Princess Blanding lost her brother to police violence on May 14, 2018. Marcus-David Peters was a Biology teacher at the Virginia high school where Princess served as an assistant principal. On his drive home from work, he suffered a mental health crisis – his first, according to Blanding.
Peters was behind the wheel of his car at the time. His vehicle was involved in an accident and came to a stop near an on-ramp for Interstate 95 in Richmond. Officer Michael Nyantakyi of the Richmond Police Department pursued Peters, who emerged from his car naked and in distress. Peters was hit by another vehicle and thrown to the ground. When he got up, he saw Officer Nyantakyi and began walking toward him. The officer tased Peters multiple times before firing his gun, killing him.
A review by Richmond’s Commonwealth’s Attorney deemed the officer’s actions to be reasonable.
Peters’ death and the state’s decision not to prosecute prompted years of protests across Richmond and threw Princess and her family into an unwanted limelight.
“I was the last person in my family to see my brother alive,” Blanding said in an interview with The BWSTimes. “But without having time to mourn, we had to begin fighting for justice. The city of Richmond was trying to erase the amazing person my brother was.”
Blanding blasts “watered down legislation” passed in her brother’s name
Blanding said she and her family “begged legislators to prioritize community mental health and safety and to hold police officers accountable.” At first, she says, the legislature largely ignored her calls for change. It wasn’t until after the national uprisings following the murder of George Floyd that local and state legislators finally reached out to work with her.
Even then, Blanding says, the legislature passed what she calls “a weak and watered down bill” that would do little to prevent a similar tragedy from happening again.
In a bill signing ceremony at the state Capitol late last year, Blanding excoriated the Democratic party and called on the legislature to “fix it”.
“Please take a moment to pat yourselves on the back for doing exactly what this racist, corrupt, and broken, may I also add, system expected you all to do: make the Marcus Alert bill a watered down, ineffective bill that will continue to ensure that having a mental health crisis results in a death sentence,” Blanding said at the signing ceremony.
Blanding said the bill as passed would “make independent civilian review boards optional”.
She also blasted the Democratic-controlled legislature for “twice killing a bill to end qualified immunity”.
Following her remarks, at least one state senator (Jennifer McClellan), took to the podium to acknowledge the need for the legislature to do more.
“This bill does not go far enough,” Sen. McClellan said, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “While this is a first step, it cannot and will not be the last.”
Blanding continued in her speech to the Governor and others by thanking them, “because you have absolutely succeeded in lighting a fire in me and so many others that is impossible to take out.”
This fire did not languish in words, but was manifested into action.
Princess Blanding announces new political party and run for Governor
Shortly after the bill signing ceremony, Princess Blanding launched her own political party and announced her run for Virginia Governor.
“We can no longer allow our oppressors to be our saviors,” she told the times, “because they will not.”
Blanding said she created the Liberation Party because the two party system has failed Black and brown communities. According to its website, the party focuses its efforts on:
- Creating generational wealth.
- Dismantling racist systems.
- Fostering sociocultural enlightenment.
- Claiming our rightful political positions to ensure Black Liberation.
Despite a groundswell of support for social change during the summer and Fall of 2020, the Democratic party of Virginia reverted back to former politicians to lead the state forward. In the Democratic primary this past June, voters had two Black women and one Black man on the gubernatorial ballot. Instead, former Virginia Governor and party operative Terry McAullife, a white man, won the nomination.
Blanding says while the lack of substantive process is frustrating, she is working to “keep my energy focused in the right direction”.
“The system has done such a number on people,” she said. “I am so inspired by the many fearless community members who are saying ‘no more'” to politics as usual.
Blanding, who has been on the ground fighting for change since Marcus’s death, said she hopes people will choose to vote for values rather than out of fear.
“We say all these things like ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘no justice while there’s injustice’,” Blanding said. “However, once you have someone who’s been mobilizing for change run for office there’s the ‘well, we need this, but…’ argument.”
“Fear is keeping us oppressed”, Blanding takes on former Gov. Terry McAullife in challenge to the status quo
Polls show the upcoming election on November 2nd is tight. Democrats fear a Republican could win the Virginia governor’s mansion for the first time since 2009.
For Blanding, that’s no excuse to revert to the status quo.
“Our values align but people are scared to vote because it could go to a Republican?” Blanding asked incredulously when talking about the difficulty to break through as a third-party candidate.
“Shame on you! You’re scared to fill in a bubble on a piece of paper when there are people who are putting their lives on the line.”
“Fear is keeping us oppressed,” she said.
At a recent debate, only Democrat Terry McAullife and Republican Glenn Youngkin were invited to participate.
“My team and I reached out and asked if I could be on the debate stage,” she shared. “They told me ‘no’ because I am not a ‘significant candidate’.”
Blanding asked what organizers meant by a “significant candidate” for Virginia Governor. “They said I needed to poll at a certain percentage,” she said. “I can’t possibly meet that requirement when my name isn’t a part of most polls.”
Instead, Blanding was told she could sit in the audience and speak to press afterward. So, like she did with the bill signing, Princess Blanding carved out space for herself.
During a question about policing, Blanding and others stood up and interrupted the debate.
“I am on the ballot! Why am I not on that stage?” Blanding asked. “This is not democracy!”
Blanding says that when she started speaking, both of her opponents were promising more funding for police and stating they would not end qualified immunity.
“That’s not the answer,” Blanding told The BWSTimes. “No one wants to have a conversation about the ‘why variables'” that lead to deadly encounters with police. “We don’t need more performative politics,” she said.
Win or lose, Blanding pledges to “fight fearlessly for the people”.
There are a mere two weeks until Election Day in Virginia. Princess Blanding knows polls show her path to victory is nothing short of a steep uphill climb, but she is undeterred.
Before her interview with The Black Wall Street Times, Blanding says she was trying to find service after an event in rural Virginia. She, her supporters and her team are criss-crossing the state, spreading the word about her campaign and the Liberation Party platform as a whole. She wants people to know about a party platform built with the purpose of dismantling oppressive systems.
It’s a bold effort in a state with deep and pervasive roots in this country’s racist past.
“We have to become comfortable having uncomfortable conversations,” she said. She hopes these conversations will help people see past a reliance on the two-party system and empower them to advocate for something better.
“A lot of people are monopolizing off of the suffering of Black community members,” Blanding said. “I want to enlighten them and mobilize them to action.”
Whether or not she becomes Virginia’s Governor, Princess Blanding’s mission to get justice for her brother and far too many others will continue.
“I’m going to be here long after this election is over,” she said, “spreading this message and fighting fearlessly for the people.”
To learn more about Princess Blanding’s campaign for Governor, click here.
Early voting in Virginia’s gubernatorial election is ongoing. The last day to vote is Tuesday, November 2nd. More information about polling times and locations can be found here.