Richmond community leaders weigh in after chaotic week at the Capitol

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RICHMOND, Va., (WRIC) —  For the first time in a week, Governor Ralph Northam sat down with the Washington Post and said he’s focusing the remainder of his term on racial equality in the Commonwealth.

8News spoke with community leaders who want to see action over words.

“Let’s put some work behind it and put some things in place to show some reconciliation, if that’s your true spirit. Or are you just saying this cause you got caught,” said Pastor Robert Winfree. “We have to learn how to forgive, but we also want to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.”

It’s been a week of Capitol chaos starting with Governor Ralph Northam’s racist photo scandal, then Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax’s sexual assault allegations and Attorney General Mark Herring’s admitted blackface.

Lawmkers, community leaders, and voters throughout the state have been calling for resignations.

“Who’s to say the replacement might not have some of those same issues,” said Winfree. 

Two Richmond community leaders would rather open a discussion than immediately react.

“Not just talk about the pain and suffering that you’ve endured, we understand that that’s why we’re coming together, but what can we do now to help heal those wounds,” said United Communities Against Crime Executive Director Charles Willis. 

They also acknowledge the Northam and Herring incidents did happen a long time ago during a different time.

“If we were to go back with a mi-optic view and analyze each and every candidate, we’ll find something,” said Winfree. 

Both Winfree and Willis agree the pictures are not healing the Commonwealth. 

“The community elects the leaders to lead, not to bleed,” said Willis.  “And right now we’re bleeding. If you see that and you see people hurting it is time to take a position on your own. Don’t be forced out, go out with dignity, go out with respect if that’s what needs to happen.”

Both men say they would like to see an open discussion between these elected officials and the communities they serve about how Virginia can move forward from this scandal.

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