Speakers herald progress ahead at VUU's 42nd Annual Community Leaders Breakfast
1/24/2020, 6 a.m.
Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn, the first woman and first Jewish speaker in the 401-year history of the Virginia House of Delegates, offered a message about the value of inclusion, diversity and progress at Virginia Union University’s 42nd Annual Community Leaders Breakfast honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The event, held Jan. 17 at a Downtown hotel, drew more than 700 people and dozens of elected officials who heard from speakers about the changing tide of leadership in the Virginia General Assembly ushered in by elections last November that put Democrats in control of the legislature for the first time in more than 20 years.
The breakfast also highlighted the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, which has the largest contingent in recent years with 23 members. The caucus was honored at the event with the 2020 MLK Service Award in recognition of its “commitment to addressing legislative concerns from people of color and other historically under-represented groups throughout the Commonwealth.”
“Dr. King’s words and his wisdom are still timely,” Delegate Filler-Corn told the audience. “He was taken from us far too soon and far too young.”
She reminded the audience of Dr. King’s famous words: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
“Our Commonwealth has had some very high highs and some very low lows regarding those words,” she said. “But in this legislative session, we are going to take action to bend the Commonwealth closer to justice.”
She then talked about the range of legislation that Democrats are pushing this session, from stronger gun safety laws to “putting an end to the school-to-prison pipeline,” and strengthening voting rights by eliminating voter ID laws, expanding no-excuse absentee voting and making Election Day a holiday while eliminating the Confederate Lee-Jackson Day state holiday.
Delegate Filler-Corn also talked about efforts to pass the Equal Rights Amendment and greater protections for the LGBTQ community.
“It is important that all Virginians be treated equally regardless of the religion they practice, their gender or the color of their skin or who they are,” she said to applause.
Delegate Filler-Corn acknowledged members of the VLBC, thanking them for their work “making the Commonwealth a better place for all of us to live.”
Delegate Lamont Bagby of Henrico, chairman of the VLBC, accepted the MLK Service Award on behalf of the caucus as members posed for a photograph with their plaques.
“I feel like this is the BET Awards,” Delegate Bagby joked as he thanked VUU for honoring the VLBC and thanked the audience for their support at the ballot box.
“Dr. King empowered others,” he said. “We stand on the shoulders of a lot of individuals before us as we take new leadership roles as chairpersons on numerous legislative committees. We will keep our promises as we continue to fight for the same civil rights now as Dr. King did then.”
VLBC members lead the Democratic caucuses in both the House of Delegates and the state Senate and chair nine of the 26 legislative committees, including seven in the House and two in the Senate.
Sen. Jennifer L. McClellan of Richmond was the mistress of ceremonies for the breakfast, while Delegate Filler-Corn was introduced at the event by Del- egate Delores L. McQuinn of Richmond. Also sharing the dais were Gov. Ralph S. Northam; VUU President Hakim J. Lucas; Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson, chairman of the VUU Board of Trustees; and Richmond Mayor Levar M. Stoney.