Basheer Abdul-Malik

Black History Month Spotlight: Basheer Abdul-Malik

By Abby Parsons

Basheer Abdul-Malik

 Basheer Abdul-Malik

This February, Rappahannock Community College celebrates Black History Month. Our faculty and staff tell us what Black History Month means to them and their own personal histories. Our final feature of the series is Basheer Abdul-Malik, Administrative Assistant of Dual Enrollment at RCC.

Basheer Abdul-Malik was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His mother worked as an Elementary Science teacher and instilled the value of a strong education in all of her children. After enrolling at RCC, Abdul-Malik pursued a work-study position at the college until he graduated in 2013. “Graduating from RCC was truly my proudest academic achievement,” said Abdul-Malik. “I was able to get my degree and move forward with a new life ahead.” After receiving his Associates degree, Abdul-Malik accepted a part-time position in Workforce Development, and in 2017, he was hired full-time under Dual Enrollment.


Missing Pieces in History

Basheer’s childhood education gave him access to Black History from a young age. “I came from a family of educators, and my mom knew what curriculum was being taught,” said Abdul-Malik. “She made sure I knew black history because she knew that it was being overlooked within the public school systems.” In many schools, students were taught the most ‘important’ moments of African-American influence, which bypassed many achievements and contributions from the community. “The Harlem Renaissance is discussed as a quick middle point between slavery and Civil Rights,” he said. “There are so many missing years there.” This led Basheer’s parents to enroll him at Imhotep Charter High School, where he received an education focused specifically around Black and African History.

Nat Love

Nat Love

Even outside the classroom, pop culture failed to have the representation that history dictated it should. “I grew up loving stories of cowboys and Indians, never knowing that there were black cowboys! I was so surprised when my mom told me about black cowboys.”  His interest in the Wild West lead him to many black Western legends, including Nat Love, Bill Pickett, and Stage Coach Mary – a U.S. Postal Service worker who defended her stage coach with a shotgun. “Everyone knows about Billy the Kid, but not many people know about Nat Love.”

Abdul-Malik fostered his love of history beyond the western frontier, learning all that he could. Among his inspirations, Madame C.J. Walker rose to the top of his list. Madam C.J. Walker created specialized hair products for African American, becoming one of the first American women to become a self-made millionaire. She was an inventor, who attended school for cosmetology and business to start her own company. “She was one of the few African American businesswomen who were successful in the early 1900s, despite the odds,” Basheer said. Her brand is sold in Sephora stores to this day.

Madame C. J. Walker

Madame C.J. Walker

“I think there is a huge disparity in the coverage of our history,” said Abdul-Malik. “It is the same situation with histories of other minorities. We have certain months dedicated to learn about these histories, but we never tie them into the larger picture. History is all one timeline, and that’s what made me love it so much.”

The Bigger Picture

This broader understanding of America’s timeline has inspired Basheer to continue to learn and to share his perspective with others. “We’re now discovering that the world is connected, with the help of technology.” Abdul-Malik said. “But in reality, the whole world has been connected through our shared history from the very beginning.” Basheer also emphasized the importance of learning more about local Black History, especially in a state that had so many historical sites to offer. “History is so much deeper than who was a slave and who was free,” said Basheer. “Everyone has a history, and everyone’s history plays a part.”

Abby Parsons is a member of the Marketing/Communications team at Rappahannock Community College and wrote this for Rappahannock Community College in honor of Black History Month.


Photo courtesy to Nat Love’s privately published autobiography Life and Adventures of Nat Love (1907) and A’Lelia Bundles/Walker Family Collection.


Lorraine Justice

 Lorraine Justice

 Paulina Johnson


Paulina Johnson

Black History Month Spotlight: Paulina Johnson

By Abby Parsons

 Paulina Johnson

This February, faculty and staff tell us what Black History Month means to them and their own personal histories. Our second feature is on Paulina Johnson, RCC’s Library Acquisitions Specialist who has been an employee of the college for almost 25 years.

An Inspired Childhood

Paulina Johnson was born in Richmond County. She and her brother were raised by her grandparents. “My grandfather, Richard Thompson, was an oysterman, and he was so proud of that job. Back in the day, if you worked as an oysterman you were poor. But, he was so proud, no matter where he went he would talk about what he had done.” His hard work and determination inspired Johnson from a young age. When Paulina was a little girl, her grandfather would bring home oysters in the evening and teach her how to safely shuck them. “He loved what he did,” Johnson remembered fondly.  He did it well, and he did it with integrity.”

The Path to Success

Though Johnson had always had an intense love of learning, she left school before graduation and shortly after, gave birth to her son, Quinton. It was at this time that she knew she wanted more opportunities in life for her son and for herself. “I felt like I had to do it for him,” she said. “I had to show him that no matter what you face in life, you can do this.”

Johnson completed her GED and felt the inspiration to move forward in her academic career. After accepting a work-study position at the RCC Library, she began to rediscover her love of learning and flourished under her mentor, Linda Taylor. As her bond with the library grew stronger, Johnson began to think of RCC as a second home. After years of service, Johnson moved from her work-study position to a part-time position, and then to a full-time position as Acquisitions Specialist.

After graduating with her Associates degree from RCC in 2000, Johnson went on to receive her Bachelor’s degree from Mary Baldwin. In 2013, she received her Master’s in Human Services from Liberty University – an accomplishment she considers her proudest achievement. “When I walked across that stage – and I looked at my son – he was smiling like, ‘That’s my mom!’ and I thought, ‘This is for you.’ I am a middle school dropout, but now I know that my accomplishments speak for themselves and I am so proud.”

Quinton would go on to graduate from RCC in the years to come, following his mother’s footsteps. “RCC has been a blessing to us both,” Johnson said. “That’s why I tell everyone to start here. Let this be your first step.”

Building the Dream

In 2001, Paulina and her husband, Garry, founded Superior1 Contractors. “Once I leave work at RCC, I throw my hair up and get to work again!” The Johnsons offer a range of home improvement jobs, including brick and block laying, deck building, and flooring installation. Even on difficult days when the work was physically strenuous, Paulina Johnson knew that their partnership supported their special bond. “The work makes us closer, and he is my best friend.” said Johnson proudly. After nearly 20 years of business, the companionship from her husband has made the business that much better. “I love it because I’m with my soulmate, my partner. It makes it all worth it.”

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

“When I think of Black History Month, I think of all the pioneers. It opened the door for all to see what we could do as a people – what anyone can do in the face of adversity. I think of the strength and empowerment of Obama, being our first African-American president. His election opened doors for little girls and boys to say ‘Hey! I can do this one day too.’

“Sir Isaac Newton said that, ‘we are standing on the shoulders of giants.’ I think of Dr. Martin Luther King, who put his life on the line for us. He had a family, he had a life, but he put that to the side because he saw the bigger picture. He knew he might not see the completion of it all, but he would be the one to start the way.”

Abby Parsons is a member of the Marketing/Communications team at Rappahannock Community College and wrote this for Rappahannock Community College in honor of Black History Month.

Lorraine Justice

 Lorraine Justice

Basheer Abdul-Malik

Basheer Abdul-Malik

nasa research

NASA Research Experience

nasa research


Students will conduct hands-on summer research projects at NASA Langley Research Center or NASA Wallops Flight Facility.
These paid opportunities will be open to all Virginia Community College students pursuing a STEM major or STEM technician track.
Students work under the guidance of a NASA research advisor. The program is underwritten by the Virginia Space Grant Consortium and the Virginia Community College System.

Students must be rising sophomores or in their sophomore year at the time of the research experience. Students graduating May 2020 are encouraged to apply as well. U.S. Citizen, at least 18 years old, STEM major, with at least a 2.5 GPA and enrolled a minimum of 6 credit hours.


June 1 through August 7


February 25, 2020

Debbie Murray,, 757.766.5210 or Nicole Shaw,, 757-766-5210

brains and balance at RILL

Brains and Balance

RCC RILL Focuses on Balance and Flexibility

New 6-week session announced!

brains and balance at RILLBoost your mood, strength, and balance at RCC’s Institute for Lifelong Learning (RILL) class “Brains and Balance.” This six-week class is designed for seniors interested in improving strength, flexibility, dexterity, balance, and having fun while doing it. The six-session course will be held on February 18, 25, March 3, 10, 17 and 24 (Tuesdays), from 2 pm to 3 pm at RCC’s Kilmarnock Center.

“Brains and Balance” consists of age-appropriate exercises designed to build spatial awareness, improve or restore function, build muscle, and assist in activities of daily living. Certified group fitness instructor Meg Miller uses free weights, bands, elastic tubing, balls, and other fitness tools to make the class fun and functional. “The activities in this class will exercise your brain and improve your balance,” says Miller. “I will also cover fall prevention and how to recover from a fall especially if you are home alone. Plus, we’ll have a lot of fun together!”

One in four Americans over the age of 65 fall each year according to the National Council on Aging. But falls aren’t inevitable and with practical skills and lifestyle adjustments falls can be avoided.

Miller is a certified group fitness instructor who teaches senior fitness classes at the YMCA. Before becoming a fitness instructor she was a commercial waterman and published a book of poetry.

Advance registration, with a tuition payment of $35, is required to take this course. For more information on “Brains and Balance” and other RILL courses, or to register, please call Michele Inderrieden at 804-333-6824, e-mail or go to

gloria holmes

Gloria Holmes

gloria holmesThis year marks the 50th Anniversary of Rappahannock Community College. RCC graduates form the backbone of our local economy—our healthcare providers, bankers, lawyers, small business owners and trades-people. It’s hard to go through your day without being served by an RCC alum in some way. RCC’s Faces of 50 spotlights alum, like Gloria Holmes.

Holmes spent 34 years working in the kitchen at Mizpah Health Care Center (now Dockside Health & Rehab Center). Looking for a way to advance her career and become food service manager, she realized she needed to take classes to become certified.

While working two shifts and raising a family, Holmes enrolled in one of RCC’s Career Studies Certificate programs. “It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” said Holmes. “RCC [Glenns campus] was close to home and the class schedule helped me work around my family and job.”

Holmes took a computer class and says she learned more about computers than she imagined—from who created the first computer and how they are made to using computers for her job. She also learned valuable kitchen management and cooking skills that she applied in Mizpah’s kitchen. The dietary needs and restrictions in a nursing home facility are much different than cooking in a restaurant. Holmes earned a Career Studies Certificate in Food Service Management. Today it is a Certificate in Culinary Arts.

Age is No Barrier

“I encourage people to try RCC. It’s centrally located and can help you at any age,” remarked Holmes. “Young people aren’t always ready for the large college. They need to start somewhere, just get started, and RCC is a wonderful place to do that.” Holmes also noted that you can take classes on your own timeline whether a full schedule or part time. You just need to start.

Although she is retired, Gloria is still helping people through her volunteer work with her church’s food ministry, the food pantry at the Cryer Center, and the Rescue Squad Thrift Shop.

rappahannock institute of lifelong learning

RILL: Mixed Media Collage