FAIRFAX, Va. (WRIC) — Despite the controversy surrounding the ceremony, Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax said Tuesday he plans to attend the events celebrating 400 years since Virginia lawmakers’ first meeting in Jamestown next week.
Reports that President Donald Trump may make an appearance has led other top Democrats to announce their intentions to skip the commemorative session.
Fairfax opened up about his decision to attend the ceremony in an interview at the Historic Fairfax County Courthouse. Virginia’s lieutenant governor said the courthouse is a special place for him and his family as it’s home to an important document that shares his family’s history.
“Well, this here is the deed of manumission of 1798,” Fairfax explained. “It’s the document that freed my great, great, great grandfather.”
When Fairfax announced his plans to attend the 400th anniversary Commemorative Ceremony of the First Representative Legislative Assembly in an op-ed Sunday, he cited the plight of his ancestor and the enslaved Africans “who have been cast into eternity largely with anonymity.”
“I am fortunate and proud to be able to know that I am the great-great-great-grandson of Simon Fairfax, a man who was enslaved but freed in Virginia by the 9th Lord Fairfax on June 5, 1798,” the lieutenant governor wrote. “Simon, along with his family and ancestors, made a significant difference in their community and contributed positively to our Commonwealth’s history.”
When asked whether the deed can be traced back to his family’s history in Virginia, Fairfax said: “Yes, this is the furthest back we’ve gone.”
A history of being tied to Virginia’s land, Fairfax says it’s one of the reasons why he needs to be there for Virginians next week at the American Evolution: 2019 Commemoration. The ceremony celebrations, which take place on July 30 in Jamestown, mark 400 years of representative government in the Commonwealth.
“I want to make sure that the voices of enslaved Africans who were forced to land in Virginia also 400 years ago are represented,” Fairfax said.
Last summer, Gov. Northam and Republican leadership invited President Donald J. Trump to come to a commemorative legislative session recognizing the historical moment.
White House officials have yet to confirm whether or not the president will attend, but sources close to the situation say President Trump is planning to go to Jamestown. Democratic leadership wrote on social media that they will not be at the ceremony if Trump shows, asking event organizers to “send him back.”
When asked whether or not fellow Democrats approached him about the idea of boycotting the celebration if Trump attends, Fairfax quickly answered: “I learned about it on social media as I think a lot of other people did.”
Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment lashed out at his political counterparts, calling the decision to boycott the commemorative session because of President Trump’s participation “disappointing and embarrassing.”
The Commonwealth’s accomplishments, Fairfax said, will last longer than any person or leader.
“I think that’s bigger than the occupant of the White House and that’s bigger than one figure,” Fairfax told 8News. “No national figure can diminish the progress that we’ve made as a Commonwealth.”
According to Gov. Ralph Northam’s office, the governor is expected to speak at an event next Tuesday morning at the commemoration’s events. Northam is not scheduled to attend the events later in the day.