RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Senate Democrats say their faith has been shaken in the state’s executive leaders but are focused on fighting for a better Virginia.
In a statement released Friday afternoon, Senate Democrats said, “There is no place in our Commonwealth for racism or sexual assault and as more information comes to light we are committed to holding those in power accountable for their actions.”
Friday marks one week since a racist photo in Governor Ralph Northam’s medical school yearbook surfaced.
But the controversy expanded over several days as the governor admitted to wearing blackface as part of a costume for a dance competition, two sexual assault allegations made against Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax and the confession by Attorney General Mark Herring who wore blackface at a college party to imitate rapper Kurtis Blow.
Kurtis Blow, who is now a minister, released a statement referencing the ongoing controversy.
“It is unfortunate that in this current climate we are confronted with the use of blackface as a barometer of where we are as a society,” Blow stated.
Herring has not issued a statement since Wednesday. Instead, he is having “honest conversations and discussions [that] will make it clear whether [he] can or should continue to serve as attorney general.”
Following the week-long scandals that broke out at the Capitol, senators and delegates are thankful to be heading home for the weekend. But their mission is to make sure the people of Virginia know they are their primary focus.
“I’ve been a minority since I’ve been here, but I get bills passed,” Sen. Rosalyn Dance (D-Petersburg) said. “Good, substantial bills [have been] passed, because I convince my colleagues that this is good for Virginia. We have to get back to that point. People don’t see who we are. We’re not losers.”
“We need to not let people make us make moves that are not going to be good for the 8 million plus people who live here in Virginia," Dance said. “There’s been something that’s happened. It needs to be fixed, and in time it will be, but don’t divide us.”
The idea of coming together as a state and country is what Blow touched on in his statement Friday.
“I ask that we come together and focus on our commonalities and not our differences,” Blow stated. “Love is the answer. Love defeats hate. Love conquers all.”
“We’ve been challenged for the last week of how much do we know about each other,” Dance said.
Dance challenged her colleagues on the Senate floor to share what they know about black history in America.
Sen. Stephen Newman (R-Bedford County) was the first accept, explaining his interaction as a young councilman in the 60s with M.W. Thornhill, who would later become the first black mayor of Lynchburg.
“He showed me where the black and white restrooms were, showed me where the segregation was right there,” Newman said. “It brought what was old history, back to living color.”
“Let’s remember who we are," Dance said. "Let’s tell our stories and let people hear about us and the relationships we have. When you bleed, I bleed, we care about each other.”
While racism was just one focus of the controversy at the Capitol over the past week, so was sexual assault.
Fairfax had this message for Virginians as he deals with his allegation of sexual assault.
“We’ll have our say,” Fairfax said. “I’m confident in the truth.”
More than 700 people have signed a Women’s Caucus for Political Science petition supporting Dr. Vanessa Tyson’s statement of sexual assault by Fairfax.
Tyson claims Fairfax forced her into performing a sexual act. Fairfax vehemently denies those accusations.
Late Friday afternoon, a second woman came forward with a rape allegation from 2000 when both she and Fairfax were students at Duke University.
A law firm representing Meredith Watson said she was attacked in a “premeditated and aggressive” manner by Fairfax.
Fairfax called the second allegation “demonstrably false” and will work to clear his name, but that allegation has resulted in a cascade of calls for his resignation and a threat of impeachment if he does not step aside willingly.
Northam met with President of the National Black Farmers Association, John Boyd, Jr, Friday. Boyd tweeted his support for the governor and said he should not resign. Calls for Northam’s resignation began a week ago after the photo from his 1984 yearbook surfaced.
“As a caucus, as a party, and as Virginians – our diversity is our strength,” the statement reads. “As we continue our work here in Richmond for our constituents, we hope, in partnership with our colleagues in the Legislative Black Caucus, to step up and help lead this conversation as much as we listen. This weekend we will return to our districts and begin this dialogue, but that can only be the first step to reconciling our past with the bright future we envision as Democrats. As we acknowledge this, we also know that the road is long. We understand it will not be our words that will lead us through these tough times, but our actions that will lift up the voices that for far too long have been silenced."
“My message to Virginians is don’t forget who we are,” Dance said. “We’re not losers. We do love people. And love is going to win the day for us in the end.”