Richmond Virginia – The membership of Upsilon Nu Chapter, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Incorporated co-sponsored “Community Day at the GA” with local radio personality and award winning community activist, Ms. Clovia Lawrence “Community Clovia”. Along with our chapter, partners included Rolling For Freedom (R4F) and Ladies Who Lead. Rolling For Freedom, a group led by Ms Lawrence advocates for the rights of ex-offenders to regain the voting rights. Ladies Who Lead (#ladieswholead) is identified as a group “specifically targeted to women in the Millennial and Gen Y demographics”.
The meeting provided an opportunity for community members and leaders to interact with lawmakers in the Virginia General Assembly. Lawmakers identified the process of how sponsored bills become Virginia law. Specific speakers/contributors included the following:
- The Honorable Rosalyn Dance, 63rd District House of Delegates
- The Honorable Lt Governor Ralph S. Northam
- The Honorable Senator A. Donald McEachin
- The Honorable Lamont Bagby, 74th District House of Delegates
- The Honorable Betsy Carr, 69th District House of Delegates
- The Honorable Rev. Delores McQuinn, 70th District House of Delegates
- Ms. Pamela Mines, local community advocate for Special Needs Children
The common theme from all speakers was that all citizens can impact legislation and the passage of laws designed to help Virginians. As an example, Lt. Governor Northam, a physician by profession, discussed how he promoted the original bill that eventually prohibited smoking in public places like restaurants. It was particularly challenging given Virginia’s tradition of support for the tobacco industry. Senator McEachin provided another example of the importance of community input in the passage of new laws. McEachin stated that elected lawmakers often exist in a “legislative bubble”. Elected lawmakers become a part of the legislative establishment, and they depend on community leaders and residents to bring forth new ideas for laws. He said that voters often assume that the elected officials will know what the community needs. The community must promote the new ideas and not depend on these elected officials. Rev. McQuinn also stressed community input and also stressed the importance of youth commitment to service. McQuinn stated that she hosts several youth interns and Senate page positions. She revealed that African American youth often are overlooked for these positions because of inadequate community service experience when compared to other ethnic groups. She stressed the need for more advocacy to get youth connected to the community.
Brothers TR Darden and Mike Harris participated in the discussion. Darden inquired about the State’s juvenile justice programs. He stated that the State’s Juvenile Justice Director has promoted the transition from large correctional facilities to smaller community based facilities designed to more effectively transition ex-offenders back into society.
Darden stressed that the initiatives tend to be delayed or cancelled when gubernatorial administrations change. Lt. Governor Northam responded that great ideas and initiatives are not completed because Virginia limits Governors to a single term in office. Brother Harris inquired about improving employment prospects for ex-offenders. He cited that many Virginia job applicants must identify if they have been arrested, even if the arrest did not produce a conviction. This often provides barriers to consideration for employment.
Moderator Clovia Lawrence thanked all participants in the discussion. She recognized Upsilon Nu Chapter and all Fraternity members in attendance. The group then adjourned to view an actual Virginia General Assembly session. Upsilon Nu Chapter was formally recognized on the Assembly floor by Representative Lamont Bagby.
Upsilon Nu Chapter was well represented at the General Assembly session. Lamont Bagby is a 2014 recipient of our Chapter’s Citizen of the Year Award. Also in attendance was the Honorable Jennifer McClellan, 71st District House of Delegates. McClellan is a 2010 Upsilon Nu Chapter Citizen of the Year.
Upsilon Nu Chapter