Patrick C. Graham, Ph.D: Civil rights, economic justice, and equity leader


By Taroue Brooks

What is your title and job description?

Senior Policy Advisor, Wealth Building, City of Richmond

As the Senior Policy Advisor, I convene over fifty private, social, and public sector partners around anti-poverty, economic mobility, and racial equity strategies and policies.  I also make systemic recommendations in various areas, including workforce development, housing, entrepreneurship, education, and public benefits.  My experience as a public and social sector chief executive officer, policy advocate, and historian allows me to think across systems to develop solutions that address poverty and racial equity.

How have you managed things during Covid-19?

I have taken a mission-based approach in my professional life and a practice of patience and connection in my personal life.  Because I realize that the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted pre-existing disparities across various social groups, I have been intentional about partnering and seeking ways to change and reset systems that impact people in poverty and those facing racial inequities.  For example, I led the development of a regional eviction prevention model for the metro Richmond area.  I am currently leading an effort to develop a ten-year anti-poverty agenda and develop a justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (J.E.D.I.) platform to host discussions on topics ranging from economic mobility, criminal and judicial reform, education, inclusive practices in the workplace, and other related issues. 

I have been more intentional about connecting with family and friends and creating time to write on my interests.  The pandemic has been an exercise of resetting my priorities beyond my professional goals.  In other words, I made it my business to virtually connect with others to share our thoughts, hopes, and talent.

Dr. Patrick Gaham

What motivates you professionally?

I have been a civil rights, economic justice, and equity leader for most of my career.  Issues of racial justice and opportunities for all people is my “white whale.”  I believe all people can be valuable human assets that can make our nation more globally competitive.  While I believe inclusion and justice are moral and ethical concerns, I also seek to demonstrate they are also practical and essential to our country’s success. 

Tell us about the book you authored and where it can be purchased. 

I have contributed to several academic and mainstream publications (see list below).  Topics range from African American history, migration, civil rights, justice and inclusion, and economic mobility strategies. 

At the Banks of the Jordan: How the Great Migration Changed a Long Island Town, my current project is in the final editing stages and will be available on Amazon.  Proceeds from the book will benefit the Martin Luther King Centers of Long Island. 


Forward.  In Black Families and Recession in the United States: The Enduring Impact of the

            Great Recession of 2007-2009, edited by Dorothy Smith Ruiz and Albert M. Kopak. 

New York, NY: Routledge Press, 2021.

“The At-Opportunity Agenda: Education, Economics, and Philanthropy.” In Contemporary African

American Families: Achievements, Challenges, and Empowerment, edited by Dorothy Smith-Ruiz.  New York, NY: Routledge Press, 2016.

Faces of Reality: State of Ethnic Charlotte, Chief Editor.  Charlotte: ULCC, 2011.

“Black Migration to the Northeastern States.” In Encyclopedia of the Great Black Migration, edited by

            Steven A. Reich.  Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2006, pp. 624-628.

“Black Power.”  In Encyclopedia of the Great Black Migration, edited by Steven A. Reich.          Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2006, pp. 111-114.

“War on Poverty.” In Encyclopedia of the Great Black Migration, edited by Steven A. Reich.       Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2006, pp. 872-875.

We’ve Come This Far by Faith: The Long Beach M.L.K. Center, Inc., Local Black Power, and Southern      

            Migration 1964-1980. (Doctoral dissertation), 2002.

The Sons of Willie Horton: Rap, Media, and the Defining of the Black Underclass. (Master’s thesis), 1996

What does success look like for you?

Success for me is creating or enhancing institutions or systems that outlive my contribution and be able to tangibly   I want to leave a legacy that provided people with opportunities to thrive. 

What has been the most challenging obstacle you had to overcome?

As a male victim of domestic violence, it was hard for people to understand my trauma as a Black man.  Though statistics suggest Black men are impacted as victims, the common narrative does not always allow individuals like me to have an empathetic path into discussions or judicial systems. I realize in our current racial and gender climate, it is more difficult for people to understand the intersectionality of Black men. 

What are your thoughts about mentorship?

Mentorship and coaching are critical forms of social capital and community.  I believe mentorship provides learning opportunities for mentors and mentees and helps develop more intimate relationships and communities needed for the young and mature to understand their purpose and paths to success.

What will be your legacy?

Here is a man who evolved and did not see a conflict between creating opportunities for himself and a beloved community at the same time.  I want the life of others to be better because I lived.  More specifically, I hope that our nation will have a better appreciation for the talent found in untapped communities because I advocated that we see them for their potential greatness. 

What can the world expect to see from you in the next five years?

Over the next five years, I want to use my experience, intellect, and spirit on a national stage to change our logic concerning the need and impact of people of color, Black people in particular. 


Patrick C. Graham, Ph.D.

Dr. Patrick Graham is a public and social sector leader with over 20 years of executive-level and equity policy experience. He currently serves as a Senior Policy Advisor for the City of Richmond and Executive Advisor for ReWork Richmond. Dr. Graham has led and served on several advocacy boards and committees such as the National Fuels Fund Network, National Urban League Workforce and Education Committees, North Carolinas Social Services Board, U.S. Census Complete Count Committee, Chair of Advocacy Committee for North Carolina Workforce Boards, and several other appointments.

Dr. Graham is best known for leading the creation of equity and inclusion initiatives for workforce development, entrepreneurship, and housing, such as the RVA Regional Eviction Prevention Model, Career4All platform, the Bank of the Urban League of the Central Carolinas, the At-Opportunity Generation. He is credited with coining the term “At-Opportunity, not at-risk,” which led to a more national focus on asset language used to describe communities impacted by racial inequities and poverty. Dr. Graham is the author of several academic essays and policy agendas.

During his professional career, he served as the President and CEO of the Martin Luther King Center on Long Island, Urban League of Central Carolinas, Charlotte Works-Workforce Development Board. Dr. Graham led emergency financial assistance efforts for Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. He is the recipient of several awards, including The Distinguished Leader and Advocate for Change Award, National Made Man Foundation, Catalyst Humanitarian of the Year, Uptown Magazine, Citizen of the Year (North Carolina and South Carolina), Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc, National Urban League

Innovative C.E.O., Community Person of the Year, Long Beach Herald, and others.

Dr. Graham is a graduate of Johnson C. Smith University (B.S. Marketing), University of Wisconsin- Madison (M.A. African American Studies: Ethnicity, Media and Policy), and Stony Brook University (Ph.D. American History: Civil Rights and Migration). He is a proud father and outdoor enthusiast.