The Danville chapter of the NAACP hosted its Family & Friends Day on Saturday with two distinct themes in mind: voting and COVID-19 safety.
Amid a collection of informational booths for community resources, free COVID-19 tests were available at the playground on the corner of Holbrook and Sycamore Streets in Danville. And when a band wasn’t playing or a raffle wasn’t being held, attendees heard speeches from several political candidates vying for votes with just more than a month remaining until Election Day on Nov. 3.
Much of 2020 has been clouded with a fraught political climate — brought on in part by a string of race and social justice incidents and demonstrations — along with growing concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic, especially among the Black community and other people of color.
Therein lies Bennett’s motivations for making voting and health resources available.
“I want to make sure that everybody gets out and votes and is registered to vote,” Bennett said. “I want to make sure that everybody gets tested.”
Despite the presence of various politicians Saturday, Bennett said the NAACP doesn’t endorse any candidates. The organization simply stresses voting and “making sure people have rides to vote and making sure everything is equal.”
Bennett said people could arrange a ride to their voting location by contacting the Danville NAACP or W&W Luxury Limousine Service.
Among Saturday’s attendees included Robin Scott King, the niece of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., and L. Louise Lucas, the president pro tem of the Senate of Virginia. Lucas spoke to the crowd briefly before introducing, and offering her endorsement of, Cameron Webb, the Democratic candidate running to represent Virginia’s 5th Congressional District in November.
Webb told the crowd about his background — as a child of Central Virginia, a University of Virginia graduate and now as a practicing physician who also teaches and serves as the director of health policy and equity at the University of Virginia’s School of Medicine — and implored the event’s attendees to take advantage of the free COVID-19 testing.
“There is one path through this pandemic, and that is science,” he said, while also stressing the importance of monitoring symptoms and being mindful of physical distancing.
A common theme among speakers was the urging of a vote for a platform that is inclusive and considerate, as opposed to closed off and disingenuous. Webb, who is running against Republican candidate Bob Good, echoed a similar sentiment.
“One person does not make all the change that we need in our Congress. That space is broken, and we know it,” Webb said. “But let’s send someone from the Fifth who’s going to fight for us.”
Danville City Council candidates Bryant Hood and Petrina Carter were also on hand to speak with the crowd and meet potential voters. Both are running against Fred Shanks.
Hood, who currently works as a qualified mental health paraprofessional at Focus Point Mental Health, highlighted his experience working with various members of the community in several different roles, but he also expressed his thankfulness to be involved in an event that promoted togetherness.
“It’s great to see people get together,” he said. “I want to see more events like this, engaged, where people come out and show more strength in numbers. The city is stronger united, and that’s what I’m taking from this event.”
Carter, president and CEO of Tri-County Community Action Agency, said she hopes her track record in the community and in business helps her during the election season. She spoke Saturday of the need to improve Danville’s education system, help small businesses recover from COVID-19 and ensure the addition of high-paying jobs.
“If we do that as a city and have things like this that bring the community together, we’re unstoppable as a community,” she said.
Pittsylvania County native Xavier Warren, seeking a bid for Virginia's lieutenant governor in 2021, also attended.
Get local news delivered to your inbox!
Subscribe to our Daily Headlines newsletter.