By Chelsea Jackson
Capital News Service
RICHMOND – A group of African-American women called for action Wednesday on issues burdening the black community, including gun violence, lack of health care and inadequate educational opportunities.
Democratic Dels. Lashrecse Aird of Petersburg, Roslyn Tyler of Sussex and Delores McQuinn of Richmond were among those who discussed the needs of black neighborhoods, which McQuinn described as “without a shadow of a doubt in a state of crisis.”
“We are demanding that our colleagues both in the party and across the aisle to begin to adopt policies that and legislation that promote equity and opportunity for all,” said McQuinn, a former Richmond City Council member.
Tyler pointed to the growing number of gun-related deaths in predominantly African-American neighborhoods of Richmond like Creighton and Mosby courts, asking where the firearms are coming from.
This legislative session, Tyler sponsored HB 721, which would have required a background check for any firearm transfer, including those at gun shows and online. The bill was killed in a subcommittee last week on a 4-2 vote. Tyler said it will be back next year.
“Requiring background checks for all firearm purchases will keep firearms out of the hands of potential criminals and keep Virginia safe,” Tyler said.
Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, addressed the issue of health care. She said many African-Americans lack access to quality care because Virginia has not expanded Medicaid coverage as neighboring states have done with incentives from the federal government.
McClellan said lack of access affects whether people seek treatment for health problems.
“You should not make a decision on whether or not to receive quality care based on whether or not you can afford it,” McClellan said.
Aird said lack of funding for schools also is a problem. She is sponsoring a budget amendment that seeks an additional $64.2 million to help at-risk children.
“If we do not provide our students with the resources that they need in the classroom,” Aird said, “we will not be able to move the dial on getting more credentials, more degrees and more training in the hands of our children.”
Del. Marcia Price, D-Newport News, called for sisterhood and solidarity in fighting racial disparities and injustices.
“We cannot continue to allow certain populations to be deprived the rights and privileges freely offered to others,” Price said. “Oppressive systems targeting black and brown Virginians must end.”
Members of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women and the NAACP attended the news conference. They encouraged people to speak out about these issues.
“When you are silent, folks in the community think you are complicit and that all is well,” said Roslyn Brock, chairman emeritus of the NAACP national board of directors. “And we know that all is not well in our communities.”