INTERVIEW: Style Weekly unveils Top 40 Under 40

By Ryan Nobles - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - They are 40 up-and-coming Richmond leaders all under the age of 40, and they are featured in the pages of the current issue of Style Weekly. it is the annual 40 under 40 issue, always a hot topic in the River City.

And we are pleased to be joined by two of the honorees and Style Weekly's editor Jason Roop. Thank you all for being here. Before we introduce the honorees, let me ask Jason, what does it take to be a 40 Under 40 honoree? Aside from being under 40 years of age?

JASON ROOP: Right, that's one. We're looking for people who are really in the trenches changing things. Whatever it may be, they have seen a need and they're trying to fulfill, and they're also successful in their own right. We hear a lot of talk about what needs to happen to make Richmond better, but a lot of times, the establishment doesn't really look below this age cutoff for 40 years old, so we want to highlight those people who are transforming the city.

RYAN: Let's meet our guests. Osita Iroegbu does the public relations for the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority. Chris Barras is the lead pastor of the Area 10 Faith Community. Osita, you were once a resident in the Richmond public housing project. Now you work there. Tell me how, having that experience, has helped you in your current profession.

OSITA IROEGBU: Well, yes. As you said, I did grow up in Hillside Court, actually, in the southside of Richmond, and with my eight siblings, and it was funny enough that we actually were very, very passionate as kids about our community and about giving back. So we had a very strong family foundation, and so after I grew up and my passion for community service and educational, social opportunities continued to grow and advance, I realized why not and part of change continuously? And so through my programs and through my work in education, I decided to come back and serve as a leader in that capacity.

RYAN: And there's always a perception of public housing authorities. As somebody that is a success story from that, do you feel that it's almost your mission to kind of give that message out to people?

OSITA IROEGBU: It definitely is. As a community member, as a former community member, and now as a community leader, I feel that it is my obligation, my social responsibility, to be a voice and to be a model for children, especially, who live in these communities. To give them hope and dreams and aspirations. They have them, but it takes, as leaders, as community members, it takes us to take their hand and walk them along the journey of success.

RYAN: Chris, you have a church at the Byrd Theatre -- not what people traditionally think. Talk about the challenge of keeping people connected to their faith in these changing times.

CHRIS BARRAS: We put this church in the Byrd Theatre, approached them, said, "Hey, can we do church there?" and it just seemed like a great natural fit because they didn't have anything going on there on a Sunday and we could meet there and it was a really great thing. So what we're trying to teach people and show people, the motto of our church, I guess, is love beyond reason. What we say is love God, love people, love our city beyond reason. Anybody can love God when things are good, but what about when things are bad? Anybody can love people when things are nice, but what about what when they're not? And anyone can love a city fits perfect and has the best restaurants and best architecture and best food, but what about if it's not perfect? So we came into Richmond five years ago and we said, we like Richmond. It's not perfect, but let's get in there and love it anyway until it becomes a loveable place or until it becomes amazing, until it becomes beautiful. So that's part of that outward focus of our church is we're trying to help people grow that their faith, know God, but to do it in a contemporary way in the theater.

JASON ROOP: Ryan, for both of these recipients and the 38 others, it's all about action louder than words.

RYAN: Right. And just two of the examples of 40 really terrific people in the Richmond community. You will be honored tonight at the Marriott at a very interesting event, interesting because you will be there.

JASON: And I'll be there with your colleague.

RYAN: Heather Sullivan will be emceeing as well. Thank you for being here.

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