Social justice advocate will be on the ballot in November as an independent candidate
RICHMOND – Following the summer of protests for Black liberation in Richmond last year, Princess Blanding made the decision to change tactics and reform the system from the inside. She says that’s because both the local and state government are failing to support and protect Black lives.
“We can not expect our oppressors to be our saviors. Because they’re not and they won’t,” said Blanding.
Blanding’s introduction to politics came in 2018, when her brother Marcus-David Peters was killed by members of the Richmond Police Department. Peters was unarmed and experiencing a mental health crisis when police killed him. That year, protests calling for reforms to the city’s police department began in response to his death. Blanding was a leader of that movement.
Richmond’s government did not respond to these protests in 2018. They were also failed to meet the demands of Black liberation protesters last year, when they once again took to Richmond’s streets calling for reforms to the city’s criminal justice system. In honor of Peters, the headquarters of Richmond’s movement for Black liberation, located at the Robert E. Lee Monument, was unofficially renamed Marcus-David Peters Circle.
If she’s elected, Blanding would be the first LGBTQ+ person and the first Black woman to hold the office of governor in Virginia.
“We Can Not Expect Our Oppressors To Be Our Saviors”
Blanding, who works as a middle school science teacher, went from doing activism on a local level to influencing state-level politics in 2020. That’s when she was a consultant to legislators in crafting the Marcus Alert bill that passed the Virginia General Assembly in October.
This legislation was supposed to replace policing with community care solutions like mental health professionals. However, Blanding says that it’s actual effect on the community fails to fulfill that mission. For one thing, the bill says diversion of mental health calls from police to mental health professionals doesn’t happen automatically, but ‘when feasible.’
RELATED: Marcus Alert Offers Lifesaving Care ‘When Feasible’
“They essentially watered it all down. And they made it ineffective. And we pleaded with them, tried to tell them why certain components are important, and the cake was already baked before they reached out to myself or other community members. They already had their mind set,” Blanding said.
Blanding Offers An Alternative To Democrats
Blanding also worked with representatives to help craft legislation increasing the power of citizen review boards to investigate complaints against the police. However, she says her inclusion in these processes was an empty gesture by legislators to appease demonstrators for Black liberation.
“They came across as wanting to work with you and other community members and supporters to get these bills right. And what I saw very quickly was that, this is very performative,” Blanding said.
For these reasons, Blanding says her community can’t rely on the Democratic majority to look out for their interests.
“These legislators are not going to get it right because they have no desire to. They’re going to continue to put profit and politics over people and I no longer will allow myself to be a part of that,” said Blanding. “”It’s one thing to complain about a problem, but it’s a whole other thing when you say ‘I’m going to be part of the solution.’ And that’s the decision that I made.”
Blanding’s platform includes reallocating funding from police departments to education, housing, sustainable energy, and community care programs.
She’s also running to end qualified immunity for police and restore voting rights to people with felony convictions. Her criminal justice reform proposal also includes closing juvenile detention centers and transitioning the Commonwealth towards youth restorative justice and rehabilitation programs.
As an educator, Blanding is also prioritizing equity in education.
“I started off as a middle school science teacher. I served as a school administrator for elementary and high schools up until Marcus was murdered. And at that point, I resigned, stepped away for a while, and then got a call that they could still get me in,” Blanding said. “I am very proud that my school division does not waiver at all in talking about things like racism being a public health crisis.”
Blanding plans to align the rest of Virginia with her school district, by centering Black and Indigenous history in curriculum. Under her leadership, Virginia would also replace school resource officers with school counselors. Funds currently going towards private education in the Commonwealth will be redirected into public schools under her platform.
But Blanding’s platform isn’t only about history. It also focuses on supporting Black and Indigenous communities in the present.
Reparations for Black and Indigenous Families
If the Commonwealth elects her, Blanding plans to provide direct payments, or reparations. to Black and Indigenous families.
“We are born and we are forced to thrive and try to succeed and progress, in a system that has its knee on our neck. Has its foot on our backs, and is still looking down on us saying ‘Get up and do something with yourself.’ In many Black families, there is no generational wealth,” said Blanding.
But Blanding’s plan for advancing racial justice doesn’t stop at direct payments. Reparations for Black and Indigenous people, Blanding says, will take a more comprehensive approach.
“Not only providing payments but also providing opportunity. Opportunities and resources so more Black families can be able to have equity. That’s all we’ve been asking for since day one,” Blanding said.
These opportunities would come in the form of financial literacy programs and investment start-up grants. She also wants to increase Black and Indigenous Virginian’s access to first-generation homeownership programs, and grants to support Black and Indigenous entrepreneurship.
Labor Protections for Vulnerable Populations
Blanding’s platform also includes several ambitious proposals for labor protections that would help ensure the fair treatment of vulnerable communities. For example, as governor Blanding would advance an agenda to legalize sex work. That means sex work would qualify as a legitimate business, and would be subject to labor protections.
“One person’s moral or ethical judgement should not be imposed upon somebody else,” said Blanding. “Why are we criminalizing people for decisions that they’re making if they are not causing any harm towards anyone else?”
Blanding also wants to guarantee that minimum wage is adjusted for inflation. Additionally, she plans to ensure that new parents receive three months of paid leave. With the exception of police unions, her platform seeks to bolster the rights of unions and their members. Police unions, under her leadership, would be banned.
Getting On The Ballot
Blanding is still attempting to get her name on the ballot in November as a third-party candidate. In order to get her name on it, Blanding needs 2,000 signatures, including 50 qualified voters from each congressional district.
If you want to help her reach that goal, you can sign her petition here.