by TRACY ZOLLINGER TURNER
Virginia Githiri wears so many different professional hats in her daily life, it’s not hard to fathom that writing inspirational gospel songs is something she does in her sleep. “I’m not one of those songwriters that can just sit at my piano and just write,” she says. “Most of the new ideas that I get literally come to me when I’m in deep, deep sleep.”
Apart from writing and recording music, Githiri—“Dr. G”—is a lecturer in applied health science at the Indiana University School of Public Health, an integrative wellness life and health coach, and the owner of PopKorn! Kernals with a Twist—a gourmet popcorn shop that has survived the strain on small, local businesses presented by the pandemic.
“I’m grateful that I’ve been able to flfloat along because it’s not been easy,” she says. In the past year, she moved PopKorn’s base of operations from College Mall to a downtown storefront on South College, and fifigured out how to sustain it incrementally with on-demand orders for curbside service and a return to limited shopping hours.
Githiri was raised in Fort Wayne, Indiana, with a “deep sense of empathy,” thanks to a mother who was a third grade teacher and “just had a love—a deep love—for people who didn’t have.” She attributes her business acumen to her father, who immigrated from Kenya as a teenager “with a quarter in his pocket,” and, after a career in business and accounting, “died very, very wealthy.”
She felt that the federal aid the CARES Act promised was not set up for people who run small local businesses. “It’s been sad to drive around and see vacancies, to see places closing. A lot of places have tried all that they can. I’m hoping that with the new administration there really can be a true focus on helping small business.”
She hadn’t been optimistic that the changes in the political landscape would come after the past four years, when the leadership’s “methodology, for the most part, has been so haughty, so arrogant, so nasty. What happened to humility and kindness? Why were we missing that piece?”
She thought that Kamala Harris’ presence on the top ticket might prevent Joe Biden from being elected because of the “fever pitch of nastiness” in the country. At the same time, she’s seen more promise in her department at IU and at her church, Sherwood Oaks, where she has done workshops on diversity and frequently performs her music, that a growing number of people feel spurred to change. “I’ve heard, ‘We need to be equitable; we need to be fair. We don’t tolerate racism. We are saddened by what’s happening in our country’—that type of talk. It seems like there could be real momentum, because it feels like there have been lots of times when talk is just talk. I hope this is not just a trend. Hopefully in 2025, we won’t have forgotten, right? We won’t be going back to what we saw that was so heinous and so nasty and so vitriolic.”