A Virginia man explains exactly what it means to get his vote back after so many years.

Christopher Rashad Green came home from work the night of Aug. 15, 2016, to find a letter from Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe waiting in his mailbox.

"When I sit down on my bed ... and I open it up, I’m not going to lie to you, I was so proud and thankful at the same time," Green says.

Christopher Rashad Green. Photo via New Virginia Majority.


After his 2013 release from prison, where Green was serving time for a burglary conviction, he devoted his life to activism. Green dove into a project reclaiming a set of African-American remains discovered at the bottom of a Richmond-area well and joined a campaign to raise the minimum wage.

Still, there was one tool for making change he longed to reclaim that he had lost when he was locked away: the right to vote.

The letter from the governor gave it back to him.

"Immediately, I called my mother," he says.

It was like a weight had been lifted from him.

Virginia is one of four states that permanently bars convicted felons from voting — even after they've completed their sentence and probation.

Green is one of 156,000 Virginians whose voting rights have been restored by Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a record-setting number, beating the previous mark set by Florida Governor Charlie Crist from 2007 to 2011.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe. Photo by Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images.

"Restoring their voting rights once they have served their time does not pardon their crimes or restore their firearm rights, but it provides them with a meaningful second chance through full citizenship," McAuliffe said in a statement.

Green was one of 200,000 Virginian "returning citizens" who were initially granted their right to vote via a blanket order from McAuliffe in April 2016  — an action that was overturned in court after a challenge by state Republicans.

The ruling stripped Green and others — who were briefly able to register to vote — of their franchise again.

In response, McAuliffe's administration began a massive effort to restore voting rights to citizens one by one.

Some applied via an electronic form. Others were identified by a data operation in collaboration with law enforcement, the Department of Juvenile Justice, the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, and other state agencies. Once it was determined that a returning citizen had been released from all forms of supervision, an individual grant order was prepared, signed electronically by the governor, and mailed out.

An attorney for Virginia Republicans argues before the state Supreme Court. Photo by Joe Mahoney/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP.

"I think people tend to think these are all terrible, awful people who are rapists and murderers, and they’re not," Kelly Thomasson, Virginia's secretary of the commonwealth, whose office is responsible for restoring civil rights to eligible citizens. "If you steal an iPhone, you will be convicted of a felony. The larceny threshold in Virginia is $200."

It's a rare victory for a demographic that's often overlooked by policymakers, and it took Virginia nearly a year to individually restore 156,000 people's voting rights.

A study by the Sentencing Project found that 13% of adult black men are disqualified from voting due to a felony conviction.

These men account for nearly 35% of all voters nationwide barred from voting.

"We see the high levels, where people commit acts of misconduct and egregious things, and they’re forgiven," Green explains. "They’re given second chances whether because they have money, prestige, or fame. But those at the bottom, those like us living in the trenches, we’re not worthy of redemption?"

Photo by Bill Tiernan/The Virginian-Pilot via AP.

The Secretary of the Commonwealth's website is now home to testimonials from re-enfranchised voters from all walks of life — some from residents who regained the right to vote after decades barred from casting a ballot.

"I have goosebumps right now talking about it because even though I’ve been doing this job for three-and-a-half years, hearing those stories never gets old," Thomasson says.

For years, Green says he was cynical about the political process — and the inattention to poor and minority communities from those in government.

"Our communities aren’t getting what we need, and no matter how good our elected officials are and how much they care about the community, you see the disparities. You see the inequity," he says.

Christopher Rashad Green, displaying his voting rights grant order. Photo via New Virginia Majority.

Now, he's determined to put his newfound voting voice to use. Next month, he will leaving his job as a cook in Virginia Commonwealth University's cafeteria to become an organizer with New Virginia Majority, registering some of the same voters who recently had their rights restored.

In the meantime, he plans to continue advocating for the causes close to his heart — Fight for 15, Black Lives Matter, and civil rights for former felons — in his work at the House of Delegates and now, finally, at the ballot box.

"It can work," he says. "I've seen it work.”

True


Often, parents of children with special needs struggle to find Halloween costumes that will accommodate medical equipment or provide a proper fit. And figuring out how to make one? Yikes.

There's good news; shopDisney has added new ensembles to their already impressive line of adaptive play costumes. And from 8/30 - 9/26, there's a 20% off sale for all costume and costume accessory orders of $75+ with code Spooky.

When looking for the right costume, kids with unique needs have a lot of extra factors to consider: wheelchair wheels get tangled up in too-long material, feeding tubes could get twisted the wrong way, and children with sensory processing disorders struggle with the wrong kind of fabric, seams, or tags. There are a lot of different obstacles that can come between a kid and the ability to wear the costume of their choice, which is why it's so awesome that more and more companies are recognizing the need for inclusive creations that make it easy for everyone to enjoy the magic of make-believe.

Created with inclusivity in mind, the adaptive line is designed to discreetly accommodate tubes or wires from the front or the back, with lots of stretch, extra length and roomier cut, and self-stick fabric closures to make getting dressed hassle-free. The online shop provides details on sizing and breaks down the magical elements of each outfit and accessory, taking the guesswork out of selecting the perfect costume for the whole family.

Your child will be able to defeat Emperor Zurg in comfort with the Buzz Lightyear costume featuring a discreet flap opening at the front for easy tube access, with self-stick fabric closure. There is also an opening at the rear for wheelchair-friendly wear, and longer-length inseams to accommodate seated guests. To infinity and beyond!

An added bonus: many of the costumes offer a coordinating wheelchair cover set to add a major boost of fun. Kids can give their ride a total makeover—all covers are made to fit standard size chairs with 24" wheels—to transform it into anything from The Mandalorian's Razor Crest ship to Cinderella's Coach. Some options even come equipped with sounds and lights!

From babies to adults and adaptive to the group, shopDisney's expansive variety of Halloween costumes and accessories are inclusive of all.

Don't forget about your furry companions! Everyone loves to see a costumed pet trotting around, regardless of the occasion. You can literally dress your four-legged friend to look like Sven from Frozen, which might not sound like something you need in your life but...you totally do. CUTENESS OVERLOAD.

This year has been tough for everyone, so when a child gets that look of unfettered joy that comes from finally getting to wear the costume of their dreams, it's extra rewarding. Don't wait until the last minute to start looking for the right ensemble!


*Upworthy may earn a portion of sales revenue from purchases made through affiliate links on our site.

via Pixabay

Over the past six years, it feels like race relations have been on the decline in the U.S. We've lived through Donald Trump's appeals to America's racist underbelly. The nation has endured countless murders of unarmed Black people by police. We've also been bombarded with viral videos of people calling the police on people of color for simply going about their daily lives.

Earlier this year there was a series of incidents in which Asian-Americans were the targets of racist attacks inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Given all that we've seen in the past half-decade, it makes sense for many to believe that race relations in the U.S. are on the decline.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo courtesy of Macy's
True

Did you know that girls who are encouraged to discover and develop their strengths tend to be more likely to achieve their goals? It's true. The question, however, is how to encourage girls to develop self-confidence and grow up healthy, educated, and independent.

The answer lies in Girls Inc., a national nonprofit serving girls ages 5-18 in more than 350 cities across North America. Since first forming in 1864 to serve girls and young women who were experiencing upheaval in the aftermath of the Civil War, they've been on a mission to inspire girls to kick butt and step into leadership roles — today and in the future.

This is why Macy's has committed to partnering with Girls Inc. and making it easy to support their mission. In a national campaign running throughout September 2021, customers can round up their in-store purchases to the nearest dollar or donate online to support Girls Inc. and empower girls throughout the country.


Kaylin St. Victor, a senior at Brentwood High School in New York, is one of those girls. She became involved in the Long Island affiliate of Girls Inc. when she was in 9th grade, quickly becoming a role model for her peers.

Photo courtesy of Macy's

Within her first year in the organization, she bravely took on speaking opportunities and participated in several summer programs focused on advocacy, leadership, and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). "The women that I met each have a story that inspires me to become a better person than I was yesterday," said St. Victor. She credits her time at Girls Inc. with making her stronger and more comfortable in her own skin — confidence that directly translates to high achievement in education and the workforce.

In 2020, Macy's helped raise $1.3 million in support of their STEM and college and career readiness programming for more than 26,000 girls. In fact, according to a recent study, Girls Inc. girls are significantly more likely than their peers to enjoy math and science, to be interested in STEM careers, and to perform better on standardized math tests.

Keep Reading Show less