Virginia hosts forums on diversity, equity and inclusion

The Northam administration has announced five community forums for Virginians to provide input on the state’s first-ever “Strategic Plan for Diversity and Inclusive Excellence.” The forums will be in Norfolk, Charlottesville, Harrisonburg, Falls Church and Bristol throughout March.

The effort is designed to develop a framework to address, according to the governor’s press release, “systemic inequities in state government practices, and turning feedback from state employees, external stakeholders, and community leaders into concrete equity policy.” While the release mentioned inequities in education, healthcare and access to business opportunities, it made no specific mention of environmental issues.

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Those interested in attending one of the forums are strongly urged to register here

While registration is not required to attend, each facility has a maximum number of occupants.

Dr. Janice Underwood, appointed last year by Gov. Northam as the state’s first Chief Diversity Officer, will lead the forums and present a draft of the plan. The governor’s release notes that attendees will be able to engage with the volunteer executive steering committee that is drafting the plan.

In response to an inquiry to the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion about the format for public engagement, the office replied: “These are working sessions where we foster conversation and dialogue. There will be time for both verbal and virtual public comment. …As much as we would like to hear from everyone, we are unable to do so. Public comments and/or questions will have up to a minute per person. In addition, we are prepared to receive written questions/comments/suggestions.”

All five community forums will take place from 6:00 PM to 8:30 PM on these dates:

Monday, March 2, Norfolk
Chrysler Museum of Art, One Memorial Place, Norfolk, Virginia 23510

Monday, March 9, Charlottesville
Charlottesville High School, Media Center, 1400 Melbourne Road, Charlottesville, Virginia 22901

Wednesday, March 18, Harrisonburg
Harrisonburg City Hall, 409 South Main Street, Harrisonburg, Virginia 22801

Tuesday, March 25, Falls Church
James Lee Community Center, 2855 Annandale Road, Falls Church, Virginia 22042

Monday, March 30, Bristol
Bristol Virginia Public Schools, School Board Office, 220 Lee Street, Bristol, Virginia 24201

(Read the governor’s full press release.)