Divergent spectrum of speakers address future of democracy on 400th anniversary: ‘I want Democracy to recognize me’

RICHMOND. Va. -- 400 years ago, the Great American experiment of democracy in the Western Hemisphere began in Jamestown.

The first “General Assembly,” then referred to as the House of Burgess' was composed of men from each of Virginia’s eleven major settlements. From July 30-August 4, 1619, they met for the first time in Jamestown and planted the seed of democracy for the rest of the country.

On Tuesday, modern leaders paused to remember the good and bad of that great experiment, the keynote of the event being a speech from President Donald Trump.

Trump's speech was briefly interrupted when Northern Virginia Delegate Ibraheem Samirah took the stage, saying that he disrupted the President’s speech because “nobody’s racism and bigotry should be excused for the sake of being polite.”

In a tweet, the Delegate went on to explain that President Trump should not partake in a celebration of democracy and our nation’s history of immigrants when he is unfit for office.

Despite the interruption. President Trump ended his speech celebrating the birth of American democracy in Virginia.

“We have returned here to this place to declare to all the world, that the United States of America and the great Commonwealth of Virginia are just getting started," Trump said.

Trump also spoke on the arrival of the first enslaved Africans, who arrived in Point Comfort, Virginia (modern-day Fort Monroe) in late August 1619. The “20 and odd” Africans were from West Central Africa and were traded in exchange for provisions, calling the practice "barbaric."

While the President was in Jamestown, some Virginia lawmakers opted to boycott his appearance. Members of the Legislative Black Caucus and other Democrats held several events in Richmond including speeches and a wreath laying at Lumpkins Jail, where the first documented enslaved Africans arrived in Virginia.

In another speech, House Speaker Kirk Cox noted that open discussion between leaders in the days following the celebration will be crucial in understanding and establishing the future of democracy in Virginia and across the country.

“I think the next two or three days are almost more important than today because we have a variety of speakers from all over the political spectrum who will be talking about the future of democracy.  We’ll be talking about every aspect," Cox said.

Delegate Danica Roem, the first openly transgender person to be elected to Virginia's General Assembly,  invited Austyn Higgs, a transgender woman from Richmond, as her guest to the commemoration.

“Without our voices, we aren’t able to be humanized, and so I want Democracy to recognize me and my humanity and that of my community," Higgs said.

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