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Northam Cancels Visit To Virginia Union University After Students Ask Him To Reschedule

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam is no longer planning to attend an event at Virginia Union University this morning.

It was supposed to be the first stop on what many have called his “apology tour”, following the finding of a racist photo on his medical school yearbook.

Last Friday, the historically black university clarified that Northam wouldn’t be doing any apologizing – or speaking – at the event, just attending and listening.

“An earlier characterization of the governor’s attendance as the start of an apology tour was incorrect; it is part of his promise to start a conversation about racial injustice and the need for reconciliation where he intends to listen, learn and continue to grow as a leader,” the release said.

Virginia Union University’s Student Government Association President Jamon Phenix sent a letter to Northam on Monday asking him to come another time. He said Northam’s visit would detract from the historical significance of the annual celebration honoring those who took a stand against segregation.

“Respectfully, we ask that you reschedule your visit to a later date this spring,” Phenix wrote. “It is with pleasure that we extend an invitation for you to participate in a roundtable discussion and interview on ways we can all move Virginia forward.”

That prompted a response from Northam – who stated in a letter that he’ll be honoring the students’ wishes by not attending. He did, however, accept the students’ invitation for a future conversation about issues of race and equity.

Phenix responded on Facebook.

“This is not a lullaby for us," Phenix wrote. "This is a battle cry, We take a stand against racism and any acts that support its harsh rhetoric in the Commonwealth. I appreciate Governor Northam’s ability to understand our stance. Our mandate remains clear, the only way forward is through Honest, Humbling, and Hard conversations about race and reconciliation in the Commonwealth."

The event at Virginia Union University today honors alumni, known as the Richmond 34, who participated in sit-ins to protest segregation in the 1960s. Northam has invited the Richmond 34 to the Executive Mansion on Friday.

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Megan Pauly reports on early childhood and higher education news in Virginia
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