‘We are determining the future at this very moment.’

Prepared remarks to the Hampton NAACP, delivered June 3, 2019

2018 African Unity Day, at Fort Monroe, Virginia. Several yards from where this picture was taken is the site where the first African American slaves arrived in North America.

Ladies and gentlemen, President Kanoyton, members of the executive committee, elected officials, friends and honored guests:

I would like to first commend Dr. Jeffery Smith and the entire Hampton city school board for their work with the Academies of Hampton. As I have stated previously I believe they show great promise as a template for not just the rest of the state but the nation. However, I would like to pause and urge you to make sure that you include the voices of our brothers and sisters in the trade unions in this initiative, to make sure that they can be allowed to help mentor and foster these young men and women as they take their first steps into their careers.

I am proud to tell you that our campaign is the only one in this race that has been endorsed by a teachers association, and labor in general. We believe that teachers need collective bargaining rights, that they should be allowed to organize and fight for what they deserve so that our students get the education they need. Not just so that our children become productive workers, but active citizens in our communities.

Our campaign is focused on workers, which is why we oppose the so-called right-to-work law, which provides neither ‘rights’ nor ‘work’, but is a tool used by the business class to crush the organizing power of the working class. This is why I have always supported not just a $15 minimum wage, but a living one, so that people who work full time don’t have to take second or third jobs just to provide for their family. Not just ‘access to affordable healthcare’, but actual healthcare, preventative and dental, so that the sick don’t have to choose between buying medications or buying groceries.

Our campaign is about justice, specifically criminal justice, which is I am glad to tell you that part of the first legislative package we will send to the 2020 General Assembly will include: provisions to ban the box; an end to an unjust cash bail system, that provides perverse incentives to the poor to plead guilty to crimes and give up their right to a fair trial, just so that they may be released to their family and homes; not just automatic voter registration through high schools and the DMV, but the automatic restoration of voting rights for those who have served their time in a criminal justice system that we know to be racially biased.

And if we’re going to talk about ‘preserving the historical integrity of Fort Monroe’, then let us talk about that history. Let us talk about the history of Hampton, of the Commonwealth, and of this nation. We stand at the end of 400 years of slavery, 400 years of Jim Crow, massive resistance to the integration of our schools, against the recognition of the civil rights of the African American community, punctuated now but the resurgence of hate crimes fueled by white supremacy.

To borrow from Saul Williams: We claim the present, as the pre-sent, as the hereafter. We are determining the future at this very moment. Our descendants will look back on us in this moment and judge us; for what we did and didn’t do, for what we said and didn’t say, for how we defended that which we believe from those who hate us for who we are, for the words we use to describe ourselves. We enlist every faith: Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Jew, Buddhist, atheist, agnostic, every so-called race, gender, sexual orientation, every per-son as children of God, to acknowledge their responsibility to uplift the consciousness of the entire human race.

I am certain that through this campaign and the last, I have shown you a preview of what a Delegate Wade would be like; willing to go where others aren’t willing to go, meet with the people others aren’t willing to meet, to speak the truths that others aren’t willing to speak; to fight for the causes that others aren’t willing to fight for, to accept the high responsibility of this office and represent all the people of the communities within this district.

I understand that many of you feel obligated to support those who have supported you in the past, those with which you have long standing relationships. I am not here to ask you to renege on those promises. I am asking only for your private support, among your friends and family, your colleagues and congregations. Our ballots are secret, and our obligation as citizens of this great democracy is to make sure that when we go into that ballot box next Tuesday to cast our vote, that we do it freely, and with good conscience.

My name is Michael Brandon Wade, and it would be my honor to serve as your Delegate in the 401st session of the General Assembly.