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Voices’ Blog

Still We Rise: Creating Black History Recap

Posted:  -  By: Chloe Edwards

Many have made calls-to-action to restore the fundamental ideals of democracy in an attempt to divide an undivided nation. Liaising bridges across partisan lines, races and ethnicities, and generations is imperative to creating an inclusive future for Virginia’s children and the nation.

While America is among the most diverse democracies in the world, much of its history includes systems of violence and discrimination that have had traumatic consequences for those directly impacted, as well as future generations and communities. Virginia was the second largest state for the importation of enslaved Africans and the number one state for the domestic slave trade. Richmond, Virginia was the epicenter of that trade with its largest revenue derived from the impact of the slave trade as a commercial enterprise. In 1619, the White Lion brought 20 slaves ashore in Jamestown, Virginia. Some historians estimate six to seven million slaves were imported, depriving Africa of its healthiest men & women. This Black History Month, Black advocates raised their voices and attested to experiences regarding police brutality, resilience despite all odds, America’s history of racism, and more through an event, “Still We Rise—Creating Black History.” Yet, for centuries, Black community members and children have been advocating to deconstruct systems that continuously leave the privileged advantaged and the oppressed disadvantaged.

  • In 1957, Daisy Bates, president of the Arkansas NAACP, recruited nine high school students to face the resistance to integration in schools in Little Rock, Arkansas. Governor Orval Faubus ordered the National Guard to bar the students from entry, stating it was “for their own protection.”
  • In 1963, thousands of students skipped classes, gathered at Sixth Street Baptist church and marched to downtown Birmingham, Alabama to advocate for desegregation. Hundreds were arrested and carried off to jail in paddy wagons and school buses. 
  • In 2020, local college students with the Virginia Student Power Network hosted a “teach-in” in front of City Hall with the intent to gather overnight and learn more about police brutality and racial inequities following the death of George Floyd. They were met by the police with tear gas, pepper spray, flash grenades, and rubber bullets, turning the learning space into a warzone.
  • In 2021, Ava Holloway, 14-year-old founder of Brown Ballerinas for Change served as a mouthpiece during a press conference to mobilize advocates in support of Delelgate Lashrecse Aird’s House Joint Resolution 537 to recognize racism as a public health crisis in Virginia.

This General Assembly Session, Delegate Lashrecse Aird’s resolution to declare racism as a public health crisis passed the Senate uncontested. This makes Virginia the first state in the South to explicitly recognize racism as a public health crisis through a declaration. The steps outlined in the resolution include priorities to:

  1. Expand the charge of the Virginia Department of Health’s Office of Health Equity to address racism as a public health crisis to ensure that statewide policy efforts are analyzed through an intersectional race equity lens and offer funding recommendations; 
  2. Retain the Commission to Examine Racial Inequity in Virginia Law as a permanent commission; 
  3. Require training for elected officials, staff members, and state employees on how to recognize and 50 combat implicit biases; 
  4. Establish a glossary of terms and definitions concerning racism and health equity; 
  5. Promote community engagement, actively engage all citizens on issues of racism, and provide 53 tools to engage actively and authentically with communities of color;

This is a stepping-stone and there is much work left to be done to ensure all children and youth lead long, successful lives, regardless of their racial or ethnic identity. As advocates, we must ensure Virginia commits to racial equity through funding and administrative staff supports. We encourage everyone to join the work of Voices for Virginia’s Children’s Racial Truth and Reconciliation Virginia Campaign year-long to stand alongside those in solidarity that experience an injustice, to ensure racism is an institutional intolerance.

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