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Patch Q&A: Lavern Chatman, Candidate, 8th Congressional District Democratic Primary

By Sydney Wu

1. Patch: What one thing would you hope to accomplish, more than anything, if elected?

Lavern Chatman: Ensuring women receive equal pay for equal work. This is an issue that I feel benefit both men and women and they both would support in. In a dual-income household, if one spouse is getting paid less that’s less money for the entire family. Women are getting 77 cents to the dollar compared to men. Minority women are being paid less than that at 59 to 56 cents. I think this is an issue that we can finally build bipartisan support around and make a reality in the near future.

 

2. Patch: What makes your platform unique from the other candidates?

Lavern Chatman: This is the first-time I’ve ever run for elected office. What makes me different is that I’ve been in the trenches solving real problems for real people in our community.

As the only woman running on the ballot, I can speak from experience about issues that matter most to women. My history of community leadership includes the Northern Virginia Urban League, Nova Coalition, and the Northern Virginia Community Foundation working with youth and families on eliminating the achievement gap, the teen mothers programs, job training for seniors, and mentoring programs for youth and young professionals.

I have worked directly with youth and families who are struggling for economic stability. I will continue to be a strong voice and advocate for them in Congress.

 

3. Patch: What is the biggest struggle you’ve ever overcome?

Lavern Chatman: I was married at 37 years old and became a widow by 40. I lost my husband to cancer in 1998 and it was the most difficult time in my life. On our first year wedding anniversary we found out that he had terminal lung cancer.

He lived for 30 months after the diagnosis. I was devastated and needed a way to “get back to life.” I was impressed with a new organization that General Colin Powell had started, America’s Promise, to provide youth with five promises: Caring adults, Safe Places, a Healthy Start, Effective Education and Opportunities to Serve. I became a full-time volunteer with the organization helping them to get funding from businesses and major corporations. Being able to serve others, raise funds for a great cause, and change children’s lives, gave me new hope and helped to get me back to life.

 

4. Patch: What has been your biggest achievement?

Lavern Chatman: I started working with the Northern Virginia Urban League in 1999 as a volunteer, then a board member and in 2003 became the President and CEO. Our office building had been a former slave pen in Alexandria, and over 10,000 slaves were sold and traded there from 1828 to 1861. The basement was a concrete block that the past leadership had tried several times to develop into a museum. I was determined to find the funding, the right designer, and build community support to develop a first-class museum.

I reached out to Congressman Jim Moran and we secured federal funding to design and build the Freedom House Museum. It was a two year effort and a permanent legacy that tells the history of domestic slave trading in Virginia, but also describes the triumph and hope for the future. This is a lasting legacy that I am very proud of.

 

5. Patch: Who is your hero (political or otherwise)?

Lavern Chatman: Nelson Mandela. I was blessed to attend Mr. Mandela’s memorial services in December 2013, and it was a transformative experience. I was moved beyond belief and had a real understanding of the sacrifice he made after being imprisoned for 27 years and coming out without hatred, but forgiveness. He worked with others and treated them with dignity, love and respect to dismantle apartheid. I know that one person can make a difference and Nelson Mandela is an example of that which each of us can follow. He is my inspiration for wanting to go to Congress and make a difference.

 

6. Patch: What, to you, is one of the most distinctive qualities about the community of the 8th congressional district?

Lavern Chatman: The 8th District is incredibly diverse and residents are not only knowledgeable on the issues, but also engaged. They care about what’s happening in our schools, our communities and hold our elected officials on the local and federal level accountable for their actions.

 

7. Patch: How would you describe yourself in just three words?

Lavern Chatman: Resourceful. Effective. Collaborator.

 

8. Patch: What is your definition of success?

Lavern Chatman: Providing leadership that empowers others. I have a group of young women that I have been mentoring for more than 10 years, some of them are now business owners, some have received advanced degrees, and they are the leaders of tomorrow.