Monthly Two Cents

Time to Face the 21st Century

by Robert Barnette

President, Hanover NAACP

The Hanover Branch of the NAACP sued the County School Board and Board of Supervisors in August, saying that Lee Davis High School and Stonewall Jackson Middle School names violate the constitutional rights of black students and their families by making them feel unwelcome and creating an unequal learning environment. Specifically, the lawsuit claims; under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, Compelled Speech claims under the First Amendment, and claims under the Equal Education Opportunity Act.

• The Equal Protection Clause protects African American members of the NAACP from being treated differently from others by Hanover County representatives.

• The First Amendment protects “free speech” but it also stops the government from forcing people to make statements they do not believe in—for example, wearing school uniforms or shirts that celebrate the Confederate soldiers and mascots.

• The Equal Education Opportunity Act requires schools to remove vestiges of segregation. The School Board has failed to do this since the 1960s when it chose Confederate names that told every African American student that s/he was not welcome in Hanover County.

The judge dismissed a motion by the School Board attorneys that the BOS did not have the authority to change the names of these two schools. Now the sole defendant of the NAACP’s lawsuit is the School Board. The School Board held a closed session meeting on November 22nd to consider resolving the lawsuit but chose to take no action.

The Hanover Branch of the NAACP held its November meeting on Tuesday, November 26th and the main topic of concern was to answer questions from the public concerning the litigation status. Kaitlin Banner and Azadeh Erfani, from the Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, were present and answered questions from the audience. Questions included; what are the next steps in the litigation process? What is the cost of the County’s attorney fees? Why did the judge dismiss the Board of Supervisors, when do you anticipate this lawsuit will be heard in court? And many other questions were asked.

Most people indicated that the Board of Supervisors should not have been dismissed because they appoint School Board representatives. Several people indicated that the cost figures for changing the name were inflated and not accurate due to other organizations such as the Band Boosters and PTAs contributing to the cost of purchasing uniforms and/or equipment.

It’s time Hanover begins thinking about what’s best for students facing the challenges of the 21st century, and not stay stuck in the past.

My Two Cents

By Ernest Mason

A few days ago, two scenes in a courtroom caught my attention. I quickly put one aside. The other I shall never forget, nor do I want to. After playing them over and over in my mind, I realize that each scene represents the atmosphere in America today. I write the following to put my thoughts into focus, and I hope these thoughts stimulate your thinking. I feel certain that a dramatic moment touched each of you.

Scene One takes place in the courtroom. An 18-year-old man addresses the young woman who has just been sentenced for shooting his brother. In clear terms, he expresses his feelings for her. He closes by telling her that he forgives her. Then he does the unthinkable and asks the judge if he may hug the prisoner. A more poignant scene has not occurred in America in quite some time. It is a scene of great beauty. The judge is so moved that she speaks to the young woman, gives her a Bible and hugs her. The woman is led away to jail for 10 years.

Scene Two takes place outside the courthouse. A crowd has gathered. Television shows people yelling, screaming and calling for more jail time.

I hope you will bear with me as I react to Scene One and let Scene Two speak for itself. I take no political stand and do not judge. I simply want you to see the real drama in Scene One, and what it says to each of us and to a political party.

That young man freed himself. He delivered himself from hate and opened the door to move on without a burden of hate or fear. He lifted a burden off his shoulders which would have haunted him for the remainder of his life. His gracious action also lifted a great burden off the young woman’s mind and outlook. No artist can produce a more beautiful picture.

America is in crisis. That needs no explanation. It needs a good dose of love, care, and healing. Therein comes the lesson. It compels us as individuals and as the Hanover County Democratic Committee to say to America, “We love you, and even with all your faults, we forgive you.”

Then we as individuals and collectively join hands and give our country a great big hug to assure her of our love. We stand together in support of her healing. We squeeze her tightly signaling that strength comes when we are linked together. Finally, we promise her that we will do everything we possibly can as individuals and as members of the Hanover County Democratic Committee to revive America’s spirit. As each of us does his or her part to revive America, she will become really great and proud again.

Sound simplistic? Remember the impact of one young man: “I forgive” — then a hug.

(Every month, the HDC newsletter features a Two Cents Column. This month, we are sharing the Two Cents of our two House Candidates: Morgan Goodman from the 55th District, and Kevin Washington from the 97th District. These are two great exciting candidates. We think you’ll like their Two Cents.)

Winning your Race

By Kevin Washington

I am pleased and truly honored to have the opportunity to represent you as your candidate for delegate for the 97th District. During the past few months, I have been able to meet residents from all walks of life, various professions, diverse ethnicities, and a wide range of socioeconomic status.

This election is about providing these many people a voice. Protecting Virginians with common-sense gun legislation, funding early childhood education, providing access to rural broadband facilities and so much more is on the line this November.

The 97th District, which encompasses much of Hanover east of U.S. 301, is an area ripe for change. It might seem to some as an opportunity of a lifetime, but an opportunity of a lifetime must be seized in the lifetime of the opportunity. At a time when the opposition is looking to silence your voice and disenfranchise voters, you must fight harder than ever. With the 30-day mark quickly approaching, we must be diligent and determined to create an environment where everyone is valued.

This is your race! This is your chance to effect change. This is your chance to have your voices heard. This is your chance for both equity and equality. I have committed to fighting as hard as I can, and I am determined to leave it all on the field! Together, as a team, we will win.

It will absolutely take each and every one of us running this race together. November 5 is about your voice being heard. It is about having a representative in the General Assembly who will be an extension of you. We are in the final leg of this race. Do not weary or grow tired. Call someone and tell them to stay motivated. Pick up someone up and take them canvassing. Get a couple of friends together and phone bank. You have exactly what it takes to win your race. You are exactly what the 97th District needs. You are the change that everyone has so patiently been waiting for. This election is about winning your race.

Team, I am calling the play: From now until November 5, commit to telling five people every day that Kevin Washington is running for House of Delegates in the 97th District. When you are at work, a church, a gas station, a grocery store, a fast-food joint — everywhere you go — explain why you are voting and encourage them to do the same. Just find five people a day and tell them. Tell them why this is their race. Run YOUR RACE and watch the amazing results.

Proud Democrat

by Morgan Goodman

Somebody asked me the other day when I knew I was a Democrat, and I will admit that I didn’t have an “aha” moment about that. It has always been the party that my belief system lined up with. My moral compass has pointed me to the party that wants to help people, regardless of their gender, race, religion, nationality, or who they love. I am proud to be a Democrat. I am proud to fight for environmental protection, equal rights, and an economy that works for everyone, not just an elite few. And I am proud to run for House of Delegates as a Democrat in a “red” district.

With everything that has been happening in the news, including the Republican call for citizens who aren’t happy to just leave the country, I did have an “aha” moment that came to mind. I remember the moment I decided that it was more important to stand up and fight for the change you believe in than to give up because you don’t like the way things are.

I was in college and having a conversation with another student, a friend of mine, who wasn’t happy about the state of the government and the degradation of our environment and trampling of our human rights. He said he wanted to move to Europe after college to get away from a system that he believed too broken to fix. And that’s when it happened, at that moment I realized that I didn’t have it in me to turn my back on the problems we faced, but stand up and fight to make this country better.

Criticizing the United States and acknowledging the problems we face does not make us un-American and it does not mean we love this country less. I am running for office because I love where I live AND because I think it could be better. I love the school my kids go to and all of the staff, but I also know that teachers deserve fair pay and the school infrastructure needs investment. Virginia has always been my home and I love it, but it isn’t perfect. We have a long way to go towards equal rights, a fair electoral system, ending the school-to-prison pipeline, and so many other issues that voters tell me at their doors. That’s why I am running for office, because I love this commonwealth and I love this country, and I want to make it a better place. We need legislators that will listen, and if they are out of touch then they need to be out of office.

Don’t listen to the calls saying you should leave if you aren’t happy with the status quo. If you don’t feel represented and you don’t like the way things are then stand up, speak up, and show up on Election Day.

How much do we value Educators?

by Steve Johnson

I know all of you are having an absolute fit every morning when you wake up, scroll over your phone or turn on the news to the Trump Outrage of the Day/Hour/Moment. It’s so easy to get worked up about it, to yell, scream and fire off an angry email or phone call to a congressman or a senator. 

Which you should continue to do. That’s all well and good. But remember, the 2020 election is still more than a year away. We have some work to do in the meantime — namely, elect our great candidates to the General Assembly so they can tip the delicate scale in the state Senate and House of Delegates in our favor. 

If you need some motivation to do something positive instead of a rant about something negative, I have two words for you: teacher salaries. In the Northam administration, we are seeing some of the best gains in teacher salaries since the 1980s. Those of you with long memories will recall that Chuck Robb campaigned way back in 1981 on raising teacher salaries in Virginia to the national median, and beyond. It was a winning formula then, but as Republicans took control of the House of Delegates and the Senate (save five years) in this millennium, Virginia has been losing ground in the ability to compensate the people we entrust with our children’s learning.

Take a look at the numbers that the Virginia Department of Education puts out. Since 2006, Virginia has topped the national median only once, and it’s generally been in 30th place nationally in compensating teachers. That’s North Dakota, Maine, and Montana territory, not to cast aspersions on those fine states. In 2017-18, Virginia was 34th nationally in average teacher salaries, about $650 more than (gasp!) Alabama. From 2009 to 2016, the average teacher salary in Virginia increased by 0.61 percent a year, hardly enough to keep up with just about anything.

To be sure, economic conditions, tight state and local budgets, and the difference between suburban and rural parts of the state all come into play. But there’s no mistaking the trendline. That’s why Gov. Northam pitched an additional $88 million to bump teacher salaries up by 5 percent. “Raising teacher pay is one step to securing the quality of our K-12 education system for years to come,” he said. Thank you, governor.

How about our own Hanover? Many factors are at play, but the fact is the average Hanover teacher salary was $47,479 in 2009; five years later it had gained only about $800. But for 2019, the average budgeted salary in Hanover exceeded the state budgeted average for the first time in recorded history ($59,051 versus $58,7149, according to state data). That’s a trendline to be proud of. But even then, it’s tempered by the realization that salaries stagnate after several years of service — longevity doesn’t seem to be as high on the list as it should be — so we lose experienced educators to other jurisdictions. 

You can do a lot of things with statistics, but the teacher salary numbers are pretty clear. Guns and health care are likely to dominate this fall’s debate for the General Assembly, and well they should. But teachers have a day-to-day effect on every single child they encounter and to shortchange them is to shortchange our kids. It’s another reason to ignore the national-level blather for a spell and work on the task at hand — giving Gov. Northam more support and more tools to raise educational attainment in Virginia.

Three-Part Two Cents

Donald Trump’s racism has served as an open door to other racists, encouraging them to come out into the sunshine. And so, 13 KKK members grabbed their sheets and held a rally in Hanover in early July. It was a short 15 minutes, but as you will see, it’s left a deep scar on our county.  

In this month’s Two Cents column, three HDC members give their response to this unwanted intrusion: Pat Hein who witnessed the demonstration taking place right outside her front door, Ashland District Supervisor Faye Prichard, the only supervisor who gave a strong response telling the Klan to stay out of our county, and Sandra Howard, the chair of the HDC Black Caucus who passionately spoke for minority citizens of Hanover. 

Let’s heal this ugly scar by winning more seats on the board of supervisors, winning seats in the State Senate, and winning seats in the House. Canvass, phone bank, write postcards and donate! Toni Radler

First Cent

By Patricia Hein

On July 7, there was a Klu Klux Klan rally across the street from my house!

I know that hatred and bigotry abound but it is easy to believe that it is “out there, someplace else” not in my front yard.

There were thirteen people gathered in front of the Hanover Government Center. They held “Royal Order of White Loyalist” signs, some wore white robes and pointed white hats. Many cars that drove past on route 301 honked their greetings ( and maybe their approval).  The experience brought me to tears. Who, Why?

Who has come to my neighborhood to express their hatred? Are these fellow Hanover citizens? Is Hanover seen as a place where such a message would be acceptable? Are they gathered on Route 301 because Rt 95 is blocked due to holiday traffic and there is good exposure here? Is this display of white supremacy now somehow acceptable because of what we hear from the White House? I have always known that our voices, leadership and votes matter. Seeing the Klu Klux Klan out my front window was sickening but also very much a call to action. I want to think that most Hanoverians believe in freedom and justice for all. We must raise our voices in our neighborhoods, churches, schools and at NRA meetings!

Second Cent

By Faye Prichard

Sadly, as many of you know, the KKK held a demonstration on the lawn of the Hanover County courthouse.  I cannot begin to express the sickness I feel at having this despicable hate group in our county. There is absolutely no room for that kind of hate in our home.  While we are often described as pretty homogeneous, the truth is we are not all one thing.  We are black and white and Hispanic.  We are men and women.  We are farmers and townspeople as well as suburbanites. But what we all are, is Hanover County citizens. Every one of us. It is particularly offensive to see this kind of display right after we celebrate the birth of our country. We are better than this and this kind of display is not welcome here.  Please know that the county had no prior notice of the demonstration.

Third Cent

by Sandra Howard

As Chairman of the Black Caucus of the  HDC, I am concerned about the Board of Supervisors' very anemic response to the KKK's appearance and demonstration in Hanover.  With the exception of Supervisor Faye Prichard, those of you who responded didn't seem too concerned that Hanover was the place the Klan picked to demonstrate and ask for membership support. And, those Board members with no response... well "the silence was deafening."

Bigotry and disdain for any human being are like cancer and it eats at the core of our Inalienable and God-given rights as our Constitution's Ninth amendment so states the concept of "inalienable rights". The Ku Klux Klan ideas represent a deadly poisonous venom spewed on black and people of color and there is no place in Hanover County or America for this deep-rooted hatred because of the color of anyone's skin. Our nation thrived on diversification and will continue to do so. We fought that war and "WON"; it ended May 9, 1865; this is 2019.  We, as Americans have too many issues to deal with these immoral and hateful acts and we will continue to stand and fight against theses vile forms of oppression.

We support the Hanover NAACP's call on the Hanover Board of Supervisors to speak out against racism and inequality and replace its cavalier message with one of dignity, moral character, and support for all of the people they serve, all people of Hanover County.

Sandra R. Howard- Chairman, The Black Caucus of the HDC