Eyes on Richmond is an award-winning government transparency project of Progress Virginia, an advocacy and communications nonprofit dedicated to furthering progressive issues and causes in the Commonwealth. For more information about Progress Virginia, please visit the website.
Launched in 2017, Eyes on Richmond aimed to stream Virginia General Assembly legislative hearings for the first time ever—often bringing to light commentary, deliberation, and even votes from elected officials that had previously never been streamed or broadcast publicly. Because of this work, the project won the Virginia Coalition for Open Government’s Laurence E. Richardson Citizen Award.
None of this work would be possible without the hard work of the Fellows who stay on top of all committee hearings and record all of our live feeds. Read about the 2018 fellows below.
Amina Husain is a Senior at Virginia Commonwealth University, pursuing her Bachelor’s in Political Science with a concentration in public policy. She has served on the Policy Committee for Amnesty International where she lobbied for various human-rights related legislation and assisted in event-organizing. Amina has also been involved with New Virginia Majority, a grassroots social justice organization dedicated to improving relations between minorities and law enforcement in Richmond. This is Amina’s second year working on the Eyes on Richmond transparency project and she looks forward to this year’s session. Raised in Sterling, VA., Amina enjoys quality time with friends and family. In her free time, she likes to spend time outdoors and cook. Her favorite place to hike is the Shenandoah and she’s always looking for new things to try and new places to see.
Eden Gorley is a senior at Virginia Commonwealth University, with a passion for the rights of marginalized communities. Born in Dayton, Ohio and raised in Prince George’s County, Maryland, she brought an open mind about Civil Rights to her newer, more conservative home in Virginia. Studying Political Science and Africana Studies, she has held the honor of attending two trips that focus on the rights of People of Color both in the American South and the Caribbean. Throughout her studies, her thirst for knowledge and change has only grown stronger. Eden plans to graduate in May of 2020 and move towards a future in nonprofit organizations that serve community outreach and development.
Emma Shainwald was adopted from Vladivostok, Russia and was raised in Princeton, New Jersey. Since then, she has become passionate about adoption politics and immigration. Emma registered to vote in Virginia during the 2016 Presidential election, and has been involved in Virginian politics since. Her involvement with the Virginia Student Power Network taught her much about the importance of lobbying and local political engagement. On her campus, Emma is a member of the Asian American Student Initiative, an organization that advocates for Asian American political issues, and Undocutribe, an undo-centered immigrant rights organization. Emma will be graduating this May 2020 at William and Mary with a major in Asian Pacific Islander American Studies.
Knisya Johnson is a Virginia native and grew up in the Richmond area. They honed their leadership and strategic abilities while participating on their high school’s robotics team. For three years, Knisya was responsible for the team of 30 students. The FRC 2019 season was the first time that team 2998: received an award, became district championship finalist, and attended the FIRST Championship in Detroit. They are now using their leadership and organizing abilities in their political activism. Knisya is currently a freshman at Virginia Commonwealth University studying political science with a concentration in international relations. They were awarded the Rao Inaugural Scholarship during their freshman year. They worked with the Virginia Student Power Network (VSPN) to register students to vote and educate students on their voter rights. Knisya also works with VCU’s Institute for Inclusion, Inquiry and Innovation (iCubed) on their “Disrupting Criminalization in Education: A Trauma Informed Approach” core as a research assistant. The core explores the criminalization of trauma and exclusionary discipline within school systems.
Born from parents of immigrants, Lizbeth Pineda was raised in Danville, Virginia. She became politically involved from an early age, learning and fighting for immigrant rights and was inspired to become more politically involved. Lizbeth was a member of Pi Sigma Alpha, Latino Student Association and was president of Alpha Sigma Alpha. She interned in the Virginia State Capitol last session with Senator Surovell. Lizbeth attended Virginia Commonwealth University, majoring in Political Science and minoring in Sociology. Lizbeth graduated magna cum laude from Virginia Commonwealth University in December 2019. This is her first year at Progress Virginia.
Maryam Safi is a first-generation college student. She was born in Afghanistan and moved to the U.S at the age of 11. She took interest in politics and policy making from an early age. Attending the Student Government Day at her High School further her interests. She is a currently a senior at Virginia Commonwealth University, majoring in Political Science
and minor in Business. She has taken part in campaigning, interned with Virginia League of Conservation voters, Virginia Democratic Party. She also served on the E-board of Afghan Student Organization at VCU, to spread cultural awareness, along with being a member in other organizations.
Maryam will be graduating in May 2020. She aspires to attend law school after.
Rebecca Leser graduated Magna Cum Laude from North Carolina State University in 2009 with her Bachelor of Arts degree in communication. Following an eight year career processing federal financial aid awards for several colleges, she transitioned to her local government as a grants coordinator. In that role, she tracked expenditures for her county’s multi-million dollar grant programs and submitted quarterly and semi-annual reports to federal and state agencies. In 2017, Rebecca joined her local Democratic Committee, the York-Poquoson Democrats, and began serving as the 1st Vice Chair. Six months later she was elevated to Chair and coordinated everything from guest speakers, events, social media efforts, submission of forms to state party officials, and maintenance of the Committee website. Concurrently while serving as Chair, Rebecca ran in the 2019 Democratic Primary for Virginia’s 96th House of Delegates district. The only female and millennial to run in the 3-way Primary, she finished second and advocated for a clean energy economy, criminal justice reforms, and investments in public education. After the Primary ended, she joined the campaign of 96th district nominee Dr. Mark Downey as his Deputy Campaign Manager and assisted in efforts that resulted in the best performance for a Democratic candidate ever in the district. Rebecca is a strong supporter of women in politics and progressive causes, and is a member of her local chapters of Indivisible, Moms Demand Action, and the Sierra Club.
Sydney Biondi is a freshman at VCU majoring in Political Science and International Social Justice Studies. She moved to Richmond after growing up in a conserative town in Virginia. Through her experience in a primarily Republican district, she realized how drastically change was needed, and therefore, found her passion in politics and activism. After single handedly planning the student walk out against gun violence, while receiving death threats and numerous emails and phone calls sent to her principal, she learned the importance of perseverance. She then went on to intern for Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy, and found a passion for flipping Virginia blue. She is also a Senator for VCU’s Student Government, where she spends her time writing resolutions and bills that not only make change within VCU’s walls, but also the greater Richmond area, and Virginia as a whole through the lobby day committee she serves on. She wrote and passed resolutions to lobby for the ratification of the ERA, State aid for DACA recipients, and automatic voter registration. Sydney is on track to graduate from VCU in May of 2023, and is excited to see where the heart of Virginia takes her political career.