Richmond, Va. — On August 17, Virginia Organizing’s State Governing Board held a media conference via Zoom to release a report card of Governor Ralph Northam’s dismantling racism record and call for him to support the agenda of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus (VLBC) during the special session that begins August 18.
“We gave the governor a year to do his best to redeem himself by taking up the cause of racial justice,” Virginia Organizing’s chairperson Del McWhorter said. “Now the time has come to assess his work.”
McWhorter continued, “Tomorrow the General Assembly Special Session begins. We see this as an opportunity for the governor, working with the VLBC and other legislators, to raise his grades by pushing to dismantle more of the structural and systemic racism that plagues our Commonwealth.”
Portsmouth board member Tyran Green spoke next on the topic of police accountability and racism. Green, a Black woman, shared a story of riding as a passenger in a car that was pulled over by a white police officer. Although Green had done nothing wrong and the driver had left the vehicle, the police officer “drew his gun on me, snatched me out of the car, put me on the ground, put his knee on my back, and handcuffed me,” she said. Green called for Civilian Review Boards, body cameras, and officer accountability.
“I just want to be sure that when a driver is pulled over…they are treated with respect because that was a horrible experience and I’ll never forget it,” she said.
Vice Chairperson Duane Edwards of Fredericksburg spoke next on the topic of affordable housing and called for the eviction moratorium to be extended for a full year. Edwards drew attention to the harm evictions cause, saying, “Virginians who are evicted often lose their possessions… and also their jobs. Job losses are common along with evictions.”
“This is a time for the legislature to lay down a long-term plan on the state level for affordable housing instead of kicking it to financial institutions who are not caring about people or to localities. Evictions are a problem that makes other problems worse,” Edwards urged.
“Racism is a major health crisis,” Ebony B. Guy, a member of the board from Danville, said next.
“As we continue to navigate through this pandemic and the issue of civil rights which also intersects with health and wellness, we are asking Governor Northam to support the agenda of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus. We want to make sure that our friends and neighbors do not have to worry about the cost of health care or have to worry about going to seek care as this pandemic continues,” she said.
The last speaker was board member Emma Hale, a graduate of the public schools of Charlottesville, who said, “With schools online, justice requires more attention than ever to educational disparities. School discipline has evolved in this era of virtual education, and it needs to continue to change! Students cannot be suspended from a school they are not physically attending, and this reduction of suspensions should remain.”
“Now is the time for change, and we are urging Governor Northam to help make a difference,” Hale continued. “School Resource Officers or SROs need to be removed from schools or their roles need to be drastically changed, and the money spent on policing children should instead be invested in their well-being by hiring more mental health counselors and more teachers. Mental health services are especially important in this moment as students are affected by covid-related traumas and by issues of racial justice. Increasing the number of teachers and shrinking class sizes will allow for better social distancing and more specialized attention given to each child. This special session is the time for change. We need to protect students from the criminal justice system and fight injustice in education.”
To view the full media conference, use this link.
To interview a spokesperson about this event, contact Rosemary Gould at 434-962-7261 or firstname.lastname@example.org.