If you are Black and you, a friend or a relative have received a COVID-19 vaccine, it’s likely that you have Da-Venya Armstrong to thank. The communications and community outreach guru has exponentially increased the number of Black residents getting vaccines by launching and overseeing a faith-based outreach program. More than 8,000 people have been vaccinated as a result and her client, Jackson Health System, has gone from being criticized to celebrated.
I always knew my work had to be a reflection of my personal mission and core values.
Armstrong’s ties to church and community began 25 years ago, when Bishop Victor Curry took the pulpit at New Birth Baptist Church to announce that he had purchased a radio station, WMBM, and would take to the airwaves. That announcement changed Armstrong’s life and launched her career.
“It was like the sky lit up for me,” she said.
Since then, the 46-year-old businesswoman has embodied Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream by giving back to her community through time spent working at WMBM and growing her company, Armstrong Creative Consulting (ACC).
The Carol City native was one of three daughters. Her mother, a licensed practical nurse, worked 18 to 24 hours per day. Armstrong recalls being raised “by a village” when her mother wasn’t home; her aunt Connie and neighbors sometimes stepped in to care for all three kids.
“They understood that my mom was working a lot,” said Armstrong. “My mother was doing everything she could to raise us.”
Because she considered herself a middle-of-the-road student at Hialeah Miami Lakes High School, Armstrong got to work. Seeing classmates outside of her demographic getting into higher-level courses inspired her to do better.
“I wanted to have better opportunities, so I pushed myself,” she said.
Armstrong attended Miami Dade College and the University of Miami, majoring in broadcast journalism because as a kid, she loved listening to gospel station WMBM with her grandmother.
In 1995, not long after that fateful announcement at the church, the station was rebuilt from the ground up. Armstrong became news director, public service director, administrative assistant and traffic director, all while doing a morning show, “Morning Glory with Bishop and Da-Venya,” with Curry.
Her mother was diagnosed with cervical cancer around the same time. She went into remission, but six years later the cancer came back. Armstrong resigned from WMBM to care for her.
By then she had gained a thorough understanding of how churches operate through her work at WMBM. If major companies could do business at a higher level, she thought, so could houses of worship. After her mother died in 2000, Armstrong took a leap of faith and started ACC. She began by speaking to small businesses and churches.
“It was all word of mouth, convincing them that I could help promote their businesses to the communities they needed to reach,” she said. “It was six years of piecing together one person, one business and one church at a time.”
Her big break came in 2008, when The Children’s Trust’s reauthorization campaign hired her as a deputy campaign manager.
“It was an opportunity I’ll never forget,” she said. “It took my business from A to Z.”
Today, Armstrong also works on community outreach for the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust.
“That work is beyond significant to me,” she said. “I always knew my work had to be a reflection of my personal mission and core values.”
She then began working with James Jones, a former Miami Heat basketball player, with whom she established The James Jones Legacy Foundation. The organization helps to provide children with positive role models. She serves as executive director.
The Children’s Trust, a client now for more than a decade, is another entity Armstrong promotes to connect Black children and families to available programs and services.
Community activist Jacqui Colyer has seen ACC’s founder grow up to become the professional she is today.
“When she talks about things, she actually gets them done,” Colyer said. “She figures it out and brings two people together so that they can live their dreams.”
Armstrong said her past has created steppingstones to do better in the present.
“Having been a young girl born and raised in the ’hood,” she said, “all I could do was dream.”
This story was written for The Miami Times by Florida International University’s Caplin News.