Justin Banks—Staff Writer
On September 8, 1987, Dr. Marvin Barnard journeyed 120 miles by bus from the black side of Richmond, VA, to the Virginia Episcopal School. Accompanied by nothing more than a suitcase, Dr. Barnard exited a taxi cab to become one of the first black children ever to enroll in a private boarding school.
As a young child, Barnard witnessed the death of his father, an experience that motivated him to pursue the medical field. He recalls a time when black people didn’t trust white medical professionals.
“If I looked like them, then they would be open to come for medical help,” Barnard thought from a young age.
Barnard was not raised by his biological father. The man that he called “dad” was actually his uncle, although his uncle called him his son. After the death of his father, he did not recall feeling sorry for himself. Instead, he “felt a desire to move forward. I felt fearless. When he passed, I felt like he breathed manhood into me.”
The day he exited the taxi cab, Barnard remembers being happy. He was ready to start school—ready to show people that he belonged and that people like him belonged.
While attending Virginia Episcopal, he became familiar with and learned to love the school’s honor code. He enjoyed being a part of something bigger than himself.
“I wanted to be a part of the tradition of the school,” he said.
When Barnard was granted a full scholarship to attend Virginia Episcopal, he made it his goal to become the top student in his class. He felt his successes or failures would ultimately impact the way other young African Americans would be viewed in the future, and he was determined to succeed.
After graduating at the top of his class, Barnard went on to Howard University in Washington D.C.
He lives by the idea of a “big dreamer imagination,” which allows a person to go beyond their physical barriers. “Life isn’t about being brave, it’s about not having fear,” Barnard said. While attending private school, he believed he could make a difference in a white community for black people.
Today, Dr. Barnard is a medical doctor for both the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA) at the Re-Entry and Sanction Center and the Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program.
He urges others to pursue excellence.
“Identify the thing that gives you a rush, and follow the things that you love.”
Dr. Barnard paved the way for black students, not only at Virginia Episcopal, but for around the country. By showing that black children could perform equal to or even better than white children, he helped change the way that black students were regarded as humans and as students.