400 Years Later, Virginia Must Embrace the #BlackWomensWave and Elect a Black Woman Speaker of the House
Virginia’s tide is high — Tuesday’s blue wave rolled in with an expected force. The #BlackWomensWave, however is what everyone should have seen coming. Four hundred years after the first known Africans came to these shores and four hundred years after the House of Burgesses was established to legislate us as property, now is the time to turn this ship in a new direction. Black women with a progressive agenda may be the key to steer us off the steady and familiar course of “The Virginia Way” that has halted progress for so long. Tuesday’s historic election is possible thanks to the consistent work of grassroots organizers. The #BlackWomensWave in Virginia and across the country is rising up to move us beyond representation and influence and into formal leadership and power, especially within the Democratic Party where we have been loyal to for so long.
If steering this ship in a different route is what the party truly wants for the Commonwealth, it means the same people who created the problems, shouldn’t be granted the authority to solve them. Look, we have known since the beginning of time that we possess the answers we seek, and after Tuesday, we are perfectly positioned to implement our collective power. Knowing that black women aren’t new to this, there’s a clear tone change from “y’all aren’t listening to black women” to “y’all fittin to listen to black women.”
Gratefully, in this 400th year, Del. Lashrecse Aird, a representative from the 63rd House District Virginia is challenging Democrats to live up to the “Stand with Black Women” catchphrases they so quickly offer up on the campaign trail. Here is a critical opportunity to cash the check you’ve written. Help lift this capable, black mother shift from visibility and influence, to formal leadership and power.
Although having a black woman as speaker of the house would be a first for the Commonwealth, Lashrecse Aird knows what it takes to be a pioneer. She is the youngest woman ever elected to the Virginia House of Delegates. While most of us were still in bed recovering from Tuesday night’s victory celebration, Delegate Aird was already at work launching her speakership campaign with her 60 day plan. Normally, this sort of public campaign isn’t held for a position voted on within the body, however when word spread that the executive elections would be held in less than a week, instead of the usual late November scheduling, Del. Aird knew she had to be innovative — a quality any good leader must possess.
Delegate Aird’s record has led the way for safe education. For example, Del. Aird is signed on to support the Healthy Communities Secure Care legislation — legislation that calls for Black youth to be held, not in adult like prisons, but facilities akin to secure group homes. This past October, Delegate Lashrecse Aird made a bold move to pen an op-ed calling for energy economy reform. And less than a month later, she is sitting on the moral high ground while the Democrats are forced to confront their addiction to corporate money. Despite her capabilities and experience of pushing the status quo standards, Aird still faces barriers because of her age, race, and gender. She has been told:
Wait your turn.
It will never happen.
You’ll be too black.
So, in a time where white people are constantly grappling with the complexity of equity and alliship, Saturday displays a direct path of supporting Virginia progress.
The #BlackWomensWave is the act of not asking permission, not fearing the white rage and reclaiming our politics. It started in January when Black women descended on Richmond leading a multiracial expo hosted by Women’s March RVA. In February, we kicked off Black History Month by demanding Gov. Ralph Northam face political consequences for mocking blackness. Days later, we believed and supported Vanessa Tyson when she came forward as a survivor. We then harnessed the betrayal of the men we elected and grounded ourselves at She The People Virginia just ahead of the primaries. Then this summer Care In Action launched this past summer in Virginia and held a Black Women Vote rally the Sunday before election day that featured Alicia Garza and Kerry Washington. The event was the first of its kind for black women in the state. The Virginia Manager, Alexsis Rodgers, is also still hard at work after tuesday, spearheading the effort to organize voters to call their district reps at www.airdforspeaker.com and tell Virginia Delegates to vote this Saturday. Who can deny the value of our power?
Despite all we pour into the party, structural power continues to try us. The Commonwealth of Virginia has spent $24 million on the 400th Commemoration keeping up their juggling act of Southern conflicting narratives. The corporately funded committee running this year’s events attempted to balance celebrating the creation of the General Assembly, while avoiding the construct of racial hierarchy that was also shaped by the first General Assembly. Its appears a similar conflict is happening within the Virginia Democrats after gaining control of the House and Senate this week. Will the future of Virginia continue to be a racist wave that drowns the Commonwealth in oppressive civility for the next 400 years?
“This is so much bigger than just me.” Lashrecse Aird shared. This would be the first time a black woman would ever hold the gavel and after the 400 years we’ve had and we deserve a “Lashrecse” in office. She is ripe to make history. As the Speaker of the House she would have the role of being the boss on the floor when people show out, give boss-like authority over who chairs the committees (the place where all progressive bills go to die) and finally, the speaker provides referrals to the clerk on legislation to the appropriate committee. These are real stakes and the #BlackWomansWave has positioned Delegate Lashrecse Aird to give Virginia real solutions that benefit everyone. Delegate Aird is the voice we all need and deserve.
The #BlueWave provided an opportunity for progressive black women leaders to pull the entire party left. Per history, black women get representation just, but expected to be the Democratic token, playing her role that allows black womeness to become palatable within the white dominant political culture. Stepping in her destiny against the Blue Wave status quo that placed black women into office, is an impossible position, but Delegate Aird’s speakership is doing just that. Saturday, November 9th will be the first opportunity for a black woman to translate her progressive views into liberation for all, whereas before black woman leadership has been blocked by patriarchal structure. When we empower black women with progressive policies and the authority to execute their vision, we’ll have a chance at the future Virginia has been waiting 400 years for. Give her the gavel.