NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The Virginia State Conference NAACP is hoping the General Assembly can pass laws to make the state more equitable for Virginians, especially Black Virginians.
The organization released a three-page list of actions they hope the legislature can accomplish in 2021 but during a virtual press conference on Friday, board members shared their top seven priorities.
“The Virginia NAACP looks forward to advocating in every corner of the commonwealth and legislatures are going to hear the voices of the NAACP and Virginians of color this session,” said Da’Quan Love, the executive director of the organization.
Love became the executive director at the beginning of this year and is only the sixth executive director in the state conference’s history.
He says their goal is to make sure laws passed will positively affect Black Virginians and Virginians of color.
The top priorities listed at Friday’s press conference were:
- Declaring systemic racism as a public health crisis in Virginia.
- Enacting automatic expungement and prevent barriers to expungement for misdemeanors and certain involuntary offenses.
- Ending qualified immunity for police
- Expanding broadband across communities
- Expanding funding for COVID-19 vaccine distribution
- Establishing and funding statewide air quality study
- Making the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion a permanent office.
Love says their priorities are ambitious, but they’re excited for the opportunity to build on previous successes from past sessions.
“We know there are so many inequities in the commonwealth, from education to broadband access, to healthcare and ensuring equitable issuing of the vaccine,” he said. “So many of our lives are impacted by the General Assembly and we’re asking for legislatures to put Black Virginians as their priority and we’ll be advocating for them. “
With 2021 being a big election year in Virginia, Love says they will also focus on expanding and protecting voting rights. Some of their solutions include more access to early voting by incorporating Sunday voting.
“Without the right to vote, Virginians of color and Virginians across the commonwealth aren’t able to make their voices heard,” he said.
With social justice being brought to the forefront over the last year, they’re hopeful more people will realize how much change is needed.
“The reality is, Black Virginians and Virginians of color have experienced systemic racism and the effects of systemic policies for many years, over 400 years. We are aware of the present reality and we hope this brings [it] to light to folks who did not understand before now just how vital it is that we [not only] root out systemic racism in the hearts of everyday people, but in the codes of Virginia,” he said.
Love says they’ll work with local and college chapters to advocate in front of legislators to get their priorities accomplished. While they are working to make sure these issues that Black Virginians are dealing with are addressed, Love says making the commonwealth more equitable helps all.
“We know when Black Virginians, Virginians of color are lifted up, they have the opportunity to live a just and equitable life. Everyone in the commonwealth will be able to do so. We have to make sure we are advancing the Commonwealth of Virginia forward and not backwards,” he said.
To read the full list of their priorities, click here.
To learn more about the Virginia State Conference NAACP, click here.
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