By Karen Keys-Gamarra
In February 2019, Virginians were shocked by the revelation of a photo in the Governor’s yearbook of a person in blackface alongside someone dressed as a klansman. It felt like a lightning bolt had struck the root of institutionalized racism and all that is ugly arose fresh and raw. As I watched our Commonwealth struggle to respond, I wrote an article called “Virginia’s Look in the Mirror”, that helped me to realize that we weren’t just talking about a photograph, but rather, systems and patterns that were well established in our nation and especially in this Commonwealth, the seat of the Confederacy. That system was a root that had not been fully destroyed and it showed us the hate that dwelled within it. My article called for a serious look at our history and what it had produced, so that complete eradication could finally occur.
Since that time, many have called for the Governor’s resignation, but he is still in office and those calls continue. I choose to focus on digging up that root, to work to eradicate the systems that hold it in place. That’s why I’m calling for support in electing progressive democrats all over the Commonwealth who can change the narrative and work together to finish this necessary work. These folks can bring diverse voices to the legislature to protect all of our residents and create a truly representative government. We need to re-elect many of our new legislators like Elizabeth Guzman (HD31), Hala Ayala (HD51), Danica Roem (HD13), Jennifer Carrol Foy (HD2), and Lee Carter (HD50) all of whom were part of the 2017 blue wave, made history and expanded Medicaid. We need to look around our state and support diverse candidates like Trudy Bell Berry (HD61), Sheila Bynum Coleman (HD66), Clint Jenkins (HD76), Len Myers (HD81), Alex Askew (HD85), Phil Hernandez (HD100), Virginia Smith (SD15) and Herb Jones (SD 3; Herb is challenging the top ranking Republican in the Senate).
I’m also working hard to get re-elected as a Fairfax County School Board Member in Fairfax County, Virginia. Since my special election in August, 2017, I’ve worked on important initiatives like addressing inequities in our advanced academics program, reducing our discipline referrals and making sure staff members are trained to understand age appropriate behavior and neurological differences in our kids. I’m focused on improving the delivery of SPED so all kids receive excellent education and, are given an opportunity to excel without facing harsh and unnecessary tactics in our schools. I strive to tackle the issue of cyberbullying so that kids understand that there are real consequences and responsibilities involved when communicating on social media.
I hope you will join me in this fight. Everyone has a part in making sure that our communities, our legislature and our schools represent the best of who we are. We can no longer tolerate those practices that do not respect our neighbors. I have a laser focus on eradicating the root that has hindered us so that every kid, every resident and the whole of every community can thrive and rise without the weight or hindrances of our past.
Karen Keys-Gamarra is currently serving as a Fairfax County School Board Member At-Large representing the 10th largest school system in the nation. She is running for re-election. Her website is karen4fairfaxkids.com.