About Heal Virginia
My Fellow Virginians, I’m Mike Donovan, the President, and CEO of Nexus Services Inc. My company works across Virginia and the United States to help people who are being released from jails and prisons. We also fund national law firms that provide defense for immigrants in removal proceedings and representation for individuals whose civil rights have been violated.
I was born and raised in the Commonwealth of Virginia. I have built a business in Virginia and I have employed hundreds of hard-working Virginians. I built companies and aid organizations that work with the most vulnerable populations, giving them a hand up and an opportunity to achieve the American dream… or at the very least to live free from bondage and discrimination. Because we work with people being released from jails and prisons, I have seen the shockingly high rates of arrest of minorities in Virginia and I know that our state’s systems, particularly the criminal justice system, are inherently unfair, discriminatory, and cruel. African Americans in Virginia are unfortunately accustomed to living with and fighting through these biases every day.
Over the past two weeks, our Commonwealth’s government has been rocked at its foundation, first with the discovery that Governor Ralph Northam appeared in blackface in college, followed by the shocking revelation today from Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring that he too appeared in blackface. This act, deeply rooted in racism, mocks an entire race of people that make up a little less than 20% of the state’s population. This behavior is inconsistent with Virginia values, and both Governor Northam and Attorney General Herring need to resign.
I am concerned that the slow drip of this information is testing most Virginia citizens’ faith in their state government. We cannot watch our Commonwealth be ripped apart on a weekly basis with more allegations like the ones faced by Governor Northam and Attorney General Herring. For these reasons, we have sent a letter to all members of the Virginia House of Delegates, all Senators, and all members of the Governors cabinet. The email asks each elected three simple but important questions:
QUESTION 1: Have you ever appeared in “blackface”, or any other costume mocking another race or ethnicity?
QUESTION 2: Have you ever used a racial epithet or a derogatory term toward members of any race or the LGBT community?
QUESTION 3: Have you ever attended a meeting of any hate or extremist group as defined by the Southern Poverty Law Center?
The responses and lack of responses, if any, will be published for every Virginian to see on the website www.healvirginia.com. Virginians deserve answers after watching their executive government flail about in crisis for several days. There’s an old but very true saying that comes to mind in this difficult time for Virginia – and that is that Sunlight is the best disinfectant. It seems Richmond is in need of some disinfecting, and its time for Virginia’s leaders to go on the record with the answers to these questions so that our Commonwealth may move forward. Please join me after 3 pm Friday, February 7, 2019, at www.healvirginia.com to see our leaders’ answers to these important questions. In addition to finding your representative’s answers to these questions, you can also use that website to report instances of racism from elected officials. All reports will be investigated and, if confirmed, reported.
Please let me leave you with this thought… which comes from watching talking heads and politicos speculate about what happened with the Governor and Attorney General in the 80s, what’s happening now, and what is likely to come. It is incredibly important for everyone to realize that appearing in blackface was wrong in the 1950s, when TV shows that dared air such content saw their sponsors boycotted by African Americans who were not willing to be ridiculed by the white power structure in this country. If it was wrong in the 1950s, it was certainly wrong in the 80’s. However, there is a more insidious racism at foot here. The Governor holds the power of clemency, meaning he alone can right the wrongs of Virginia’s racially biased criminal justice system. The Attorney General is the state’s top prosecutor, and he is charged with defending Virginians from harm. How can African Americans in Virginia trust that either of these individuals have any credibility to lead? Young African American men across the commonwealth face hyper policing in their communities and unforgiving prosecutors when they’re caught, even committing petty crimes. How ironic that the man who holds clemency power and the man who serves as Virginia’s top prosecutor somehow expect that they should receive the benefit of the doubt… when such a benefit is rarely given to kids who have the skin color both of these men so callously mocked.
We are better than this Virginia. Together, we will make Virginia better in the wake of this turmoil. As we march toward that goal, we must place our elected officials on the record in these important matters… and that’s precisely what we intend to do.
God bless the Commonwealth and her residents… especially those hurting from the racially charged acts of our Governor and Attorney General. To those Virginians I say this… and I’m quoting Winston Churchill – “If you’re going through hell, keep going”. Virginia, we are going through racist hell… but this is certainly no place to stop. We will fight together to eradicate racism in our state government.