"Juneteenth is a time to recommit ourselves to the work that remains undone. We remember that even in the darkest hours, there is cause to hope for tomorrow’s light." -Barack Obama
Juneteenth is a celebration of the day in 1865 that the remaining enslaved people in the United States learned of their freedom — some two-and-a-half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued. The day has regained urgency this year, and Virginia NOW and National NOW join with all those seeking racial justice to re-commit to working together to build a more equitable society.
We would like to share with our readers a personal commentary in the June 19th issue of Virginia Mercury by Kai’eshia Cole. She is an organizer with NextGenVirginia, where she works with Historically Black Colleges and Universities to register and engage young voters in the political process. She lives in Norfolk. Her full commentary is here.
"In the year 2020, Juneteenth has painfully regained its importance — and grown in prominence — as we face a system that is still not here for us, a pandemic that affects our community at the highest rate, and a trend of unconscionable violence against our community. With the deaths of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Toni McDade, Dion Johnson, Robert Fuller, Rayshard Brooks, and so many other unnamed Black people, we are reminded of the harsh events that our ancestors had to overcome....
"Blacks in the United States are telling the world that we are not fighting for any form of supremacy, but simply the opportunity to own our existence without disruption.
"That is what Juneteenth should symbolize for us all."
Steps - small and large - must be taken. Gov. Ralph Northam announced that he intends to mark Juneteenth as a permanent paid state holiday, starting by giving state employees a day off today. Forty-seven states have already recognized it as either a state or ceremonial holiday. The full statement is here.
Today, we re-commit ourselves to racial justice.
Connie Cordovilla, President
Pat Reuss, Executive VP
Marj Signer, Legislative VP
Read the New York Times' project 1619, which aims to reframe the country’s history "by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the center of the national narrative."
WASHINGTON – Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell made a devil’s bargain to stack the federal judiciary with ultra-conservative judges, cementing opposition to women’s rights, workers’ rights, immigrant rights, LGBTQ freedoms and environmental protections for generations to come.
The U.S. Senate has confirmed 196 judges nominated by President Trump, including two associate justices of the Supreme Court, 51 judges for the U.S. Court of Appeals, 141 judges for U.S. District Courts, and two judges for the U.S. Court of International Trade. That adds up to almost 30% of the entire federal bench, and Trump’s appointment total in less than four years matches what Barack Obama and George W. Bush accomplished in eight.
The murder of George Floyd has renewed our resolve to build a more equitable society.
Since NOW’s founding, racial justice has been a core issue, but dismantling racism requires more of us than protesting. And the burden must not be on the shoulders of people of color. We believe the best way to honor the memory of George Floyd and all the other victims of racism is to work with allies to dismantle racial injustice. We present just some of the resources available. Please look at Black Lives Matter - prayerful, angry, reflective.
Take Action With and Support Organizations Working for Change (we offer these resources with thanks to Charlottesville NOW President Charlotte Gibson for her research and leadership):
4PM, TODAY, WEDNESDAY JUNE 10
The Women's March and Poor People's Campaign Zoom webinar about understanding and transforming white womanhood in the pursuit of true racial justice.
5PM, THURSDAY, JUNE 18
A discussion on the Equal Rights Amendment and its impact on the rights of girls and women of color. Panelists include Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy, Jamia Wilson, Soraya Chemaly, Ilyasah Shabbaz, Ashley Sawyer, and Mona Sinha. Facebook and Zoom. Sign up
Fight for equality with the NAACP’s "We are done dying" campaign. Donate to the NAACP or join the NAACP . You can also donate to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund .
The Bail Project, Inc. combats mass incarceration at the front end of the system. The National Revolving Bail Fund pays bail for people in need, reuniting families and restoring the presumption of innocence. Because bail is returned at the end of a case, donations to the fund are recycled and reused to pay bail multiple times, maximizing the impact of every dollar donated. In Virginia, you can donate directly to the Richmond Community Bail Fund https://rvabailfund.org
A national organization, Higher Heights for America, and its sister organization Higher Heights Leadership Fund are building the political power and leadership of Black women from the voting booth to elected office and creating the environment for Black women to run, win and lead to advance progressive policies.
From Corinne Shutack in Medium August 2017 (and continually updated to remain relevant today) there is 75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice .
Continuously Educate Yourself
Fairfax County library's website resources on fighting racism include books, movies, television programs, and more, most readily accessible.
From Ms. Magazine, award-winning historian Keisha N. Blain shares some of the most vital books to read on race: Recommended Books by Women to Understand the Uprisings
The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture has just launched Talking About Race , an online portal to help individuals, families, and communities talk about racism, racial identity and the way these forces shape every aspect of society. The portal provides digital tools, online exercises, video instructions, scholarly articles and more than 100 multi-media resources tailored for educators, parents and caregivers--and individuals committed to racial equality.
Coursera has curated a collection of free courses from world-renowned experts and thought leaders for those who want to confront racism and learn more about social justice and racial inequality.
African Americans in most states are suffering greater impact from the pandemic. An NPR analysis on incomplete but growing data found that "in 32 states plus Washington D.C., blacks are dying at rates higher than their proportion of the population. In 21 states, it's substantially higher, more than 50% above what would be expected." The May 30 article, What Do Coronavirus Racial Disparities Look Like State By State includes a great visual representation.
Virtual Bi-annual state conference: July 18, including election of officers.
Notice of National NOW de-activation of local chapters for non-compliance.
Calendar for State Council monthly meetings, events, celebrations, issue updates, elections. All VA NOW members are welcome to participate. June 6 – Saturday, 1 PM - VA NOW State Council Meeting (all are virtual meetings via Zoom), comprised of state officers, chapter leaders and regional representatives (i.e. local leaders who have no official chapter but keep us up to date on their community’s actions and events). Registration Link is:
June 23 – state primary election. (FOR HEALTH AND SAFETY REASONS, CONSIDER VOTING BY MAIL).
June 30 – Tentative VA NOW celebration of the centennial of the 19TH AMENDMENT and NOW’s 54th birthday. Details forthcoming. Ideas and volunteers welcome.
July 15 – nominations due for VA NOW, Inc. state elections. ALL OFFICES ARE UP FOR ELECTION. President Connie Cordovilla and VP Legislation Marj Signer ARE running for reelection. Open seats include Executive VP and VPs for Membership and Communications. Nominees must be NOW members for at least one year and submit a paragraph describing skills and qualifications to nominations@VANOW.org.
July 18 – Saturday, 11-3 PM. Virtual bi-annual State Conference. All VA NOW members welcome. NOMINATIONS FOR OFFICERS WILL BE ACCEPTED FROM THE FLOOR. If there are no contested elections for state offices, we will vote by acclimation at this meeting. Empty slots will be filled by appointment by the state President. If there are contested elections for the state offices, there will be a Candidates Forum at this meeting. Ballots will be sent and received via email. Members without email can download a ballot from the www.vanow.org website and send via USPS surface mail one week in advance. Registration Link is:
This is an official notice to VA NOW members in non-active chapters:
National NOW has completed the process of certifying all state and local NOW chapters. This includes checking on their status, their tax forms filed, annual reports to national, a certain number of meetings and activities, at least two active officers and a current checking account. Virginia NOW and the Charlottesville, Fredericksburg, Loudoun County and Montgomery County (Blacksburg) chapters were deemed active. De-activated chapters include Alexandria, Arlington, Prince William, NOVA, Richmond, Tidewater, Vienna Area and Williamsburg. Rockbridge Chapter needs to be in contact with me by June 16th to confirm their status and action plan.
Members in these former chapters will become at-large members of the state chapter. If you would like to reactivate your chapter or serve as a regional representative from your community to the state VA NOW, please contact me at the email, phone or address listed below:
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The murder-by-police of George Floyd shocked us to our core, broke our hearts, and enraged our sense of justice. Racial justice is at the core of NOW’s mission, and today, our membership is united in our determination to break down the foundation of racism, discrimination, and brutality at the core of law enforcement. We demand that corrupt and murderous police be prosecuted and that policies are enacted that ensure transparency and accountability in the vetting, hiring and supervision of law enforcement officers. NOW passed a resolution in 2018 calling for increased police accountability and impartial oversight of law enforcement to eradicate racially motivated excessive use of force, and we redouble these demands today.
NOW Vice President Christian Nunes says,
“What is happening in our country today is a response to the continued disregarded cry for peace our black brothers and sisters have been making for years. It is a reaction to the systematic racism, discrimination, daily racial micro aggressions, and the prejudiced response to their race as nothing more than a threat that deserves violent submission. It is not up to the black community to dismantle a system of oppression they did not create, but it is up to all allies to stand up, speak out, and make intentional and purposeful movements of solidarity. It is up to organizations, agencies, and law enforcement departments to deconstruct policies and practices that feed oppression, racism, and violence, and transform them into practices that promote racial equity and safety. It is challenging your own personal and/or organizational biases so that you can begin to create the narrative that communities of color are assets and not threats. It is creating a world where black skin means life and not death.”
NOW members, Black, Brown, Native American, Latina, and White have long stood up and named police brutality, calling out the system of white privilege not just as it is experienced by racially diverse members of society but also as it advantages white people. We are in this together as witnesses, united, standing shoulder to shoulder.For the first time we are seeing police officers join the marches and protests against police brutality. Change is happening. We are a driving force for change. We call on training academies and departments to teach de-escalation tactics instead of shoot first.
We applaud the community leaders, activists and grassroots protesters who are marching for justice all across the nation, and we are inspired by Black women Mayors like Keisha Lance Bottoms of Atlanta, Muriel Bowser of Washington, DC, and Lori Lightfoot of Chicago who are beacons of justice in these dark times. We are encouraging NOW members to join community meetings to speak their truth to power in the coming days and weeks.
Injustice to anyone is an injustice to all. We are all in this together. Our determination, outrage, and moral courage will not fail us as we redouble our efforts to end the violence and defeat injustice.