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Marva Reid, community leader, East Winston

Growing up in East Winston, Marva Reid’s mother put her to work preparing snacks for community meetings at the family’s home.

“She had these pastel mints — yellow, pink and green,” Reid recalled. “I had to put the mints on one side of the tray and the peanuts on the other side. Then I put the little spoons all around. Winston-Salem was a tobacco town, of course, so I had to put out the ashtrays. They discussed things going on in the community.

“My mother said, ‘You’re my little traveler. Whatever you learn, bring it back to the community.’” Marva’s mother, Geraldine Hagans Reid, was a nurse and cosmetologist. She operated a beauty parlor on the back porch of the house. Marva’s father worked as a bus driver for Safe Bus Co., and later operated a heating, ventilation and air conditioning business. Later in life he taught the trade to young people through the Winston-Salem Urban League.

Geraldine Hagans Reid in particular emphasized civic responsibility to her daughter.

“She was always community minded,” Reid said of her mother. “We were taught to stay connected to the community and give back. It’s that religious idea: ‘To whom much is given, much is expected.’”

Marva Reid did travel. She met her sweetheart at the age of 12, and they eventually got married and had a child. They both wanted to get out of Winston-Salem, but it was Reid’s husband who made it happen. He worked at Reynolds Tobacco Co., but didn’t like the job. On the advice of a friend, he enlisted in the Air Force.

They were stationed in Fayetteville, then Tampa. Then Okinawa, Japan for five years. And later the Netherlands.

“We’re traveling with our young baby girl,” Reid said. “It was a privilege to be able to go to different places. She enjoyed it. She became an honors student in 7th grade.”

Lana, who is now 42 and living in California, excelled academically and graduated from UCLA.

Reid is proud of the professional lineage of three generations of women in her family, beginning with her mother who obtained a college education and became a nurse. Marva also became a nurse.

“My daughter’s a doctor,” Reid said. “She elevated it. And she’s an author. She’s a motivational speaker. She travels all over. She’s got a daughter that plays tennis, speaks and writes Japanese…. My grandbaby is an artist. Somebody asked her to do a cartoon book because she knows how to do the characters.”

Heeding her mother’s call, Marva Reid eventually returned to Winston-Salem. She and her husband divorced in the 1990s and Reid ended up moving back to the house where she grew up. She found that the sense of community had declined in the years she had been gone, and she made it her business to start building it back up. “The prestige in this African-American community,” Reid said, “is deep and rich.”

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