A group of black elected officials and activists in Virginia have signed a letter calling for the resignation of both Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring, and said it was not enough for the two men to simply apologize for previously wearing blackface.
While the letter signatories, led by the Virginia Black Politicos executive committee, want the two men to resign, they also laid out a list of sweeping policy demands of Northam and Herring should they continue to remain in office.
“Our preference is that he resign,” said Charlottesville City Councillor Wes Bellamy, who first stormed onto the national scene after the 2017 white nationalist protests in Charlottesville. “But as he’s made it clear that he’s not going to do so, we are willing to listen first to what he’s going to do to make amends.”
Bellamy told BuzzFeed News that if their needs are not met that Northam can expect for them to make the rest of his term “hell.”
“This is my friend. That’s why it hurts,” he added. “It’s personal. I’m not saying he’s perfect, and I don’t agree with how he’s handled the situation. There can be no reconciliation without a reallocation or a redistribution of resources.”
The letter signers want to see the removal Confederate statues and memorials from public spaces and a "business equity fund" to "help boost and support minority-owned businesses with an emphasis on African-American owned businesses" in Virginia.
The group said Northam should create an office “to assist the Governor with matters specifically pertaining to African-Americans, Indigenous, and people of color,” marijuana decriminalization, a commitment that staff is at least a quarter people of color, and a public apology together with a commitment to pledge $5 million to each of Virginia’s historically black colleges and universities.
Black officials in the state should boycott the Black History Month reception at the governor’s mansion, set to take place on Wednesday, the letter states.
The letter was delivered Monday, according a group spokesperson.
“It is not fair for either the Governor or Attorney General to be able to tell us how they are sorry, set their own stage for what they will do, nor is it wise to pretend as if this will simply blow over,” the letter says.
The group lambasted both elected officials for admitting they wore blackface.
“As you are now aware, blackface was a derogatory and racist practice of white performers some 200 years ago used to mock enslaved Africans during minstrel shows. It was, has, and will always be offensive. The revelations of your actions cut deep,” the letter stated.
The letter also acknowledges the sexual assault allegations against Justin Fairfax, calling for an investigation into them: “Mr. Fairfax as well as many others have called for a full investigation into this matter, and we are joining that list. If Mr. Fairfax is guilty of any of the allegations made against him, he needs to resign from his position immediately.”
The people named in the memo are members of the Virginia Black Politicos executive committee, and the dozens of other signees will be in attendance at a protest at the governor’s mansion on Wednesday, the organizers said.
“If he doesn’t want to be on the wrong side of [history], then he needs to make sure the resources are spread in abundance for the people who got him elected and who have been carrying [the Democratic] party,” Bellamy said.
Northam has so far refused to resign over a racist photo in his medical school yearbook page and has been working on recalibrating his legislative agenda to focus on race and equality.