Photo Caption: Tamica Jean-Charles (center, with glasses atop her head) poses with several Brown Shuga event attendees.
by Katrina Spencer
Charlottesville is no stranger to new transplants. From 2010 to 2020, this college town has seen a net increase of more than 3,000 souls, and in a town of an estimated 50,000 persons, a growth of 3,000 is nothing to discount. One of our newbies is Tamica Jean-Charles, a Florida native of Haitian descent who has made her way to Cville by way of Richmond. A journalist by day for Charlottesville Tomorrow, Tamica covers stories that focus on family and education. With a newsroom of four writers and an output of two weekly newsletters, the Charlottesville Tomorrow group is a small but mighty contingent, supported by donors and sponsors. See Tamica’s reporting for free on poignant stories like the unmarked graves of enslaved laborers at Pen Park or the contemporary and controversial debate surrounding the potential name change for the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library system at www.cvilletomorrow.org. Exploring themes like these in a town that really wrestles in many ways with the legacies of Thomas Jefferson suggests a bold and brave spirit that shies not away from points of friction. Rather, Tamica steadily holds their gaze.
It should be of little surprise then that Tamica has taken on the adventure of moving to a small town in the age of a pandemic, and, in an effort to build community, has founded a novel group of her own, Brown Shuga. Brown Shuga is a social collective for queer women and non-binary folk of color or “Sapphics.” The creation of this group is her proudest local achievement yet. It took both some traditional and unconventional methods to find like-hearted people to join. Posting flyers around town was one strategy for advertising. Another was swiping right on women and non-binary people of color on dating apps who indicated interest in dating women and letting them know about events. Tamica did something right because the first two events, a picnic at Walnut Creek Park and a karaoke night at Dürty Nelly’s, have been successful. Tamica’s thoughtful planning brought a fun and creative icebreaker to the group’s first meeting in which attendees picked from a variety of question cards themed as sweet, savory, sour, and bitter and shared about themselves, their lives, and their experiences. For example, sweet: Describe your ideal wedding in detail. Savory: What’s something that isn’t cheating that a partner could do that you could never forgive? Sour: What is one thing you ex did that you wish they hadn’t? Bitter: What’s been the hardest part about coming out? Prompts like these certainly help strangers to warm up to one another quickly as they are sure to be accompanied by tales of hope, moments of commiseration, and peals of laughter.
Tamica is eagerly looking forward to creating a varied schedule of events that draws a diverse group of attendees. For example, if you’re a teetotaler, sober events are in. If you’re active and outdoorsy, hikes are on the list. And if you can’t get enough games, space will be made for table top competitions galore! What’s most important to this community leader is keeping this space protected for people of color. Collaborations with other groups for people of color like Charlottesville Black Pride, Black Women Who Wine, De La Roll, and the Prolyfyck Run Crew are all welcome. Moreover, Tamica wants you to know that women and non-binary folk of all ages are welcome to join in on the fun. While well on her way, Tamica knows this new group will be a success when she sees continuous attendance at events and quality relationships of support being formed amongst its members. If this group sounds like one you want to be a part of, follow @brownshugacville on Instagram or Brown Shuga Cville on Facebook. To share more ideas, contact the group at email@example.com.