Giving Tuesday, the global day of giving, is an opportunity to deepen a culture of philanthropy in our communities. The spirit of Giving Tuesday goes beyond the number of donations made. It’s about each and every one of us chipping in and throwing our support behind a worthy cause. It’s an attitude, a resolution and a groundswell of hope that together, we will be able to go far and build a more equitable society for all.
In that spirit, we would like to take this opportunity to recognize and give thanks to organizations that have worked with us over the course of this year – a year full of challenges and opportunities. Together, we’ve built momentum to slowly chip away at the countless injustices embedded in our systems and institutions. Our partnerships and collaboration make us stronger and more resilient, and we are deeply grateful to be part of this movement for positive change in Virginia.
Early this year, we partnered with Marijuana Justice to push for equitable marijuana reform in Virginia. We were one of the few voices that called on lawmakers to center racial justice as they considered legislation to lessen the penalty on simple marijuana possession.
Our partnership brought together a passionate, diverse group of advocates. Standing up for each other, we worked hard to show lawmakers the disparate impact of marijuana prohibition on Black and Brown people and urged them to address racial disparities head on. Our advocacy led to a study by the Joint Legislative Audit & Review Commission (JLARC) that focused on racial equity in marijuana law reform, and informed and convinced Gov. Ralph Northam to support equitable legalization of marijuana in Virginia.
Virginia Right to Vote Coalition
On the voting rights front, we joined forces with the League of Women Voters of Virginia, New Virginia Majority, and other organizations to form the Virginia Right to Vote Coalition. Our goal? To guarantee the right to vote for all Virginia citizens 18 and over. Our collective efforts culminated in an historic session for voting rights, with the passage of no-excuse absentee voting, less restrictive voter ID requirements, same-day voter registration (effective 2022), and other measures that make it easier to vote.
In partnership with the Richmond Public Library, we created Block The Vote: The Deliberate Suppression of the Black Vote, a virtual exhibition that highlights the racist history of felony disenfranchisement and the coalition’s effort to right this wrong by amending the Virginia constitution to guarantee a right to vote that can never be taken away.
Virginia COVID-19 Justice Coalition
At the start of the pandemic, we – along with more than 50 social justice organizations – formed the Virginia COVID-19 Justice Coalition to address the crises in our prisons, jails and custodial facilities. We called on Virginia leaders and decision makers in the criminal legal system to work together and quickly release people in custody who don’t pose a threat to others. Giving a platform to people who have experienced first-hand the dire situation behind bars, we held a series of virtual town halls to elevate the issues that incarcerated people and their loved ones face.
During the special legislative session, these town halls became an organizing space for coalition members and prison reform advocates to share knowledge, discuss legislation and rally support behind our priority bills. With Justice Forward Virginia leading the effort, we were successful in ending mandatory jury sentencing in Virginia, one of the most impactful pieces of legislation during the special session. In addition, our collective work has prompted lawmakers to consider legislation that would allow people who are incarcerated opportunities to earn their early release. While the bill that got sent to the governor’s desk left a lot to be desired, it’s a step in the right direction to start addressing Virginia’s overreliance on prisons and jails. We are humbled to be part of this resilient coalition, working together to restore justice in our criminal legal system.
Working Together to Transform Policing
Last but not least, we have worked with dozens of organizations and activists to demand an end to racism in policing. In the recent special legislative session, we pushed for lawmakers to give people a way to sue police in state court for unconstitutional conduct. Right now, a legal shield known as “qualified immunity” limits the likelihood that you or your family can recover money damages for the harm caused by a police officer. Virginia lawmakers can pass a law allowing people to sue police in Virginia courts under Virginia laws. We’ll keep working with organizations until this legal shield is torn down in our Commonwealth.
Giving Tuesday brings our community together around the spirit of collective generosity, and there’s no better illustration of this than the commitment and support of each of you. With over 100,000 members and supporters across Virginia, our ability to create change is unparalleled when we work together.
Your generosity, in partnership with our community partners and advocates, builds collective impact and transformational change for the future of all Virginians.