Black College Student Leader Asks Virginia Gov. Northam to Stay off Campus for Now in Wake of Blackface Scandal
Laura Vozzella, Washington Post, February 20, 2019
A student leader at the historically black college where Gov. Ralph Northam plans to launch his “reconciliation tour” Thursday has asked him to stay away for now, saying the governor’s blackface scandal would detract from a civil rights event that is also taking place on campus.
Richmond’s Virginia Union University is slated to honor the Richmond 34 — students arrested in 1960 for holding a sit-in at the whites-only lunch counter at Thalhimers department store — on Thursday.
For that reason, Student Government Association President Jamon K. Phenix wrote to Northam this week, it would be better for the governor not to come.
In an interview Wednesday with The Washington Post, Phenix said he discussed the matter with University President Hakim J. Lucas. Phenix said the president told him he understood his concerns but he cannot turn the governor away.
“He’s decided that he cannot disinvite him,” Phenix said. “If the sitting governor of the commonwealth shows up, he has to let him in.”
If the governor goes through with plans to visit the campus on Thursday, Phenix said he and others plan to “silently dissent” by wearing black.
Turning Northam away — even temporarily — would be a blow to the governor as he and Virginia’s two other top officeholders try to dig their way out of an avalanche of scandals.
But Phenix, saying Northam had committed “a heinous act,” made no apologies for taking a tough stand against Thursday’s planned appearance.