RICHMOND, Va. — Gov. Ralph Northam has agreed to not participate in a “Faith, Identity & Social Justice” program after students at Virginia Union University asked him to reconsider the school’s invite as not to “detract from the historical significance of the date.
“While I appreciate @VAUnion1865’s invitation to attend tomorrow’s chapel service, I respect the wishes of the student body. In lieu of my attendance, I will host the Richmond 34 at the Executive Mansion on Friday to honor their bravery and courage.” Northam tweeted Thursday.
The university’s student government issued a statement Tuesday asking the governor to reconsider his attendance after he was invited to attend a “Faith, Identity & Social Justice” program during Thursday’s chapel service.
The university said Northam would attend as “part of his promise to start a conversation about racial injustice and the need for reconciliation where he intends to listen, learn, and continue to grow as a leader,” following his college yearbook blackface scandal, but students think that his presence would detract from the historical significance of the date.
“The students of Virginia Union are aware of your plans to attend our upcoming Richmond 34 commemoration service, “Faith, Identity and Social Justice.” It is our understanding that you are seeking to gain atonement from your past actions while simultaneously affirming your constituents that you hold true to your beliefs in leading Virginia forward,” the statement read. “We are in support of an honest conversation around race and reconciliation to move our great state forward. However, we feel as though your attendance takes away from the historical significance of our commemoration of the Richmond 34. Respectfully, we ask that you reschedule your visit to a later date this spring. It is with pleasure that we extend an invitation for you to participate in a roundtable discussion and interview on ways we can all move Virginia forward.”
Northam has refused numerous calls for his resignation in the days and weeks after the blackface scandal broke.