Northam Holds First Listening Session in Northern Va. Since Blackface Controversy

Some African American leaders in Northern Virginia say Gov. Ralph Northam sidestepped some of his harshest critics during his "listening tour" visit Tuesday.

Northam held a closed-door session with local African American leaders for more than two hours in Dumfries.

It was the tour's first stop in the region since a racist photo of Northam in his medical school yearbook page was made public earlier this year.

"What happened in February, it hurt a lot of people in Virginia and I regret the way that we handled it. I regret what it did to Virginia," Northam told News4 outside of the meeting.

Northam says his renewed focus is reducing inequities in the minority community.

"The more I know the more I can do," Northam said. "So, today is just another example of that."

"This is his listening tour and he's listening. And while I appreciate that, what's important to me for my constituents is action," Dumfries Vice Mayor Monae Nickerson said. "Take what you heard and put it into action."

But some African American leaders complain Northam is avoiding his harshest critics. Among them, the Fairfax County chapter of the NAACP.

The group staged a protest in April that forced Northam to cancel a planned Democratic fundraiser.

"I would say it's less of a listening tour and more of a photo opportunity. He’s met with people who are friendly with him and taken a lot of pictures, but he hasn't met with the Fairfax County NAACP," said Fairfax County NAACP Vice President Sean Perryman.

"I'm not avoiding anybody. My door is open. It always has been. It always will be," Northam told News4.

Perryman said the governor's future meetings should be open and not closed to the public.

"If he’s getting hard questions and he has answers for them we should be able to hear it as a community, as a state," he said.

Northam will be back in Northam Virginia next week for another listening session in Loudoun County.

Contact Us