond native whose research and writing centers largely on African American history and culture. Among the articles and essays she writes for a variety of publications, three of her recent features — on Richmond's historic black neighborhood, Jackson Ward; the hurtful history of blackface; and Central Virginia’s rich legacy of gospel music — won Virginia Press Association awards. Based on months of research and first-person interviews, Samantha presented a paper about Richmond-born civil rights advocate James E. Jackson at the 101st conference of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History in 2016.
An outspoken advocate for equality, Samantha is the creator of #UnmaskingRVA, a three-part forum and learning series examining Richmond's racial history and present reality.
Samantha lives in Ruther Glen, Virginia, with her husband Jamaal and son David, and expects a new baby in January.