Listen to this article here
Sign-Up for a free subscription to The Black Wall Street Times‘ daily newsletter, Black Editors’ Edition (BEE) – our curated news selections & opinions by us for you.
“In order for there to be a trail, there has to be someone willing to blaze it,” Jennifer Carroll Foy said as she declared her candidacy for Governor of Virginia, “there has to be someone willing to set it on fire.”
Carroll Foy was raised by her grandmother in Petersburg, Virginia; a small, predominantly Black city in the exurbs of Richmond. It also happens to be one of the poorest cities in the Commonwealth. Despite coming from limited means, she remembers her grandmother instilling in her the belief “if you have it, you give it – even if you don’t have much to give.”
When her grandmother fell ill and the medical bills piled up, Carroll Foy recounts having to make “the impossible choice of whether we were going to pay our mortgage or pay for the medication keeping my grandmother alive”.
Jennifer Carroll Foy is a fighter for equal rights
Nationwide, 43% of Americans struggle with maintaining stable access to health insurance, with Black Americans being disproportionately affected. In a pre-pandemic study conducted by Altarum, nearly 55% of Virginians said they had struggled to pay for healthcare costs in the past twelve months, and 78% indicated they were worried about affording healthcare in the future.
Nearly four in every five people who call the Commonwealth home know that moment of sitting at the kitchen table and wondering where the money is going to come from. For Jennifer Carroll Foy, that moment at the kitchen table as a little girl is what drove her to where she is now: a graduate of VMI, a distinguished public defender, a mother, a former state delegate, and fighting to become the next governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Carroll Foy served as a member of Virginia’s House of Delegates for nearly three years, where she introduced and presided over the historic ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment in the state legislature. During her first year in the legislature, she helped to ensure that fewer Virginians knew the pain of those difficult kitchen table decisions by voting to expand Medicaid to more than half a million state residents.
Fighting for a Virginia Green New Deal
Even with these accomplishments, Jennifer Carroll Foy believes the need for sweeping, systemic change is as clear now as it has ever been.
“Too many people are still being left behind by the broken status quo,” she told the Black Wall Street Times, “and we don’t get change by looking to the past and recycling the same policies and politicians.”
Until recently, Carroll Foy was the only candidate running who had pledged to enact a “Virginia Green New Deal” in order to “invest in green infrastructure, create thousands of high-paying green jobs to improve our economy and alleviate poverty, and address the disproportionate impact climate change has on Virginia’s most vulnerable communities.”
She cites the devastating impact that poorly-regulated coal and fossil fuel industries have had on public health in poor communities and communities of color. Calling climate change and environmental injustice “one of the most urgent challenges we must meet in Virginia, Foy believes tackling this issue requires big, immediate action.
As Governor, she pledges to apply an intersectional lens to implementing any policy reform measures “to ensure that marginalized and historically forgotten communities, like residents from my hometown of Petersburg, are given the resources for a fighting chance in Virginia.”
If elected, Jennifer Carroll Foy’s tenure as Governor will be historic in and of itself. She will enter into the governor’s mansion, situated in the capital of the former Confederacy, as the first Black woman to do so in the nation’s 245 year history.
Jennifer Carroll Foy has a history full of “firsts”
But for Carroll Foy, the notion of being the first to do something has never been a deterrent. She was among the first women ever to graduate from Virginia Military Institute. And she was the first woman and first person of color ever elected to serve Virginia’s 2nd district.
Perhaps this is why, when former Governor Terry McAulliffe, a white, male, well-funded party insider chose to make a late entrance into a race filled with powerful candidates of color, Carroll Foy was unfazed.
“We’re building a people-powered, grassroots campaign from our shared experiences and struggles,” Carroll Foy said, “We won’t get sidetracked from that by the politics of the past. Instead, we’re building towards the future.”
Not taking “no” for an answer
The decision of McAulliffe to take up space as an aging white man in the wake of last summer’s racial reckoning has been met with sharp criticism. Many question whether he is the right person for the moment. The power of Carroll Foy’s fundraising apparatus has shone through, even in spite of McAulliffe’s deep pockets. Her grassroots campaign reported raising nearly $2 million in 2020 alone, more than all Republican candidates combined.
Carroll Foy’s path to winning the Democratic nomination on June 8th is undeniably steep; the field is crowded and, in Virginia, winning only requires a plurality of the vote. Still, for that little girl sitting at the kitchen table in Petersburg, this is a trail she is determined to blaze.
“My whole life, I’ve been told ‘no.’,” she said, “No, I couldn’t go to VMI. No, I shouldn’t run for the House of Delegates because Democrats already had their candidate. No, it wasn’t the right time to run for Governor. But I’ve proved folks wrong every step of the way.”
You can learn more about Jennifer Carroll Foy at www.jennifercarrollfoy.com.