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Attorney General Herring apologizes for wearing blackface in the 1980s

Following Governor Ralph Northam’s admission that he darkened his skin for a Michael Jackson contest in 1984, Attorney General Mark Herring acknowledged Wednesday that he once wore blackface to a college party nearly 40 years ago.

Capital News Service

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By Corrine Fizer

Following Gov. Ralph Northam’s admission that he darkened his skin for a Michael Jackson contest in 1984, Attorney General Mark Herring acknowledged Wednesday that he once wore blackface to a college party nearly 40 years ago.

“In 1980, when I was a 19-year-old undergraduate in college, some friends suggested we attend a party dressed like rappers we listened to at the time, like Kurtis Blow, and perform a song,” Herring wrote in a public apology.

“It sounds ridiculous even now writing it. But because of our ignorance and glib attitudes – and because we did not have an appreciation for the experiences and perspectives of others – we dressed up and put on wigs and brown makeup.”

Herring stated that this was a one-time occurrence and that he accepted full responsibility for the incident. He said that “the shame of that moment has haunted me for decades” but that “this conduct is in no way reflective of the man I have become in the nearly 40 years since.”

“That conduct clearly shows that, as a young man, I had a callous and inexcusable lack of awareness and insensitivity to the pain my behavior could inflict on others,” Herring said. “It was really a minimization of both people of color, and a minimization of a horrific history I knew well even then.”

Herring issued his statement five days after the discovery of a racist photo on Northam’s page of the 1984 yearbook for Eastern Virginia Medical School. The photo showed a man in blackface and another in a Ku Klux Klan robe.

On Friday night, Northam said he was in the photo and apologized. However, on Saturday afternoon, he said that he wasn’t in the picture but that he had worn blackface to a dance party as a part of his Michael Jackson costume.

On Saturday night, Herring, the 57-year-old attorney general, called on Northam to resign.

“It is no longer possible for Governor Northam to lead our Commonwealth and it is time for him to step down,” Herring said in a statement. “I have spoken with Lieutenant Governor Fairfax and assured him that, should he ascend to the governorship, he will have my complete support and commitment to ensuring his success and the success of our Commonwealth.”

If Northam resigns, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax is first in line to become governor. But this week, Fairfax has faced an accusation of sexually assaulting a woman almost 15 years ago. Fairfax has denied the allegation, called it a smear campaign and asserted that his interaction with the woman was consensual.

Unlike Northam and Fairfax, Herring has suggested the possibility of stepping down in his admission.

“In the days ahead, honest conversations and discussions will make it clear whether I can or should continue to serve as attorney general,” said Herring, who announced in December that he planned to run for governor in 2021.

“But no matter where we go from there, I will say that from the bottom of my heart, I am deeply, deeply sorry for the pain that I cause with this revelation.”

Northam, Fairfax, and Herring are all Democrats. If both the governor and lieutenant governor resign, the attorney general would become governor. If the attorney general should also resign, succession would fall to the speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates, Republican Kirk Cox.

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The Capital News Service is a flagship program of VCU’s Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture. In the program, journalism students cover news in Richmond and across Virginia and distribute their stories, photos, and other content to more than 100 newspapers, television and radio stations, and news websites.

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Downtown

Stoney administration commits $25-50 million for commemoration, memorialization of “complete history”

The first investment of $3.5M will fund the Shockoe Area Memorial Park campus.

RVAHub Staff

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Surrounded by members of the Shockoe Alliance on Tuesday, Mayor Stoney committed to funding a capital improvement budget amendment of between $25 and 50 million in the city’s five-year CIP plan specifically for the commemoration and memorialization of what he calls “Richmond’s complete history.”

The mayor asserted that the shared priority of the Shockoe Alliance and city leadership is embracing and “telling the truth about Richmond’s history, centralizing the turmoil, resistance, resilience, and triumphs of Black Richmond.”

“Black lives built this city. Black lives have defined Richmond’s history. They matter,” Stoney said. “The story of Black lives should span our skyline, our landscape, and our textbooks accordingly.”

Priority investments will include the Shockoe Area, various African American burial grounds, and the Slave Trail. The effort will begin with a $3.5 million investment in the Shockoe Area Memorial Park.

The memorial park, a vision developed by the Shockoe Alliance and informed by decades of community work in the area, will use greenspace and structural sites such as a heritage center or museum to create a space of memorialization, education, and atonement.

The space will encompass the African American Burial Ground, the Devil’s Half Acre site, and the two blocks east of the railroad tracks that may constitute a future archeological site.

“In this city, we care about our history. We are our history, no matter how painful that may be to confront, and we are committed to telling our full story,” said Mayor Stoney. “That story, and so rightfully that investment, begins here. On the ground of Shockoe, and in honor of our ancestors.”

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Crime

Richmond reschedules National Night Out events due to COVID-19 concerns

Events will be tentatively rescheduled for October 6th, 2020.

RVAHub Staff

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Due to COVID-19 concerns, the Richmond Police Department is rescheduling this year’s National Night Out.

National Night Out will be tentatively held on Tuesday, October 6, 2020.

“We will continue to monitor the COVID-19 conditions in Richmond,” police said in a release. “Please watch RPD’s social media sites for updates.”

National Night Out is designed to heighten crime and drug prevention awareness, generate support for, and participation in, local anti-crime efforts, strengthen neighborhood spirit and police‐community partnerships, and send a message to criminals letting them know neighborhoods are organized and fighting back.

As we get closer to the rescheduled date, RPD will provide updates on the status of 2020 National Night Out.

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Downtown

Daily Planet pleads with community for water donations for homeless during heatwave

The nonprofit needs supplies to distribute to the homeless population during the hottest time of year.

RVAHub Staff

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With Richmond already experiencing its first significant heatwave of the summer, and with more expected in August, Daily Planet Health Services (DPHS) is asking those that are able to, to donate bottled water and pre-packaged, single-serve snacks to the nonprofit. The supplies will be distributed directly to the homeless living around Richmond, helping to ensure this population has the necessary resources to stay hydrated and nourished during the hottest part of the summer.

This week (July 27-31), a DPHS employee will be set up to receive donations in the parking lot of the 517 W Grace St parking lot from 8:30 a.m.-noon. If someone would like to donate water or snacks outside of that timeframe, they can call the nonprofit at 804-783-2505 x 230 to set up a donation.

74 percent of DPHS’ patients are at or below the poverty level, and as the Healthcare for the Homeless Grantee, the nonprofit serves the region’s homeless. Typically, summer and winter months are the most difficult for these populations, but given the circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, they now have even fewer resources available to them.

“With so many of the traditional places that our homeless population utilizes to cool off and hydrate during the hot summer months – like libraries, restaurants and community centers – either closed or drastically limiting capacity, many are left without an avenue to escape the heat,” said Taylor Garrett, outreach coordinator at Daily Planet Health Services. “We’ve unfortunately already seen firsthand this summer the dire impact the heat can have on the homeless population, and we’re hopeful that the Richmond community can come together to help us get nourishment to those that need it most.”

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