Across the state, people woke up to scenes of cars on fire, citizens being doused with tear gas and pepper spray and buses full of people who have been detailed but have been waiting for processing for hours. These bleak images on the news aren’t grainy black and white footage from cameras in 1964 during the height of the Civil Rights Movement in Selma or Montgomery. This is what is happening to citizens in the streets of Richmond in 2020.
Over the past weekend, our neighbors have taken to the streets to protest against the modern day lynching of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis and countless others who have been unnecessarily killed. But the problem isn’t just other cities. Right here in Richmond, Marcus David Peters, an unarmed high school biology teacher with no criminal history, was shot in 2018 by a police officer.
All of us need to be outraged. All of us need to be angry. But putting a Black Lives Matter hashtag on social media isn’t enough. Changing the name of a Richmond street to Arthur Ashe Boulevard is an honor, but it doesn’t actually provide any relief to people. If we actually want to see results...if we actually want to see a change in how Black and brown people are treated, then guess what? We have to actually do something.
Several years ago, New Virginia Majority worked with the Richmond Transparency and Accountability Project (RTAP), a coalition that was started in order to force the Richmond Police Department to be more transparent and accountable, to demand that the department release data on its policing practices. Some goals were achieved toward greater transparency, but there is still work to be done.
Since then, our friends and allies at RTAP have requested a citizen review board that would be an independent body composed of our neighbors, with seats for Black and brown residents and those who live in heavily policed districts in order to review police behavior. In addition, the coalition has asked the police department to create the Marcus Alert, which would train police officers in crisis intervention techniques and make the presence of mental health experts mandatory along with officers, rather than continuing to give officers the option to resort to lethal force when dealing with a citizen in distress.
At the state level, we should take this a step further and have citizen review boards in every locality across the Commonwealth. Additionally, Virginia must change its open records laws to ensure that officer misconduct information and disciplinary histories are not shielded from the public.
Last year, we launched the Central Virginia Court Watch Initiative, created in response to the disproportionate representation of people of color and the poor in the criminal justice courts that feed into a system of mass incarceration. Court Watch uses community members to record and document court activities in order to gather data to spotlight bias or trends in sentencing.
We are at a crucial crossroads across the nation and across the commonwealth. It is time to demand more of our leaders. It is time to support each other through action and not just words. It is time to finally ensure that all of us are actually equal in practice, not just in theory.
Alexandria, Va. - Today at 1 p.m., Tenants and Workers United (TWU) along with New Virginia Majority (NVM) will call on Governor Northam via Zoom to provide 10,000 tests over the next ten days to begin to accurately assess and address the spread of the virus, housing solutions to safely isolate, and the medical needs of the Arlandria neighborhood in Alexandria.
Arlandria is primarily Latino, and as of yesterday 55% of the 572 tests given in Arlandria were positive. This rate of infection in this community of 16,000 is equivalent to global hot spot areas such as Queens, New York, Wuhan, China and Milan, Italy. Only concerted government action will control this outbreak, save lives and prevent even further community spread.
Evelin Urrutia, executive director of TWU said, "in our community, testing a person, finding them sick with coronavirus and then sending them back to a one-bedroom apartment where four other people live is a potential death sentence, and at the [very] least a formula for wider community spread. Arlandria residents need to work to survive...most work in construction, care and service [industries] and this community spread, if not addressed, will surely impact the entire region.”
Jon Liss, co-executive director of NVM, joins TWU in calling for the governor to immediately address what is happening in the Arlandria community. "Before the governor considers reopening the state he needs to leave the governor's mansion and see what is happening here. Without thousands of tests, access to isolated housing, and medical treatment, Arlandria residents face more illness and for some, death," said Liss.
To join the Zoom press conference or speak with staff, contact Debra Freeman at 757-452-1143 or email@example.com.
New Virginia Majority builds power in working-class communities of color, in immigrant communities, among LGBTQ people, women, youth, and progressives across the Commonwealth. We organize for racial and economic justice through large-scale political education, mobilization and advocacy around dozens of issues. We fight for a Virginia that is just, democratic and environmentally sustainable. For more information, visit our websiteand follow us on Twitter and Facebook at @NewVAMajority
April 22, 2020
Contact: Debra Freeman, firstname.lastname@example.org, 757-452-1143
For too long, undocumented Virginians have been denied access to driving privileges in the state and not been able to participate in their communities while being free from fear.
Providing an alternative form of identification for undocumented residents is an opportunity to amend this standing injustice. New Virginia Majority applauds the General Assembly for adopting the Governor’s amendments to ensure Driver Privilege Cards are identical to state drivers licenses, and reducing its potential to make communities more vulnerable to attack.
“This is a crucial advancement for those that have waited patiently just to participate as active members in their communities, to drive themselves to work, take loved ones to appointments, and go grocery shopping for their families,” said Jon Liss, co-executive director of New Virginia Majority in response.
New Virginia Majority recognizes this as a step in the right direction for immigrant protections and toward a more inclusive Virginia. Our organizers, advocates and chapter members will continue to fight for these communities until they are granted the full protections and access to driver’s licenses in the state.
This legislative session, the General Assembly took a significant step forward by passing HB 395, which would provide much needed relief for Virginia workers by raising the state’s minimum wage, beginning January 1, 2021. On Saturday, April 11, Governor Northam chose to amend this legislation by delaying the increase from January 1, 2021 to May 1, 2021.
While New Virginia Majority supports this modest and long overdue raise for working families, we are deeply disappointed in Governor Northam’s actions. His actions do not put workers first. In fact, it delays low-wage workers the right to a living wage; many of the same workers who are considered essential during the Covid-19 pandemic. This four-month delay forces workers to struggle for an additional four months, all while facing an uncertain economy.
This moment of crisis in our commonwealth has further highlighted that low-wage workers are critical to maintaining the health and well-being of families across Virginia, and their contributions to the economy and their local communities should be valued and compensated without any additional delay.
New Virginia Majority will continue to fight for working-class families and make progress towards an economy that works for all of us.
Last week the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed $150,000 in funding for Emergency Food Assistance $200,000 in funding for a Rental Assistance Program. Many families are facing sudden unemployment or reduced wages, which has caused difficulty in meeting monthly financial obligations, and both of these actions will directly help those most in need of assistance.
La semana pasada, la Junta de Supervisores del Condado de Loudoun aprobó por unanimidad $ 150,000 en fondos para Asistencia Alimentaria de Emergencia $ 200,000 en fondos para un Programa de Asistencia de Alquiler. Muchas familias enfrentan problemas de desempleo repentinos o salarios reducidos, lo que ha causado dificultades para cumplir con las obligaciones financieras mensuales, y ambas acciones ayudarán directamente a quienes más lo necesitan.
These steps are crucial for Loudoun County residents, and particularly for undocumented immigrants and their families who have mixed immigrant statuses, as they have been left out of federal money that has been earmarked to help with the financial crisis. The actions of the board of supervisors shows other counties throughout the state that local governments can step in to assist their residents in a significant way.
Estos pasos son cruciales para los residentes del Condado de Loudoun, y particularmente para los inmigrantes indocumentados y sus familias que tienen estatus migratorio mixto, ya que se les ha dejado fuera del dinero federal que se ha destinado a ayudar con la crisis financiera. Las acciones de la junta de supervisores muestran a otros condados en todo el Estado que los gobiernos locales pueden intervenir para ayudar a sus residentes de manera significativa.
“This is a significant step as recent federal relief packages have left out many vulnerable communities. As federal relief monies are dispersed to states, localities such as Loudoun County can be a model for how to include those that will continue to be left out,” said Thomas Assefa, organizing director of New Virginia Majority.
“Este es un paso significativo ya que los recientes paquetes de ayuda federal han dejado de lado a muchas comunidades vulnerables. A medida que los fondos federales de ayuda se dispersan a los Estados, las localidades como el Condado de Loudoun pueden ser un modelo para incluir a los que continuarán siendo dejados de lado ", dijo Thomas Assefa, director organizador de la Nueva mayoría de Virginia.
Governor Ralph Northam today announced a proposal to move local elections scheduled for May to November, and for the June primaries to be delayed until June 23. In light of the social distancing measures that are essential to reducing the spread of COVID-19 in Virginia, we support the governor’s proposal and his decision to put the health and safety of voters first.
One of the most important duties of government is to keep citizens safe. If the election and primaries are allowed to happen in the midst of a pandemic that is ravaging the state, our legislative body will have overridden the needs of the people to gain political power. Holding elections on the current timetable would all but ensure low turnout, forcing voters to make an impossible decision between putting their health at risk to cast a ballot, and staying home to protect themselves and loved ones. When we limit whose voices are heard in elections, the legitimacy of our democracy is only undermined.
Delayed elections will allow time for officials to make proper adjustments to ensure the safe administration of elections and to also allow for more than a dozen bills passed by the General Assembly to take effect, including the elimination of barriers to absentee voting laws (including giving voters the option to vote by mail), making election day a state holiday, establishing automatic voter registration, and allowing alternative forms of ID. Each of these are essential to ensuring that more people have access to the polls, and creating a Virginia that works for all of us. We look forward to continuing to work with Governor Northam and election administrators to ensure smooth, free and fair elections this year.
These are remarkable times that demand leadership: Virginia does not have to be another Wisconsin. We encourage the legislature to support the governor’s proposal, and ensure that no Virginian has to choose between being safe and participating in our democracy.
Richmond, Va. – New Virginia Majority (NVM) has been fighting for the right of all Virginians to be able to vote, and this week Virginia is taking several steps to lead the way on the expansion of voting rights.
Expanding Absentee Voting Access
- No-excuse absentee voting (SB111, HB1)
- Extending timeline for mailed-in absentee ballots to be counted (HB238)
- Allowing voters to vote absentee by mail permanently (HB207)
- Allowing individuals in pre-trial detention to vote absentee by mail (HB872)
Modernizing Voter Registration
- Automatic voter registration (SB219, HB207)
- Same-day voter registration (HB201)
- Establishing state preclearance requirement to protect voting rights (HB761)
- Amending strict photo ID requirement to include other non-photo options (SB65)
“While there are more steps in the legislative process, we are heartened that these bills are advancing through the General Assembly. These proposals modernize voting in Virginia to make sure everyone who is eligible, gets a chance to make their voices heard at the ballot box,” said NVM co-executive director Tram Nguyen.
“Our democracy is strongest when all of us can participate. When we have a meaningful say in who our elected officials are, and when we have a voice in the decisions that impact our lives, we ensure a government truly representative of the people.”
For more than a decade NVM has worked to expand the electorate to be more representative of our state -- where all voices can be heard. These bills are a critical first step in the transformation of our democracy to a more inclusive and just one.
To speak with our co-executive director Tram Nguyen or our policy director Kenneth Gilliam
about expanding voter rights, contact Debra Freeman at 757-452-1143 or
New Virginia Majority builds power in working-class communities of color, in immigrant communities, among LGBTQ people, women, youth, and progressives across the Commonwealth. We organize for racial and economic justice through large-scale political education, mobilization and advocacy around dozens of issues. We fight for a Virginia that is just, democratic and environmentally sustainable. For more information, visit our website.
Statement by New Virginia Majority on Postponement of Monday's Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Advocacy Day
Nothing is more important than the health and safety of our members.
Based on information concerning armed racist militias, the militarization of the Capitol area, and the likely dispersal of many people with guns, we have decided to postpone our annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. advocacy day. History has shown us that Black and Brown people are the targets of many of these militarized groups, fearful of a more inclusive Virginia.
Our team did an outstanding job to develop protocols and recruit legal observers and marshals. However, we cannot protect our people from individuals committed to acts of violence. Our thirteen years of work has begun the transformation of our state and our decision to postpone will not keep us from continuing to advocate for a Virginia that works for all of us. We are beginning to win on critical issues - criminal justice reform, expanding democracy, immigrant rights, women’s and workers’ rights, and more.
Rest assured we will continue to make our voices known through the halls of the Capitol, and we look forward to organizing many more opportunities for our members to engage with their elected leaders.
New lawsuit alleges St. Paul’s redevelopment plan is illegally forcing out residents
Norfolk, Va., January 14, 2019 – A new federal Fair Housing Act lawsuit filed this week alleges that the city of Norfolk and the Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority, with approval and financing from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, have embarked on a redevelopment plan that forces every resident of several public housing developments in the St. Paul’s Quadrant out of their homes.
The complaint alleges that the redevelopment plan as it stands will illegally force residents into segregated housing within the city or out of Norfolk altogether before any replacement housing has been built. Further, the plan fails to provide sufficient affordable housing for their return when the area is redeveloped. The lawsuit alleges that this is another case of gentrification at the expense of the African American residents of the city.
The lawsuit was filed by Hogan Lovells, the Legal Aid Society of Eastern Virginia, and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law on behalf of residents of Tidewater Gardens and Calvert Square, the residents of the St. Paul’s Quadrant, its tenant group, a Norfolk resident long waiting for affordable housing and harmed by the demolition of the three public housing communities, and the New Virginia Majority.
The lawsuit alleges that the city and NHRA’s redevelopment plan is racially discriminatory and that HUD, by financing the plan without requiring necessary changes to assure that the African American residents of the area do not suffer racial discriminations, violated its statutory duty to further fair housing.
Tidewater Gardens, Calvert Square, and Young Terrace are three public housing communities that make up St. Paul’s Quadrant, and collectively comprise 1,674 housing units with about 4,200 residents, half of which are children and nearly all of whom are African American.
“It is very important for everyone out here to have a place to stay. But so far the process has not been fair, which is why we needed to file this case,” said Evonne Bryant, a resident of Tidewater Gardens whose home is scheduled to be demolished in Phase 1 of the Redevelopment Plan.
RICHMOND, Va. - Tonight, voters across Virginia made one thing clear: real power in the state comes from its people. With a remarkable turnout for an off-off election year, Virginians elected a majority of Democrats to the General Assembly. For the first time since 1993, Democrats govern all three legislative bodies.
“When we engage voters on the issues impacting their lives, we empower entire communities to affect change. In 2019, we knocked on over 500,000 doors, and we talked to voters about protecting their healthcare, and ensuring their children are safe in their neighborhoods and schools, regardless of where they live or where they come from,” said Maya Castillo, New Virginia Majority’s Political Director. “Voters want to see themselves and their communities reflected in the people they elect to govern Virginia, and were very clear in making that choice at the polls.”
Voters and organizers like Shana Boston were key to the Democratic victory. “This is my life’s work: going back to people who have had their rights restored to ensure they are registered to vote.” Boston voted absentee and she’s “excited to see the numbers come in, to see our team watch this victory.”
Virginia voters came out to the polls to show that they wanted their governing bodies to take a direction that will move us towards a more inclusive, reflective, and just democracy. A Virginia for all of us will enact legislation to ensure that our families are strong, that our democracy works for us, and that our communities thrive.
To speak with New Virginia Majority co-executive director Tram Nguyen about the organizing work that determined this crucial election, contact Debra Freeman at 757-452-1143 or email@example.com.
New Virginia Majority builds power in working-class communities of color, in immigrant communities, among LGBTQ people, women, youth, and progressives across the Commonwealth. We organize for racial and economic justice through large-scale political education, mobilization and advocacy around dozens of issues. We fight for a Virginia that is just, democratic and environmentally sustainable. For more information, visit our website and follow us on Twitter and Facebook at @NewVAMajority