‘We need to help him grow, learn’: Groups support Northam staying governor

Clergy members are asking to stop the calls of resignation for the top leaders of the state....
Clergy members are asking to stop the calls of resignation for the top leaders of the state. (Source: NBC12)
Updated: Feb. 11, 2019 at 6:44 PM EST
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT/AP) - A group of black clergy and community leaders are asking for the people of Virginia to give Gov. Ralph Northam a second chance and unite the Commonwealth.

Meanwhile, demands for Northam’s resignation continue to surface.

Monday the Hanover County NAACP President said they condemn Northam’s actions for allowing the now viral photo to appear in his medical school yearbook.

“We believe there is sincerity in Governor Northam’s apology and that condemnation of the man is not necessary,” Robert Barnette said. “But we are talking about the leader of our Commonwealth, and those types of actions; past or present have no place in the Commonwealth.”

Northam has said it’s not him in the controversial yearbook photo and has now publicly said twice he’s not resigning.

There are a handful of organizations that have shown support for Northam despite his controversy.

“He has a good heart,” said John Boyd, Jr., president and founded of the National Black Farmers Association. “I looked in the governor’s eyes and I believe that he is sincerely sorry for what has happened.” Boyd spoke with Northam Friday about the controversy the Capitol is facing.

He stood with several organizations, including Richmond Crusade for Voters, asking the public to give him a chance to right his wrongs.

“I don't have any excuses for what I did in my early life but I can just tell you that I have learned,” Northam said in his most recent national interview. “I have a lot more to learn."

Boyd and former Richmond City Councilman Chuck Richardson said his racist act from the 80’s, wearing blackface as part of his Michael Jackson costume, does not define him.

“We believe almost every person cultivated in a racist environment of the Southern United States in the last half of the 20th century has been influenced by, participated in, associated with or is guilty of what the governor has been accused of,” Richardson said. “His tenure as governor thus far is inconsistent with those who would portray him as a racist.”

Richardson added Northam stood up for African-Americans on the campaign trail.

When Northam’s opponent stated confederate monuments should stay in place, Northam felt differently, stating they should be put in museums.

“It took political courage for him to do that,” Richardson said.

While the public hasn't heard directly from the Governor in nearly a week and a half, Northam has talked to nationally recognized media.

“I have also learned why the use of blackface is so offensive, and yes I knew it in the past,” Northam said in his recent television interview. “But reality has really set in.”

“We need to help him to grow and help him learn about some of the pain that we feel, so that he can better move Virginia to a better, more united Commonwealth," said the Rev. Rodney Hunter, of Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church.

However, now criticism is setting in about Northam’s use of the term “indentured servants” instead of slaves in his most recent interview.

Kara Boyd, an enrolled member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, claims she is a direct descendant of Phillip Gowen, one of the many Africans who landed in Jamestown in 1619.

She’s calling on the public to look into history and learn more about each other.

“Pull up my ancestor’s indentured servant papers, Phillip Gowen,” Boyd said. “Read about John Gowen, who was an indentured servant who came from Angola, and who after he finished his indentured servant-hood, became a pig farmer in Tidewater Virginia.”

Boyd appeared to show support for Northam and his description of Africans when they first arrived in Virginia.

“During a recent event at Fort Monroe, I spoke about the arrival of the first Africans in Virginia and referred to them in my remarks as enslaved,” Northam said in a statement provided to CNN. “A historian advised me that the use of indentured was more historically accurate — the fact is, I’m still learning and committed to getting it right.”

According to the Associated Press, historians said Northam wrongly used the term “indentured servants”.

Davidson College professor Michael Guasco said historians used the term in the past to describe the small group of Africans who arrived because a few of them became free decades later, but added records show the first Africans in Virginia arrived as slaves and most remained so.

According to the National Museum of African American History & Culture, some Africans were sometimes treated more like indentured servants who were freed once their service ended or debt had been paid.

“However, this changed dramatically in 1641 when Massachusetts became the first British mainland colony to legalize slavery,” the website states. “From that time forward, colonial slave laws became more restrictive, further codifying the institution.”

“This has been a week that has been very eye-opening for me,” Northam said in his interview.

Several of the groups would like to meet with Northam in the future to discuss ways of helping Virginia move forward.

As for a statement on Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax’s allegations, they support his call for an investigation.

Fairfax has denied the allegations and has called for an investigation.

No comments were made regarding the attorney general.

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