Why I Joined Empower RVA Teens

Written by Russell Bascomb III

In America, the minority experience in hospital settings often deviates from the experiences of those from more privileged backgrounds. As in many other places in society, Black women are the most likely to get the short end of the stick, and they frequently find out about life-changing ailments too late to find a solution. I witnessed this great injustice afflict my close relative, which then encouraged me to join Empower RVA Teens where we fight to level the playing field for those of all identities. 


Unbeknownst to my family, my grandmother, Lucile Mercer, one of my favorite people, first got sick shortly before the Thanksgiving break of 2017. Around that same time, my immediate family ventured to Orlando, Florida to reconnect with my stepfather’s brother and his family. I had not seen them in three years. Grandmother Mercer drove well over two hours from Jacksonville to join the celebrations, and nobody noticed anything was off until my mother noticed a slight deviation in her gait. By this point, my grandmother had been given a walking cane by her doctor. She was told her mobility issues were simply caused by old age. Knowing this, my mother initially brushed off the anomaly, however she grew more worried after discovering that my grandmother’s right leg had swollen to almost double the size of the other. After taking her to the local emergency room and waiting for hours, she found out that my grandmother had a life-threatening kidney disease that would’ve killed her if left untreated for even a week more. 


Horrified at the lack of warning we received of my grandmother’s condition, we promptly moved her into our home which changed her lifestyle in an instance. She lost the freedom to drive where she wanted, she couldn’t meet up with friends and family and Florida, and she had to give up the littlest joys such as her garden all because the medical institutions in her area let her slip through the cracks. While she had a great support system to save her from the terrible fate she would’ve otherwise succumbed to, millions of women across the United States don’t have those same systems to fall back on. Women die everyday from the faults of the medical system, as well as domestic disputes and lack of shelter due to poverty or being ousted by their families due to their LGBTQ+ identity. I wanted to be able to join the fight to keep those overlooked by the government, medical institutions, and their own families from being another troubling statistic, so I joined the YWCA Empower RVA Teens. 


I learned about YWCA’s Empower RVA Teens from my mother, a former YWCA board member. I have now volunteered at the 2022 Richmond Pride Fest, advocated for further protections of LGBTQ youth and abortion access to notable representatives Dawn Adams and Ghazala Hashmi, and I am now helping spread my story to encourage others to follow in my footsteps. Any step taken to provide help for those in need has a positive impact on the future of the world as a whole. 

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*This story is written by Russell Bascomb III with support from Kisha Hughes, a Richmond writer, storycrafter, and space holder, and Sam Mickey, YWCA Richmond’s Violence Prevention Specialist.  Kisha specializes in helping people tell their stories their way. You can find her at www.kishahughes.com Sam guides our Empower RVA Teens program and is part of our prevention team. You can connect with them at smickey@ywcarichmond.org.