Women & Politics: Taking the Lead in Community Change

Today we have two local advocates making change for folks directly in the community.

Zakia (Jemaceye’) McKensey, a native of Richmond, VA has worked tirelessly to advocate for the Transgender community and those affected or effected by HIV/AIDS. Zakia started her career in HIV prevention in 2001 with Fan Free Clinic as the MSM (Men who Sleep with Men) coordinator. She worked there for almost ten years. During her time at Fan Free she was one of the founding pioneers for the TG clinic that serves local transgender clients and assist them with hormone replacement therapy and overall health and wellness. After leaving Fan Free Clinic, she went on to Richmond City Health District. The 1st Transgender Women of Color to work for the cities health district, she served for 6 years as a Disease Intervention Specialist. Helping to locate and diagnose and treat individuals who were exposed or at risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections.
After leaving Richmond City Zakia founded and directs Nationz Foundation. Nationz Foundation is a nonprofit 501c3 organization founded in October of 2015. Nationz provides free HIV testing as well as linkage to care services and a food pantry to assist those clients in need or who are experiencing hardships in life. Nationz Foundation provides emergency housing assistance as well as transportation to and from medical appointments and support services. Nationz Foundation has 2 mobile testing units to provide services in the community to those who don’t have access to their office or services.
Zakia has been Named “Outstanding Virginian 2018” by Equality Virginia and she has been honored with The 2018 “Firework Award” from Virginia Pride, the 2018 1st Annual ”Global Award” winner from the Heart of the Community Awards and the 2019 Zodiacx Iman Award. She believes in an “Aim to Inspire” attitude. Hoping community members will aspire to be their best selves and take responsibility for their health and wellness and unite and stand in solidarity as a community.

Debi Blackburn is the Founder and President of Managing Mental Health LLC and a passionate Advocate, Educator, Facilitator and Professional in the field of Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders  (SUD). She began her journey in 1978,  while battling the demons of a severe mental illness;  she found her voice and recovery where she has continued her journey. The overwhelming stigma, shame, secrets and silence, shattered her soul as a young person lost in the abyss of the system . Debi’s journey is filled with heartache, loss, grief and fear, yet being in recovery has lead to passion, hope and overwhelming Love and Belief for her beloved population.

Debi has spent over 40 years advocating, teaching and working with both Acute and Chronic Mental Health and SUD issues in both personal and professional levels. She has spearheaded countless  groups, taught family education, spoken on the National, Medical and University levels as well as provided care in both inpatient and outpatient settings. Her vast experiences as a survivor, a person in long term recovery and as a professional make her compassion and knowledge shine. Her passion is her purpose and her favorite mission statement is “ Where there is breath, there is life , where there is life , there is hope and where there is hope, recovery is possible.” #mentalhealthmatters💚

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