Happy Independence Day!

I often get asked, “Why are you running for Virginia House of Delegates, District 75?”. District 75 includes the partial Chesterfield County (most of Chester), Hopewell City, and parts of Prince George County.

I have an undergraduate degree in historical and political studies and a graduate degree in public administration. I’m also an adjunct professor that teaches state and local government and U.S. Government at the collegian ranks. I feel it is important to mention these qualifications because I like to use historical facts when providing a perspective on any topic. Additionally, I served our country faithfully in the U.S. Army with tours in both the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.

Stephen and his mom

Today, we remember the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. On July 4th, 1776, The Second Continental Congress ratified this document, officially establishing the United States States of America. The Thirteen Colonies would no longer be subject and subordinate to the monarch of Britain. They were now united, free, and independent states.

Now, I have always celebrated the 4th of July. My parents were married for about 8 years before heading to divorce. My brother, Jeremy, and I couldn’t understand the pressures of trying to raise a family in a suburban area that was not as diverse as the inner cities of Newark, NJ. One way we did this was by doing what all families did in the community; coming together for holidays. July 4th was big because we all liked the fireworks. The 4th of July was often the highlight of our summer as we would see family, fireworks, and BBQ. This, to me, was part of living the American Dream.

I spent three 4th of July holidays deployed in a hostile environment. I shipped to basic training on July 6th, 2001. The attacks on our soil on 9/11 cut my field training exercise short. After this chain of events, I was prepared to lay my life on the line for the American people. Every day me and my peers dressed with that American Flag snuggly attached to our shoulders to remind us of our sacrifices for the United States of America. The selfless service of protecting our freedoms shaped and conditioned my late teens and 20s.

In addition to serving overseas, there were two roles I did during my military service that fully embraced the sacrifices for independence that we all celebrate today. I used to sing a cadence during marching with new trainee soldiers. The lyrics would go something like: “Some say freedom is free, but I tend to disagree. Some say freedom is won through the barrel of a gun”. I trained and conditioned soldiers to understand that, ultimately, we signed up to potentially lay our life down to continue to protect the freedoms of all Americans. The youth of America’s sons and daughters were under my leadership. Despite all the dangerous experiences I had, we never lost anyone during a mission/deployment. This was vital in practical approach while training the next generation of military leaders.

The other role that I performed was as funeral honors non-commissioned officer in charge. This is a highly professional, time-honored ceremony that is given to those who have served the country with honor and have been laid to rest. In this ceremony, a funeral honors detail is responsible for rendering the last military respects. Part of my duty was to fold the military flag, oftentimes draped on the casket, and then present the flag to a designated loved one. In all my years of service, this duty had been the most important one that I ever performed. It takes a lot of discipline and honor for the ceremony to ensure the flag is folded correctly, the words of encouragement are delivered precisely, “on behalf of a grateful nation”, and the raw emotions of the family members do not change the honor and reverence required in execution.

When I signed up all those years ago to serve our country without question, I did so with the hope and promise that these United States of America were here to work for all people. I also dedicated my life to defending the freedoms and fighting for justice for all people. I raised my right hand to say that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. I believe we are now in a time when we must defend against our domestic enemies. We must not allow those who have not sacrificed a thing for anyone to continue to dictate what is best for all.

One of the things that happened when I continued to be educated on the history of our country and some of our missteps, were a few facts. After the colonies decided to get out from under Britain’s oppression, they did not fully understand the need for freedom for all people. This was shown through the true factors that led to the Civil War. The enslavement of Africans was a lucrative business model for many in the Southern States. District 75 has some historical sites that tell the true story of how City Point and Chester Station were vital in the Union’s ability to win the war and for the Emancipation Proclamation to be enacted. Our newest federal holiday, Juneteenth, is a reminder that even though in 1776 the States were declared free, they were not until June 19th, 1865, when the last enslaved Africans were notified that they were free themselves. I am also reminded that women didn’t get the right to vote until 1920 and both my grandmothers were adults without the ability to vote until their 30s.

I’m running because the reality is we do not have a champion in office that even knows how to fight and certainly not for all people. What the everyday people of District 75 are facing is bigger than a photo op. I’m concerned because we are headed toward times when we need elected officials that can carry us. We have industrial plants that pollute the air in the district, but since they donate to our elected officials, nothing is said. We have companies that are bringing perceived growth to the 75th, but the people of the 75th, the small businesses, and the students at our tech centers (all those outsourced manufacturing jobs) are not reaping the benefits. I have a history of fighting for all people. On this day of independence, let us remember the wrongs we still must right and understand that the time is now to protect the future for the next generation.

In the last couple of years, I began on a journey to map my family genealogy since my parents, brother, and grandparents are all deceased. Finding records is difficult when I am sure my family has come from enslaved Africans. I was able to trace most of my family to certain points in history.

When I began my campaign, a lot of people asked me, “What will you say to the people that say you’re not from Virginia?”. That was until I was able to trace my 4th Great-Grandmother, Martha Long-Hudson, to Middlesex Co., VA, born around 1815. This put more spotlight on my desire to fight for the freedoms of all people. Most of my family have no idea who Martha Long was or her significance. However, a few things stuck out to me. First, my 4th Great-Grandmother was born close to 40 years after the Declaration of Independence and close to 50 years before the last enslaved Africans were notified of their freedoms.

Today, we battle a wild Virginia legislature that is working to take us back to a time when all people were not at the decision-making table. We must fight together to prevent our rogue neighbors without any understanding of everyday Americans from continuing to make decisions that are rooted more in nepotism than what’s best for our diverse community and its members. This is why I am running and hoping that on Nov 7th I can count on your vote.