Embattled Governor Ralph Northam (D) has cancelled an event set for tomorrow at Virginia Union University (VUU) in Richmond that was listed as the first stop on his “reconciliation tour.” Northam has been surrounded in racial controversy for the past two weeks after a photo was released depicting the governor dressed either in blackface or in a Ku Klux Klan robe and hood in his 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook.
Things took an odd turn after Governor Northam confirmed that it was him depicted in the photo, but would not say which one he was dressed as – a man in blackface, or a man wearing KKK robes. Then, at a press conference the following day, he recanted, saying it was not him in the photo, which involved him telling a crowd of reporters that he did appear in blackface that year in San Antonio, Texas, at a Michael Jackson dance contest, per his remarks.
Since the press conference – which led Northam to attempt to show off his moonwalking skills in front of stunned reporters and his wife, Pam, urging him not to – the governor has embarked on a series of interviews and appearances to rehabilitate his image, dodging widespread calls for his resignation and protests in front of the Executive Mansion in downtown Richmond.
Though, as he was scheduled to appear at VUU tomorrow, where Reverend Al Sharpton visited last week to denounce the governor, Northam took to Twitter Wednesday evening following backlash from the university’s students who had expressed their discontent with his scheduled appearance.
VUU, a historically black university, stated that the event is part of continuing “the conversation regarding a path to move forward” and that it is important “to begin to develop a plan to reach healing and reconciliation.” Students voiced their disgust with Northam’s appearance, many of whom also wish the governor would step down from office, NBC 12 reports.
“While I appreciate [VUU’s] invitation to attend tomorrow’s chapel service, I respect the wishes of the student body. In lieu of my attendance, I will host the Richmond 34 at the Executive Mansion on Friday to honor their bravery and courage,” Northam said on Twitter.
The Richmond 34 refers to a group of VUU students who participated in a non-violent sit-ins at the lunch counter of Thalhimers department store in downtown Richmond in 1960 to protest segregation.