Recap of the 2022 WV BBG Black Legislative Policy Priorities Survey
Black By God The West Virginian conducted a survey titled “2022 WV Black Legislative Policy Priorities Survey.” The purpose of this survey was to combine the efforts and priorities of individuals and organizations into a 2022 Black legislative agenda for West Virginia. The survey results will guide the creation of a publication that can be used as a tool for accountability and increasing civic engagement during the legislative session.
The survey received 28 responses from civic leaders, non-profit executives, lobbyists, educators, social justice advocates, Black community members and leaders, and organizations that have a particular interest in enhancing the lives of Black people in West Virginia. Some of the questions posed in the survey include: What policies/bills are you putting forth or supporting if any?; Why are you supporting these policies/bills?; How do these policies/bills impact Black lives in West Virginia?; What policies/bills are you actively opposing if any?; etc.
Of the 28 respondents, 50% were community members, 28.6% worked for an advocacy organization, 25% were lobbyists, and 25% were legislation drafters. Only 3.6% of respondents were elected officials, worked for a media outlet, or worked for a non-profit organization. Some of the policies and bills that appeared most frequently in this survey included national policy issues: John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act, the Freedom to Vote Act and State policies like the Crown Act, Fairness Act, and other bills and policies that are concerned with minority health, education, employment, economic development, and housing.
Delegate Danielle Walker, D – Monongalia, is currently the only Black woman serving in the West Virginia House of Delegates and was one of the survey respondents. Walker stated in the survey that she supports the Crown Act, the ban on Styrofoam containers, an increase in the minimum wage, the implementation of critical race theory, apprenticeships in salons, fully funded minority health office, criminal justice reform, the Fairness Act, and more.
“People of color need policies to thrive in West Virginia. We protest in the streets and go to court for things we are not protected by. Black people are always fighting for all and never make those elected officials accountable,” Walker said.
Stuart Frazier, a community member, supports bills that provide equity in education, employment, workplace, health, or housing.
“I believe that these are foundational aspects for our community. When the black community has a level and equitable playing field in these categories (as well as others), we can find success and prosperity,” Frazier said.
When asked how these policies bills impact Black lives in West Virginia, Frazier said, “The less challenges of just living one’s life you have to overcome, the more you can grow and prosper. There are systemic obstacles that prevent many in the Black community to progress as much as they want, leaving them stagnant and eventually unengaged. Removing these obstacles can create opportunities for the Black community to actually have more prosperous lives.”
Some of the bills and policies opposed by respondents included: bills opposing abortion rights, bills advocating for voter suppression, anti-LGBTQ bills, any bills limiting education and social opportunities, and bills that promote discrimination based on race, age, health, and sexual orientation.
“I don’t think these types of bills serve the best interest of the people of our state,” Mart Shamberger, community member, stated.
Susan Ceason, a community member affiliated with Dismantling Racism Together- Morgantown, explained why she opposes bans on implementing critical race theory in our public school system.
“We are opposing such bills because they prohibit free and open discussion about historical racism and sexism in our country. They attempt to censure discussion about the ways Black people continue to experience injustice. We want to make sure no one is penalized for telling and reflecting upon injustices of the past or that are current now,” Ceason said.
Be on the lookout for the 2022 WV Black Legislative Policy publication to learn more about the topics and issues that impact Black lives in West Virginia.
You can order a copy here: https://forms.gle/A9VWavn7QcE2e3jR6