Richmond Council Woman Stays Strong in the Face of Hate Speech

Richmond Vice Mayor Jovanka Beckles was elected to a seat on the city council in 2010. Since then, she has endured more than her share of hate speech in the form of taunts, ridicule, rants, and slurs—all stemming from her designation as the council’s first openly lesbian councilwoman. Though many of these attacks come in the form of angry rants from city residents at council meetings, Beckles has also faced a surprising amount of adversity from fellow council members.

A good deal of the vitriol Beckles puts up with comes from fellow council member Corky Boozé, who was also elected in 2010. Boozé told reporters that he does not “care for her lifestyle,” clarifying that he does not mean this in a homophobic way, though Beckles often takes such statements as so. He stated that Beckles instigates the vitriol that permeates many of the city’s council meetings due to her “short fuse.” Veteran council member Tom Butt sympathizes with Beckles, saying she puts up with an unfathomable amount of taunts and opposition at every turn.

Though Beckles is able to cope with the jeers often through a variety of relaxation tactics, she occasionally will snap and call for especially hateful commenters to be removed from the council chambers by the police, which results in more criticism from the likes of Boozé. Beckles has proposed cracking down on hate speech at meetings, which city officials say they are looking into.

Even though four long years of ridicule would probably be enough to dissuade anyone from pursuing such a position further, Beckles has announced her bid for re-election to the Richmond city council. She is energized for her re-election campaign, and has said she remains optimistic for the future.

“I think things will eventually change for the better in this city, and, in the end, that's a cause I think is worth fighting for. It's worth putting up with all this other stuff,” Beckles said.

Read more about the adversity faced by Beckles here.