Zach has the honor of chatting with Virginia Democratic Delegate Lashrecse Aird in a wide-ranging interview about the Biden/Harris ticket, voting rights, and COVID-19. Listen to the full show to find out the greatest challenges Lashrecse has faced being both the youngest woman ever elected to the Virginia House of Delegates and a Black woman! She also implores everyone listening to vote, paying particular attention to making sure you get your absentee ballot as early as possible.
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Zach: What’s going on, y’all? It’s Zach with Living Corporate, and look, every single week–every single week–we come to y’all with fresh content that does what? Center and amplify Black and brown people at work, right? And we do that in all kinds of ways, rights? We have conversations, we create dope media that centers and amplifies Black and brown people at work by having discussions with Black and brown executives, entrepreneurs, activists, professors, authors, influencers, and–da-da-da–elected officials. I’m really excited about the person we have on our podcast today, Delegate Lashrecse Aird. Delegate Aird was sworn in in January 2016 to represent the 63rd House District, which includes all of the city of Petersburg, all of Dinwiddie County, and parts of Chesterfield County. She holds the special distinction of being the youngest woman ever elected to the Virginia House of Delegates. A tireless and trusted community leader, Delegate Aird is actively engaged in numerous civic boards and organizations. Through her hard work and clarity of vision, she has risen to a position of leadership in each organization that she’s served. Currently she chairs the 4th Congressional District community of the Democratic Party in Virginia. In addition, she’s a member of the Petersburg alumni chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated, the James House Board of Directors, Sports Backers Board of Directors, and is a member of the Responsible Leaders Network and the BMW Foundation Herbert Quandt. Okay, so we’re gonna get into this content, and look, before we get into this content let me just also thank y’all. We launched a Kickstarter a little over a week ago. Well, I guess by the time you hear this it’ll be 2 weeks, right? It’ll be officially two weeks, and I’m just so thankful. I’m so thankful for everyone’s support. We are over 300% funded against our initial goal, and the thing about it is some people ask, like, you know, “Why should we continue to give?” Look, with Kickstarter, if you don’t hit your initial goal you get nothing, right? So we wanted to make sure we set a reasonable goal that we thought we could hit in time, but we were just shocked at the fact that we hit it in 8 hours. So this is a real-time update just thanking y’all, thanking y’all for all the support. Please continue to support and back us. It takes time, effort, and of course money to continue to create the content that we create at the quality and scale that we create it, right? You’re listening to episode, like, 270, and we’re creating and dropping three podcasts a week every single week, not to mention all of the social media things that we’re doing, the newsletters, the webinars that we’re now launching. We have more content coming for your head top very soon, so announcements coming on that very, very soon, so make sure you stay tuned with us. But yeah, just thank you so much. Anyway, I wanted to go ahead and record the introduction separate and just kind of give you all a thank you as we transition and get ready to get into this discussion. So the next thing you’re gonna hear is my conversation with Delegate Lashrecse D. Aird, who represents the 63rd House District of the Virginia House of Delegates. Peace.
Zach: Lashrecse Aird. Lashrecse, welcome to the show. [laughs]
Lashrecse: Yeah, that’s right. [laughs] Thank you, Zach, for having me. I’m looking forward to the conversation.
Zach: I’m looking forward to it too. You know what’s funny is I asked you how to say your first name, and then I’m over here struggling with “Aird.” The irony.
Lashrecse: You’re not alone in that. That’s okay. [both laugh]
Zach: Okay, so your journey is inspiring. I’d like to understand what it’s like being a delegate who is not only the youngest woman ever elected to the Virginia House of Delegates, but also being a Black woman. Like, what challenges have you experienced already, and what lessons have you learned?
Laschrecse: You know, Zach, I really appreciate that. I feel like when I went into elected office in 2015 I knew exactly what I was doing, but almost 5 years later I can tell you I had no clue what I was doing, and I have learned so much along the way. You know, what I can say with great clarity is one of the greatest challenges that I experienced once elected, you know, is age discrimination. That layered with being Black and being a woman, you know? When you are surrounded by older elected officials, men and women, there is this assumption that your age is synonymous with your experience, your expertise and, you know, your life’s work, and so a lot of older members in an elected body, they dismiss you without getting to know the lens in which you see issues and the lenses in which you see things. You know, the other thing that I learned and witnessed in elected office is this fear that exists among older members that you’re going to come along and sort of disrupt this system that they are really comfortable with. It’s sort of an unspoken system that’s built around respectability and seniority and this idea of waiting your turn, and on top of that I think, when I think about the largest challenges I’ve faced, I have to put the cherry on top is the surprise of who your allies are and who your allies are not, and I want to specify that by talking about the Democratic caucus, which is sort of the Democratic members of the elected body. I assumed that they would naturally be aligned with the issues that adversely impact Black and brown communities, impoverished communities, but they absolutely do not, and realizing that sometimes I found friends in Republicans that I didn’t expect. I think that was a really tough pill to swallow. And then lastly in terms of challenges I would just say in government and politics, you know, money really still makes the world go around. There is a lot of money in government, in politics, and I’m not just talking about corporate dollars or special interest dollars. I’m talking about even grassroots dollars, and quite frankly every dollar that is received by elected officials, it’s attached to an expectation. It’s attached to a level of influence, and in a system where Black and brown leaders are at a disadvantage for any number of reasons when it comes to money and politics and in government, that can be a significant challenge for sort of a new, young elected official to battle with, but that’s the challenges, right? So in terms of what I’ve learned, I’ve taken away a number of things. #1, and I really came to this realization recently after seeing everything that has happened around us in the last 6 months married with my experience prior to then, and that is Black, brown, minority leaders, and I’ll say there’s a caveat in that–all skinfolk ain’t kinfolk, but for the most part–[laughs]
Zach: Listen, you ready for the smoke today. I can’t wait to get to this interview. I’m over here just quiet like, “Oh, she really going in. She not really politicking. She really talking now. Okay.” [laughs]
Lashrecse: [laughing] So let’s be clear about that first of all, but for the most part, committed Black and brown leaders, they are, we are, authentically us. We are passionate, and even with as I described as a money disadvantage, we are built for these roles. We are built for this work, and we can do this work. We can navigate these systems, and we really can bring about the change that’s needed in our communities. And I listed this as my number one lesson learned because, especially in the last 6 months, I’ve read so many articles, I’ve heard so much commentary about how we have more Black leaders in elected office than ever before, but we’re still experiencing the same challenges that we have for the last few decades. But the truth of the matter is we are doing this work. Let’s highlight it. Let’s recognize. But for these issues that are not sexy, that are not popular, that work is being done, and some of these larger issues, yes, it’s taking us a bit of time to tear down these systems and rebuild them, but that work is getting done. So I just need any young person, any Black and brown leader out there that’s doubting and questioning whether or not this is a time for them to lead in a multitude of ways, yes, it is, and yes, you can do it. The other lesson I’ll talk about is, you know, I did something a little risky last November, December, and I made this decision to run for Speaker of the House of Delegates in Virginia, and that position could largely be considered, you know, one of the most powerful elected roles to be in and probably equally as powerful as the governor, and I wanted to share this as a lesson learned because the very first person that I talked to about wanting to do this, they looked at me dead in my eyes, silent for just a moment and said, “Nope, it’s impossible. Don’t do it. Don’t waste your time,” and I can vividly remember how that made me feel. Of course me being Hawaiian [and?] millennial in the truest form, I did it anyway, and I’m really glad that I did it because as young Black leaders–and in the words of Beyonce, “There’s no room for fear where we’re going, where we’re headed,” and we really have to push through these fears and these doubts that others project onto us. What I know being on the other side of that run and on the other side of that journey is when I started out there was no person in Virginia that I could go to and say, “Can you help me figure out how to do this? Can you help me figure out how to navigate this system?” There wasn’t anyone, and the problem with that is the longer we stay afraid to take risks and pursue some of these positions of power, the harder it’s going to be for us to help someone else to come along and navigate these systems and understand the inner workings of how these operations of power are currently working. So I just feel like because I did that, set aside fear, I now can do two things. #1, I can forever remove this idea in people’s minds that it would be impossible, inconceivable, for a young Black woman to try and achieve that kind of role, and now when the next young Black minority man or female decides that they want to pursue a position of power like that, hey, I’m right here ready to show them the way because now I know and now I understand and now I can help them get there. But that wouldn’t have happened if I did not set aside fear and doubt. And I’ll just say one last thing on lessons learned. I’ll just say that in Black and brown communities–and this isn’t to dismiss any of the organizations out there doing this work, but we really need to build our own political apparatuses from top to bottom, because when it comes to money, when it comes to organizing, when it comes to really training and preparing each other to be in these roles, we need to be information sharing, building a hub that we don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time a Black or brown person wants to run [somewhere?] in this country, and that means breaking down silos, that means coordinating, and that means sort of putting our money together to really yield our influence, and I think the other part of what that means is we also have to look at positions that are not just elected office but appointed office and these actually bureaucratic roles. I can’t tell you how many times we have passed bills and policies that go over to the Department of Education, the Department of Housing, Transportation and so on and so forth, and the bureaucrats are really the ones in power because they decide how those bills and how that policy is implemented. If we really want to get at the root of the change that we need to see in our communities, we’ve got to be in all these positions. We have to be in elected office from every single level, local to state, and we have to be in these departments and these agencies turning the machinery to make sure it’s working in our favor. And I think the elected offices are so sexy that we forget about that other work that needs to be done too.
Zach: I mean… [Lashrecse laughs] You know what I’m saying? That was fire. I’m over here just like–so here’s the thing, so Living Corporate, right, ’cause everything’s been so heavy I haven’t really been able to, like, really drop sounds and sound effects and stuff, but, I mean, I got it, like… [Flex bomb sfx]
Lashrecse: I love it, I love it. [laughs]
Zach: Okay, so this is the thing. This is what got me excited, ’cause I asked you a fairly, like, easy question for you to politick. Let me see how real we’re about to get on this podcast, ’cause you see these questions.
Lashrecse: [laughing] I do, I do.
Zach: All right, you ready? Here we go. Now what was it like… [laughing] What was it like to have Ralph Northam’s blackface scandal come to light and standing behind him in that moment?
Lashrecse: Oh, we getting real. All right, we getting real. So, you know, this is a really interesting question, because there was a spectrum of emotions and actions that occurred after the blackface scandal came to light, and, you know, I have to say when it first happened we called for his resignation, both the House caucus, the Virginia Legislative Black caucus, and we stopped public events with him. I mean, talk about cancel culture. That’s what happened. But as time went on and he would not step aside and he would not go anywhere, we had to begin to shift to this thinking around “But we are still required to govern,” right? Like, that’s what we’re here for. That’s what our responsibility is. So I can vividly remember a shift occurring from calling for his resignation, cancelling him entirely to, “Oh, you’re not gonna leave? Okay, well, if you want to stay, here are our demands, here are our expectations, and here is what we want to see you do to now demonstrate your renewed or maybe brand new understanding of why your actions were so harmful to–quite frankly it shouldn’t even just be the Black community but the communities throughout Virginia, you know, given our history, and so what I can say is as a result of that shift we have seen real results from those demands. In Virginia in particular we’ve seen historical funding for our historically Black colleges and universities more money than we have ever allocated to them. We have seen historical allocations towards financial aid, you know? To our most needy students. We’ve also done things like lifting a discriminatory [?], which is funding that mothers who are in need can receive. I can go on and on with the list, but as a result of us shifting from canceling him to holding his feet to the fire, we have now seen a number of actions come about change. Although we went from a place of trying to cancel him out entirely, we were able I think to bring about some real change from a policy standpoint. And the other thing I will say is as a result of this scandal, and many people don’t know this, I think that is what opened the door to now allowing Virginians, Virginia’s leaders, to actually accept the idea of a Black woman governor. And Virginia, like many other states, we have never had a Black woman ascend to the office of governor, and during the scandal when we thought he might resign, there were conversations taking place around who would be appointed into that role, and Black women filled that list, and although it didn’t happen, what I can say is in 2021, our next gubernatorial election, we have two Black women on the ballot, and so we went from a place of it being unimaginable that a Black woman could run for governor in Virginia to now “Oh, that’s right, we should and we might,” and so I think despite all of the pain and hurt that resulted from the scandal, we have yielded significant benefits as well.
Zach: I think that’s great, ’cause I’ma tell you, you know, for me I was like, “Wow, this is crazy. He really out here.” [both laughing] I was like, “Yo, y’all big wildin’ letting this–” But at the same time, to your point, I was like, “You know what? You could leverage this and mobilize on things you actually need.” Yeah, ’cause for me, I always question, right–’cause I’m not in political office, but I always question, like, “What does it look like behind the scenes?” Like, is someone hemming him up behind there? I feel like somebody had to say something wild. They must have been–and then I think about, like, whoever the Black elected officials are, and I know y’all got some little group text or something. I know. [both laugh]
Lashrecse: You can be assured of that. However, [both laughing] there were a lot of really tough conversations, but I think to your point though–and we’ll talk about this a little later more in terms of leverage–look at what we’re talking about right now with Biden’s history, Kamala’s history, and I’m not gonna compare that to Blackface, but what I will say is people were like, “Oh, we need to cancel them because of these things,” but often times those people that have something to prove, you get the most out of them than you do anything else. So we’re gonna talk about that a little later, but we ended up–
Zach: So sidenote, earlier this year Virginia ratified the Equal Rights Amendment. I’m curious, do you think this is meaningful to Black women, or do you think it’s more symbolic than it is functional?
Lashrecse: So I will start this by saying #1 I am a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated, and when I think about our history, yes, I would say that this is equally important to Black women and white women. However, having said that, it does, in my opinion, translate into a symbolic action. You know, I do not find this as something substantive and something that’s gonna result in direct change and/or an improvement in the status of Black women who are being adversely impacted for any number of reasons. This isn’t going to do that. I could easily say that for me, and especially when I talk to Black women, particularly young ones, they hear more about things “maternal mortality,” right? Like, what are we gonna do to stop the death of Black mothers, them and their children? And so when we passed the Equal Rights Amendment there was a lot of excitement, but it was quickly back to the real work of trying to protect, trying to add resources, trying to elevate Black women, and it wasn’t, you know, done by the Equal Rights Amendment, and I can say that with great certainty because in the same year, you know, the last session that is, we did go on to pass, you know, in my opinion historical legislature. We codified something like a birth worker and a community doula, which was nowhere present in our code prior to that, and Black women, they get that. They understand that, and they felt like, “Okay, this is something that we needed. This is something that can help save us, especially in instances of childbirth,” and that is more substantive and more important.
Zach: I feel that too. So I struggle–first of all, I mean, I’m a man, so let me just start right there. [both laugh] Let me make sure I’m very clear about where I sit in this conversation, which is on the outside. But no, as a Black man who does have a Black wife and a Black 5-month-old daughter, I do think about just the emotional and intellectual dishonesty of some of these things. It’s like, “Look, we just know that Black women have been harmed in ways that are unique and that, frankly, Black women have not always been seen and still in a lot of ways aren’t–their humanity is just not recognized,” right? And so I appreciate your answer. My wife–shout-out to Candis–she’s the one who asked me to write this question.
Lashrecse: Shout-out to Candis. I appreciate that and I respect that, and I think that’s a very real perspective, because even with the nomination of Senator Harris, the very next day what was the headline? Suburban white women are going to now support Trump because we have the nomination of Senator Harris. So there’s no doubt about it that, for an issue like the Equal Rights Amendment, who was showing up in droves, who was showing up in masses? It was suburban white women, but I also don’t think that should take away, especially when we’re talking about symbolism, from the Black women who also were leading this fight, also were on the frontlines, and showed up in our committee rooms and said, “You can’t just have this, especially not in 2020. It might just be symbolic, but we have a part in this too.”
Zach: Let’s keep it going, right? You know, the world’s on fire. We got a president locking up mailboxes, cutting the legs from under an already-undersourced pandemic team, the police are grabbing and throwing folks in unmarked vehicles. Democrats have come out with strong language, yet a lot of Americans, particularly young Black and brown ones, don’t feel as if elected officials are doing enough to put Trump in his place, right? What if anything do you believe Democrats should be doing more of right now in this moment, and then I guess as a double-click on that, what are things that leaders in Virginia are doing to protect their essential workers and teachers at the state level?
Lashrecse: Yeah. You know, I really appreciate this question. I’m just gonna be as direct as I can be in that #1 we’re gonna go back to what I said earlier – Democrats are not all created equal and they’re not a monolith, and that is very clear in this moment. So first of all, I think Democrats need to dig in deep and find the courage to have some of these really difficult conversations. From what I can tell right now, there was sort of some indications that Democrats were ready to do that or that they were trying to do that, but I still feel like there’s wavering already, you know? I need Democrats to be unapologetic about this change that young people, especially Black and brown young people, are calling for in our streets and in Virginia even still, and from the very highest levels of government to the very bottom, and then I would say we need to do a few things. We need to make a plan, work the plan, and trust the plan. Too many times do we say we want to do something, but then the first sign of trouble from these lobbyist organizations, these structures and systems of power, we begin to quickly waver, and I just say we can’t run at the first sign of trouble, especially when it’s good trouble. In Virginia, we just began a special session on Tuesday, and that special session is specifically for criminal justice reform. It’s for us to adopt the budget, and it’s for us to adopt COVID-19 policies, and so we’re literally just beginning, especially as Democrats, to have some of these very difficult conversations, and I can tell you it’s already feeling quite disappointing because, you know, what I spoke about earlier regarding the allies you expect to have, there are people in the party that literally are afraid to adopt some of these positions that the Black caucus is calling for that we know will bring about the change that we need, and we are never going to get to this place in adopting these calls to action that protestors and activists are calling for if we can’t unite around these concepts as a party. I would say that in terms of what we’re doing in Virginia to protect our essential workers and our teachers, some of the conversations that we’re having is how to provide eviction relief. We’ll be talking about literal payments to renters who are finding themselves in eviction trouble. I have a bill that’s going to provide relief for individuals who have found themselves–not necessarily just a poor person, but someone who’s just experiencing hardship. What I will say is that where we have the most work to do in terms of protecting our teachers is right now there is distrust in the plans that have been put out to date regarding hybrid models, models that allow, you know, some families to choose virtual, some families to choose in-person. There’s distrust in an all in-person model and there’s distrust in an all-virtual model, and so in Virginia there is just deep question about what is the most effective approach, and teachers feel a debate among themselves around whether or not they should be in the classrooms putting themselves at risk as well. So I think we have not found the perfect solution, and we have a lot of work to do to really find the right size in that regard on that issue.
Zach: You talked about the eviction relief and support too though.
Lashrecse: Yes. So right now we have a record number of families who are experiencing eviction, and so the governor has established a rental relief program where we are giving money directly to tenants to assist them with paying their arrearages, but I think even that system is not going to be enough. We see right now from just the number of individuals who are facing this hardship, and so during this special session we will also be looking at repayment plans for eviction that really take into consideration how long it’s going to require people to get back onto their feet, including things like a continued moratorium through to April 2021. So we are working through a number of these policies, and most importantly the relief that people need right now, and so we’re right in the hard work.
Zach: So let’s talk a little bit about the DNC, right? Like, I’m curious to get your perspective on just major takeaways, any standout moments for you. I mean, I think about President Obama, you know, he was up there… a little spicy, you know?
Lashrecse: Him and Michelle. The First Lady was–she was spicy.
Zach: More like First Shady, am I right? Nah, I’m playing. [laughs] No, but this is what I love about Michelle–excuse me, First Lady Michelle Obama.
Lashrecse: Nah, you know her. Y’all go way back. It’s cool.
Zach: No, no, no. [laughs] So she got there, her hair was laid, and she said, “I’m about to light this dude UP.” And then yeah, of course, you know, Barack was kind of up there almost cried there for a second. He got emotional.
Lashrecse: He did, but that’s how you know how much this country means to him. That’s how you know how much these ideals around democracy, how much that means to him. It’s not just a title. It’s not just the role. So your question though, major takeaways, standout moments. You know, I would say that the #1 takeaway for me is that this election is bigger than the current occupant of the White House. When you talk about as major as our democracy is at stake, you know, I walked away hearing every single speaker speak to that just a little bit in that we can’t just want to remove that individual from the White House. We have to think about this for ourselves, our needs, our collective futures in the democracy of this country, and so it’s bigger than just “Vote on Election Day to remove him.” In addition to that, I feel like I heard a resounding “The honus is on us.” As voters, basically, it’s up to us what will happen after November, and I’ll [defer] to President Obama, who said, “Do not let them take away your power,” referring to voting, and he goes onto say, “This democracy was not meant to be transactional,” and I think that’s true, not just for the presidential election but everybody’s office that we vote for. You’re not supposed to just show up, vote, and then just watch and see what they do and expect them to go and just change everything that you have had a problem with. We have a responsibility to remain active participants in this government and [hold their] feet to the fire, and I felt like I saw and heard a lot of that being described throughout the convention. And then I will say two more things. There was this constant reminder of all of the issues that the Democratic Party stands for, and so often times we get hung up on a single issue that matters a lot to us, but we forget about how much we’re paying for prescription drugs, how much the food prices are in the grocery store–which is directly tied to some of the decisions at the federal government level–some of these every-day, kitchen table issues, those were addressed during the DNC, and I think that was important because it connects with everyday people. It reminds everyday people of all of the different issues that we need to be working on and what our party stands for. And I will just say lastly, vote-vote-vote, vote early, vote now, vote for yourself, take somebody else to go vote, and with all the insecurities that we are hearing about with the postal system, we can’t afford to wait until November. We need to, as soon as we can, be requesting absentee ballots or going in to vote absentee as soon as that window is available in our states, and we need to go and vote in large numbers beyond a comfortable margin so there’s no question about who the winner is when we get the results.
Zach: Let’s talk a little bit about how we got here with the Biden/Harris ticket, right? There’s a common sentiment that this ticket, while of course better than Trump, is not the progressive ticket that Black folks need to achieve the progress that we’re looking for. [Some people] also think that Trump has flown so far right that someone now coming in just being slightly right of center will feel like left, right? I’m just curious what you would say to Black voters, particularly the young ones, who are disillusioned even now with this process. What would you say to us?
Lashrecse: Yeah. I would say two things. #1, I would say that it’s important for young voters, especially Black and brown voters, to care about the past journeys of Vice President Biden and Senator Harris and ask your questions and be informed and seek the answers to those questions, but we really cannot afford to get hung up on Vice President Biden’s record, to get hung up on Senator Harris’s record. This is about getting people into those positions that we can push and hold accountable, and quite frankly when you think about the current occupant in the White House, our issues are a non-starter for him, so there is no way to hold him accountable. There is no way to push for those things that you’re fighting for and that you care about. We have to really stop depending so much on these individuals in elected office. I find that often times, both young and old, we put elected officials on a pedestal and we act like we didn’t give them the job. We need to not only show up and vote, but be clear about reminding them who put them there into these roles, what our expectations are when they get there, and then holding their feet to the fire while they’re there until they accomplish what we’ve asked them to do. And then I will say that I hate that voters are looking solely at Vice President Biden and Senator Harris. There will be positions up and down the ballot where you live and in your state, and we don’t spend enough time talking about those leaders. You have a lot more elected officials that you will be voting for outside of just the president, and so when you talk about losing hope and being sort of disillusioned, the issues that you feel, that actually touch you, those decisions are more times than not made by those down-ticket candidates on the ballot, and you need to spend some time figuring out those people as well. I mean, prime example, look at what we’ve seen happening the Breonna Taylor case. The Attorney General, a major sort of office where he was elected, and he has laid out no clarity about the process. We have been waiting for final decisions to be made. But he’s an elected leader. We do not talk enough about the rest of the people on the ballot, which really deeply impacts your day-to-day life. So no, you might not be satisfied with some of the questionable history and the backgrounds of the ticket, but this election is bigger than them, and we need to pay attention to all of these elected positions that are gonna be on our ballots in our communities and in our states.
Zach: I mean, I appreciate that. Recently, at the late Senator John Lewis’s funeral, former president Bill Clinton contrasted Senator Lewis with the late Stokley Carmichael, stating, “There were two or three years where the movement went a little too far towards Stokely, but in the end John Lewis prevailed.” So to me and Blacktivists–’cause I’m not saying I’m an activist. I believe that we all perform our own various forms of activism through the things that we do and perform it authentically as ourselves, but I would not say I’m an activist. But this still did feel alienating to me, right? And I’m curious, like, how do you believe–’cause you brought up respectability earlier. How do you believe the Democratic Party can be more welcoming to the next generation of Black activists or even just Black folks who are more socially conscious and have a bent towards Black liberation, like, beyond just, like, Black capitalism. Like, actual true, following in the footsteps of some of their activist forefathers and mothers.
Lashrecse: Yeah. I think this is getting right to the core of it, and admittedly I am extremely active within my state party, have been in leadership positions and really have gotten to understand sort of that apparatus structure, and I can’t say it enough, but the party isn’t a monolith, and it breaks down all over the place. It breaks down on lines of age, on lines of race, on lines of progressive versus moderate. I mean, you know the deal, but I feel like as we think about this next generation and as they are beginning to look and hold the party accountable, and rightfully so–and I actually would say this is true not just for the party but for a lot of these historical civil rights organizations and systems–I think we have come to a point where there needs to be an acknowledgement of the leaders or icons that have come before us and have led the way, they did so using strategies and tactics that were effective for that time. The baton, in my opinion and seeing what we’ve seen in the last six months, has formally been passed. Yes, we need our elders–if I can say that without making someone feel old–our historic icons, we really need them to serve as guardians and as advisers and as mentors [?] in this space and create opportunity for present-day activists, present-day young people to work on these issues, to fight on these issues, in a way that is needed today, which looks very different from how [we did it] historically. So it’s not always gonna be done in a way that the historic Democratic Party system has understood or even in a way that makes them feel comfortable, but this is where we are, and I think until we have that real honest conversation we’re going to continue to end up bumping heads, and that’s counter-productive to our causes.
Zach: Speaking of that, you talked about voting, right, and doing what you can to vote. I’m curious if you believe there’s anything else that, like, our elected leaders can do right now to mitigate such long lines in Black and brown districts. Do you, in your caucus, have plans to protect Black and brown Virginians voting? Like, what does that look like for y’all?
Lashrecse: Yeah. You know, I mentioned earlier that we’re in session, and so the benefit of that has been we’ve already agreed to do things like prepaid postage. You know, we’re setting aside $2 million so folks can mail in their absentee ballots without having the additional expense of actually putting it in the mailbox. We are setting up in Virginia drop-off boxes and drop-off locations to make actually dropping off your absentee ballot more accessible, not just to the registrar’s office or to an office that’s not in your immediate community. In addition to that, we are going to remove the requirement that you have a witness signature on your ballot, which sometimes if it’s just you, what are you gonna do? We started doing that in our primary election, and so we’re definitely gonna do that again. So we’re trying to create an environment where, again, if you cannot leave your home for fear of the pandemic or if you’re elderly with a disability, and even if you’re not any of those things, to start the voting process sooner and get your ballot turned in sooner. So those are a few of the things that we’re gonna be doing.
Zach: So I want to go back, you know… we were talking about being disillusioned and discouraged, right? And I do feel the stakes here, I do. I get it. I really want to read a couple of these tweets, and it’s funny because people–it’s really interesting. I think it’s a sign of just, like, cultural awareness, when you dismiss people tweeting, ’cause it’s like, [?] real people, right? If somebody tweets something and it has, like, 400,000 likes, maybe you should maybe read it. I’m not saying–
Lashrecse: There’s a following and an agreement there.
Zach: There’s something. Okay, so I’ma read this, and I want to respect the person who–so the Twitter name is @queersocialism. Here we go. He’s responding to a tweet. He goes, “I get that, but what’s the alternative? I agree that the cycle has to be broken, but I feel like we’ve missed our chance this cycle already. We’re stuck with Biden versus Trump in the general, and I haven’t seen a third-party candidate that is gonna make a difference,” blah blah blah. So then he says, “Everyone who insists on asking me, “What’s the alternative?” does not want my answer, because it’s uncomfortable and requires far more than many if not most of you are willing to sacrifice. It is no easy, one-size-fits-all answer that can be explained in 280 characters. You want easy, quick solutions. There are none to fascism. The alternative to fascism is taking money out of your paycheck every month and giving it to radical mutual aid funds, feeding, clothing, and helping homeless people. It’s going outside and physically demanding politicians provide housing and health care to all homeless people and [?] in their face when they say no and refusing to leave their office or homes and refusing to allow them to leave until they change their minds. It’s putting pressures on CEOs and food service corporations to give food they waste and throw away to people in need of it for free. It’s putting our bodies and lives on the line to stop the war and deportation machine. It’s training ourselves and dedicating our lives to community.” You know, I’m curious about this in terms of–you know, I believe this moment is scary, right, and it’s pushed me to realize that we do have to DO something intentionally and literally for our neighbor. I’m curious if you believe this confluence of events is allowing for a more radical lens regarding accountability and driving systemic change, and, you know, what is the 63rd doing right now in this regard?
Lashrecse: You know, I took deep interest in this tweet and the ideals that went into it, and when I read it I literally thought about an experience I had just throughout this pandemic, and really quickly if I can, in my district back in early March or April, we had a situation where we discovered people were living without water, and I’m talking aobut people not having water for months and in some instances I think we had at least one woman who had been without water for almost a year, and I was floored when the issue was brought to my attention because I just thought, “How has this been allowed to go on?” I had a city counselor in the city, one part of my district, who sort of wrote to the mayor and said, “Hey, we’re in a pandemic now. I understand these individuals may have been disconnected prior to the pandemic for any number of reasons, but I think we should reconnect them because of health and safety reasons,” and my goodness, the response from the mayor was “Not only will we not reconnect the water, but the idea of doing so is an act of socialism.” Well, you know, #1, I was floored by the response because it is not an act of socialism. Quite frankly it’s common sense and to do anything less in this environment I consider to be inhumane. So I share that story and that example because I think some of the issues that we’re talking about from day-to-day and even in these tweets are being categorized as being radical when in fact they shouldn’t be. Some of our [?] that we are sort of now just really getting savvy about and bold enough to actually speak truth to power on is long overdue. These systems that we have been tolerating, quite frankly, are pretty screwed up, and they need to be torn down, and they need to be rebuilt, rebuilt in a way that doesn’t penalize people for being impoverished or without and gives really everyone a fair shot at not just survival but a quality of life everyone has come to expect. So without that push, no, I don’t think we would be seeing some of the change that’s actually showing up. [We’d?] be having conversations around a new way to envision these systems. So as far as what the 63rd District is doing, you know, I’m pretty fired up. I can speak specifically to this legislative session that we’re in, and that means everything about being unapologetic and pushing for this change. And I mentioned some of this earlier, but that change is yes, people are having a hard time, so we should be providing relief for them. They have lost their jobs. They have been set back, and not as any result of their own. Declaring racism a public health crises, I’m carrying that resolution, and when you think about doing that in the Commonwealth of Virginia, home of the Confederacy, I think the state that led to quite frankly racism throughout this country, we must do that, even as uncomfortable as it makes people, because we are seeing the disparate impact still in Black and brown communities, even more so during this pandemic, and then things like what you see happening all over the state. I’m happy to be carrying a full ban on using the no-knock warrants here in the Commonwealth, which even the idea of doing this has led to wide outcries by law enforcement. But I am, you know, unmoved. I am listening, but I am continuing to push on this issue because it’s the right thing to do, and there’s plenty of data that shows it is. So that’s a few things, but yes, the 63rd District, we are pushing for some of this change, and this is only a special session which means it’s very confined and it’s very limited, but it doesn’t just end here. I consider this to be sort of the first leg as we head into future sessions.
Zach: Well, first of all, shout-out to you. And you know what? Let me thank you real fast, you know, because you had an opportunity–you know, that things do need to be dismantled and they need to be reconstructed in a different way. I’m just so thankful for you that you did not try to slide a “Build Back Better” in there, you know what I mean? [both laugh] ‘Cause if you had said that I would’ve been like [haha sfx], you know? Like, come on. Come on, now. We need a better… ’cause it don’t match. Build Back Better don’t match [?]. You got Kamala up there and she got the Mary J. Blige, and then, you know, y’all playing some Earth, Wind and Fire song at the end–I don’t know what that song was at the end. I was like, “Oh, y’all really trying to–okay,” talking about some “Build Back Better.” What about Bounce Back Better? Put a little sauce on it. Come on, guys.
Lashrecse: I am very clear on where we are as a party and the work that needs to be done, but you know what you learn along the way? You learn how to navigate the system, and that is indeed what we are doing. I just need people to understand that. [laughs]
Zach: I get that. It’s just very, very funny. Okay, so look, this has been a dope conversation. Now, we’ve had Royce West on the show, but you’re the most lively politician that we’ve had on Living Corporate. I mean that with all of the love. That is intended. Now, look, I don’t know if you want to be spicy. Do you want to go ahead and call out any opponents and be really messy right before we leave?
Lashrecse: Nope, not at all. [laughs]
Zach: Okay, respect. I appreciate that. [laughs]
Lashrecse: Hey, I know the constraints in which I operate.
Zach: I appreciate that, ’cause I was like, “How spicy is she really about to get? She’s saying some stuff.” Okay, that’s good. That gives me boundaries for the future. [both laugh] Now, this has been a dope conversation. Before we let you go, what are the three things that you want the 10,000 folks listening to this show this week alone to do?
Lashrecse: I want them to right away request their absentee ballots so that they can begin the process of making a plan and preparing to vote. I want them to actually figure out the rest of the people on their ballot besides Vice President Biden and Senator Harris, because there will be a lot of other really critical positions to vote on. And I want them to go and find a young Black elected official to support. We are out here doing this work. It’s not easy work, and it is during a really critical time. It is good to know that you are aligned with your activists in your communities, with the people who care about these issues as much as you. And then not only that but what kind of guest would I be if I didn’t say Living Corporate? I mean, this amazing podcast, giving voice to Black and brown communities on issues that matter to us the most.
Zach: Come on, now. Y’all heard Lashrecse. Y’all heard Lashrecse Aird. [both laughing]
Lashrecse: There you go. You got it right. [laughing]
Zach: Got it right. Now, look, that’s our show, y’all. You know what we’re doing. Every single week, new content for your head top. You know, we’re trying to have authentic discussions that center Black and brown people. I think I said in the past that Living Corporate doesn’t consider itself a political podcast, certainly not in the way of, like, The Daily or Love It or Leave It or Pod Save America, but when it’s relevant and poignant for us to have these discussions we’re gonna have ’em, right, and so that’s why we had Lashrecse Aird. Look, I’m not gonna do all the domains, right? We’re all over Beyonce’s internet. You just type in Living Corporate, okay, and we’re gonna pop up. Go in your browser, type in Living Corporate in your little search engine–Ask Jeeves, Google, all those, right, your BlackPlanet, your Xanga, right, go in there and type in Living Corporate. We got all the SEOs on lock, okay? Until next time, this has been Zach Nunn, and you’ve been listening to Lashrecse Aird, the youngest delegate elected to the House of Delegates for Virginia ever of the 63rd, the Fightin’ 63rd?
Lashrecse: That’s right, that’s right. All of that.
Zach: Leader, speaker, shoot, mentor, teacher, and servant to the people. ‘Til next time, y’all. Peace.