Ac­tivists, pro­test­ers rally for change at Lump­kin’s jail site

They call for Northam, Nor­ment, Her­ring and Fair­fax to step down

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - LOCAL PERSPECTIVES - BY COLLEEN CUR­RAN ccur­[email protected]­patch.com (804) 649-6151 Twit­ter: @coll­cur­ran

Roughly 400 years ago, a ship car­ry­ing en­slaved Africans ar­rived in Vir­ginia, start­ing a long, painful his­tory with slav­ery that the state con­tin­ues to strug­gle with to­day.

On Sun­day, as Vir­ginia politi­cians grap­pled with charges of racism and ap­pear­ing in black­face, a group of ac­tivists and pro­test­ers gath­ered at the site of Lump­kin’s Slave Jail in Shockoe Bot­tom to call for the politi­cians’ res­ig­na­tions.

The event, “Lead­ing Vir­ginia For­ward,” was or­ga­nized by RVA Dirt, a lo­cal group that calls for trans­parency in govern­ment, and Race Capi­tol, led by lo­cal ac­tivist Chelsea Higgs Wise.

Sev­eral speak­ers at the event called for the res­ig­na­tions of Gov. Ralph Northam; Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Leader Tommy Nor­ment, R-James City; and At­tor­ney Gen­eral Mark Her­ring.

Northam and Her­ring both have ad­mit­ted wear­ing black­face as young men. Nor­ment was the man­ag­ing ed­i­tor of a 1968 year­book at Vir­ginia Mil­i­tary In­sti­tute that in­cluded racist pho­tos and slurs, in­clud­ing black­face.

“It’s time for you to go,” said Vanessa Bolin, a Na­tive Amer­i­can ac­tivist and speaker at the event.

The speak­ers also called for the res­ig­na­tion of Lt. Gov. Justin Fair­fax, who has been ac­cused of sex­ual as­sault and rape — al­le­ga­tions he has de­nied. The speak­ers said Fair­fax needs to deal with those ac­cu­sa­tions pri­vately and not while in of­fice.

A di­verse crowd of roughly 30 peo­ple at­tended the rally.

Dr. Mark Ryan, a fam­ily physi­cian in the Rich­mond area, braved the cold to at­tend the rally with his wife.

“As a physi­cian who works here in Rich­mond, I’ve wit­nessed in­sti­tu­tional racism and feel it’s im­por­tant to sup­port grass-roots ef­forts on be­half of those most af­fected,” he said.

Lo­cal real es­tate agents Da­mon Har­ris and his wife, Tarah, said they turned out to “have a unique con­ver­sa­tion in real time. Ev­ery­one is wrapped up in this [is­sue] now.”

“As res­i­dents and cit­i­zens, we need to lis­ten to each other,” Da­mon Har­ris said. He also added that as real es­tate agents, he and his wife see “much con­nec­tion with real es­tate and so­cial jus­tice.”

One speaker at the rally, Ravi Perry, a po­lit­i­cal sci­ence pro­fes­sor at Vir­ginia Com­mon­wealth Univer­sity, said the re­cent events in Vir­ginia pol­i­tics rep­re­sent a fail­ure of moral lead­er­ship.

“Can these men lead? The an­swer has to be no. We have to find black­face un­ac­cept­able in any form for pub­lic of­fice,” he said.

The event also sought so­lu­tions to the cur­rent po­lit­i­cal prob­lems fac­ing Vir­ginia.

Perry said that in or­der to get to heal­ing, the state needs to be led by a woman, prefer­ably a black woman. He sug­gested Sen. Jen­nifer McClel­lan, D-Rich­mond, as a po­ten­tial can­di­date for the next gover­nor.

“She has a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence at the state level and would be ready on day one,” he said.

ALEXA WELCH EDLUND/TIMES-DIS­PATCH

Race Capi­tol founder Chelsea Higgs Wise (left) and Na­tive Amer­i­can ac­tivist Vanessa Bolin (right) knelt Sun­day as Elegba Folk­lore So­ci­ety founder Ja­nine Bell (not pic­tured) poured li­ba­tions at the start of a rally at the Lump­kin’s Slave Jail site in Rich­mond’s Shockoe Bot­tom.

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