"RISE" calls for an emergency meeting to discuss racism in politics

WAYNESBORO, Va. (WHSV) — On Friday, the RISE organization called for an emergency meeting at the Waynesboro Democratic Headquarters to discuss racism in politics.

The meeting was called in response to a racist picture found on Governor Ralph Northam's medical school yearbook page and Attorney General Mark Herring admitting to wearing blackface earlier this week.

Chanda McGuffin, Co-founder of RISE, said the conversation was long overdue.

"RISE's mission is to give a voice to the black community, so how can we remain silent?" said McGuffin. "This conversation is difficult, but it's important."

While the discussion was ignited by the actions of state leaders, McGuffin said the frustration has trickled down to the local level.

On Monday, McGuffin said Augusta County Democratic Committee Chair, Frank Nolen wrote a Facebook post that he did not believe the picture on Northam's yearbook page was racist.

"A picture of a white man and black man standing together as brothers is not racism. It is a sign of brotherhood," said Nolen. "A picture of a klansman and black man standing together means to me reconciliation."

WHSV reached out to Nolen but he did not have further comment.

The organizers of RISE have called on Nolen to step down.

"For him to come out in favor of Northam is dishonoring to this area and the black community in this area," said McGuffin.

Community members joined in the conversation, discussing the history of slavery and racism in America and activism. McGuffin hopes this conversation will drive more people out to the polls to vote.

"We have to start holding our elected officials accountable," said McGuffin. "The black voter is tired of getting put on the back burner."