An Open Letter to Mayor Dwight Jones…

 Mayor Jones,

This week, I received an email from you entitled “Your Support”, which asked of me, a member of the Democratic Party of Virginia, to support your candidacy for Chair of our state party. Admittedly, I am completely unaware on whether you know who I am, or if this email will even reach you. Though I cannot confirm if the email address used is your actual email address or if my opinion, or the opinion of many others across the Commonwealth mean that much to you, but since you are ASKING for my support, I felt it prudent to ANSWER and respond to your email. That being said, while I do appreciate the email, informing me of your candidacy and willingness to undertake such an important role, knowing full well of your personal, yet very public beliefs and the atmosphere of which you’ve unfortunately inspired throughout our party, I absolutely will not support your candidacy to be Chairman of the Democratic Party of Virginia.

In your email, you wrote extensively about who you are as a person and as a Democrat and held this as sufficient reason why I should support you as Chair. In kind, before I go on as to why I will not support you or your candidacy, I want to be clear about who I am, the DEMOCRAT that you asked to support you. My name is Jamal Gunn. I was born in Portsmouth, Virginia. My father, who served in the United States Navy for over twenty years, and my mother, a career educator, instilled in me and my three brothers an endemic set of values as a Black man and American that I hold in the highest regard. These values have laid the foundation of who I am and what I have become. They have been tested to not only hold true, but to be reaffirmed through personal losses and professional sacrifices that have lead me to be an even stronger Democrat. My introduction to our state party was with a man I have a tremendous amount of respect for. A man that not only has represented our state as an elected official, but has also lead our national party as Chair, your predecessor, the Honorable Tim Kaine. As an organizer for his gubernatorial campaign, I got to see a man who, not only held true to his personal beliefs, but stood by the principles of his office and party. I learned a lot from him as a candidate, as an elected official and especially as a Democrat. I did not stop, there however. My relationship with the Democratic Party was only beginning to strengthen. I continued to work as an organizer for several of our candidates. I worked hard for our party. Knocked on thousands of doors, phone-called even more likely and less likely supporters. I worked and pulled success from times and elections where very few cared and even less desire success. But I did that to see our party better, to see our lives better. I continued to work with our party, most recently not as an employee, but as a loyal member. Because of what I’ve been able to accomplish, I’ve been trusted with positions and titles that I am ever so grateful for and continue to try to live up to. All of this is to say that not only do I know what it means to be be a party leader, but to also be loyal to the party while knowing the value of conviction and personal beliefs.

Not to belabor the point, the reason behind your email was to inform me of what has formed the core of your beliefs, which you belief to be the values of the Democratic Party. A party that you say fights against discrimination and for social justice, equal treatment under the law and acceptance of others. For years, our party and those who support us have seen these values at stake with the denial of the human freedom of love and the celebration of love. Knowing exactly what our party is and who we represent, you have refused to share these values. You refuse to recognize the dignity and desires of those you want to represent and lead. Yet, you still seek to be our chair. You must understand that is NOT what we need as a chair. Our chair should be one who embodies our entire party, our people and more importantly our principles. If you cannot support who we are as a party, then we should not support you as chair of our party.

Unfortunately, the part that surprises me the most is not your candidacy to be chair. Many would desire to lead. You are who you are by right and are welcome in the party. But to be chair and to be our voice while being against what we speak is unacceptable. Horrifyingly enough, knowing full well who we are as a party, you have the audacity to ask me to support you. I cannot. I will not. What is MOST regrettable, despite knowing who you are, what you belief and hold firmly, you were asked to lead. For the life of me, I cannot understand why you were asked, or why you didn’t refuse  You do not share our vision or voice.

Someone once told me, “Principles only mean something when you stick by them when they are MOST inconvenient.” As a man of faith, your principles may differ than that of a political party. It may not be convenient for you to support the equality and freedom of marriage for all men and women. Yet you find it convenient enough to lead a party that does. It would be my hope that you would stick by your principles and refuse a position you should not have been offered. Seeing that you were, I will not support you. I cannot and will not be lead by someone who does not stick by my principles.

Jamal Gunn