December 2nd 2023.
Don L. Scott is set to make history on January 1, 2024 when he is sworn in as the first Black Speaker of the House in Virginia's 400-year history. Scott’s journey to the speakership is a remarkable one.
He was first thrust into the public’s eye in 2018 when a reporter from the Virginian-Pilot asked him if it was true that he had gone to prison. Scott hadn’t previously thought about sharing it, but that call made him think about sharing his story more widely.
The positive response from his community convinced him to run for office and in 2020, he was working on a bill to amend Virginia’s probation system and reached out to the REFORM Alliance’s co-chair Meek Mill.
Robert Rooks, the CEO of REFORM Alliance, told BLACK ENTERPRISE that Scott was determined to end the criminal justice system’s “pipeline” and that since the legislation was enacted, the data suggests positive trends in Virginia’s justice system.
Scott also recognizes how unlikely this seems on its face, since it is up to the governor to restore the rights of formerly incarcerated people. He shared with The Guardian his thoughts on this, saying “I will be speaker with a felony, while other people who are just like me… will not be able to vote. That’s nuts.”
Rooks also shared his thoughts on the matter with BLACK ENTERPRISE, saying it was disheartening to see Scott doubted and attacked for being a formerly incarcerated person. He explained that we should “encourage and celebrate” people who want to serve their neighbors as elected representatives.
Scott is aware of the significance of his position relative to his Blackness, but also acknowledges that his constituents are looking for him to deliver wins. He reflected on a conversation with a former governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, saying that the governor told him “Now you have to go and be great. You have to be competent. You have to deliver.”
Finally, Scott is excited about the future and he recognizes what his position represents in terms of his personal journey. He told The Guardian, “It’s the dream of a lifetime. I feel embarrassed of how much I’ve been blessed. I went to jail in ’94; 2024 is 30 years and I’ll be standing taking my oath. That’s a powerful testament to the power of faith, and the power of resilience.”
Don L. Scott is making history as the first Black Speaker in Virginia’s 400 year history of its House of Representatives. He will be officially sworn in on January 1, 2024. But Scott's journey to the speakership is far from typical. It began in 2018 when Scott was interviewed by the Virginian-Pilot. As Scott told The Guardian, the reporter asked him about a rumor that he had gone to prison. It was then that Scott realized the importance of sharing his story with the public.
The positive response to the story prompted Scott to seriously consider running for office. As Scott told The Guardian, “I got such positive feedback from my community and other folks that I said, ‘Heck, I’m free now. If I decide I want to run, I can run.’”
In 2020, Scott ran for office and worked on a bill to amend Virginia’s probation system. He contacted the REFORM Alliance’s co-chair Meek Mill and the Alliance’s CEO Robert Rooks. Rooks told BLACK ENTERPRISE that Scott's desire led to positive benefits for Virginians. He said, “Delegate Scott was resolved to dismantle this pipeline and recognized that fixing a broken probation system was essential to increasing public safety and economic growth. Since this legislation was enacted, the data suggests positive trends in Virginia’s justice system, including fewer people being put on lengthy probation terms and fewer people being locked up for technical violations".
Scott also recognizes the significance of Virginia's criminal justice system and how it handles people with felony convictions on their records. He told The Guardian, “I had a nonviolent drug offense that I was sentenced to 10 years [in prison] for. There are people who are just like me who are not voting and can’t vote and are smarter than I am. [They] can’t vote because they’re waiting on somebody like Governor [Glenn] Youngkin to restore their rights. I will be speaker with a felony, while other people who are just like me … will not be able to vote. That’s nuts.”
Rooks expressed his support for Scott to BLACK ENTERPRISE, saying, “We are a society of second chances and it was disheartening to see Delegate Scott not only doubted and underestimated but also attacked for being a formerly incarcerated person. We should not vilify people who want to serve their neighbors as elected representatives; we should encourage and celebrate them."
Scott is aware of the expectations placed upon him as a Black Speaker. He told The Guardian, “I’m the first Black speaker, but I’m also a speaker who happens to be Black.” He is excited for the future and recognizes what his position represents in terms of his personal journey. “It’s the dream of a lifetime. I feel embarrassed of how much I’ve been blessed. I went to jail in ’94; 2024 is 30 years and I’ll be standing taking my oath. That’s a powerful testament to the power of faith, and the power of resilience.”
Scott's collaboration with the REFORM Alliance has already started making a difference in Virginia's criminal justice system. The Alliance's CEO Robert Rooks spoke to BLACK ENTERPRISE about the importance of offering second chances, and that it is necessary to celebrate elected representatives who have faced difficulty in their past. Together, Scott and Rooks are proving that it is possible to push for positive change in the criminal justice system, and that everyone deserves a second chance.
[This article has been trending online recently and has been generated with AI. Your feed is customized.]