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.”

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After years of service as a military nurse in the naval Marine Corps, Los Angeles, California-resident Rhonda Jackson became one of the 37,000 retired veterans in the U.S. who are currently experiencing homelessness — roughly eight percent of the entire homeless population.

"I was living in a one-bedroom apartment with no heat for two years," Jackson said. "The Department of Veterans Affairs was doing everything they could to help but I was not in a good situation."

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There have been many iconic dance routines throughout film history, but how many have the honor being called "the greatest" by Fred Astaire himself?

Fayard and Harold Nicholas, known collectively as the Nicholas Brothers, were arguably the best at what they did during their heyday. Their coordinated tap routines are legendary, not only because they were great dancers, but because of their incredible ability to jump into the air and land in the splits. Repeatedly. From impressive heights.

Their most famous routine comes from the movie "Stormy Weather." As Cab Calloway sings "Jumpin' Jive," the Nicholas Brothers make the entire set their dance floor, hopping and tapping from podium to podium amongst the musicians, dancing up and down stairs and across the top of a piano.

But what makes this scene extra impressive is that they performed it without rehearsing it first and it was filmed in one take—no fancy editing room tricks to bring it all together. This fact was confirmed in a conversation with the brothers in a Chicago Tribune article in 1997, when they were both in their 70s:

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We're redefining what normal means in these uncertain times, and although this is different for all of us, love continues to transform us for the better.

Love is what united Marie-Claire and David Archbold, who met while taking a photography class. "We went into the darkroom to see what developed," they joke—and after a decade of marriage, they know firsthand the deep commitment and connection romantic love requires.

All photos courtesy of Marie-Claire and David Archbold

However, their relationship became even sweeter when they adopted James: a little boy with a huge heart.

In the United States alone, there are roughly 122,000 children awaiting adoption according to the latest report from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. While the goal is always for a child to be parented by and stay with their biological family, that is not always a possibility. This is where adoption offers hope—not only does it create new families, it gives birth parents an avenue through which to see their child flourish when they are not able to parent. For the right families, it's a beautiful thing.

The Archbolds knew early on that adoption was an option for them. David has three daughters from a previous marriage, but knowing their family was not yet complete, the couple embarked on a two-year journey to find their match. When the adoption agency called and told them about James, they were elated. From the moment they met him, the Archbolds knew he was meant to be part of their family. David locked eyes with the brown-eyed baby and they stared at each other in quiet wonder for such a long time that the whole room fell silent. "He still looks at me like that," said David.

The connection was mutual and instantaneous—love at first sight. The Archbolds knew that James was meant to be a part of their family. However, they faced significant challenges requiring an even deeper level of commitment due to James' medical condition.

James was born with congenital hyperinsulinism, a rare condition that causes his body to overproduce insulin, and within 2 months of his birth, he had to have surgery to remove 90% of his pancreas. There was a steep learning curve for the Archbolds, but they were already in love, and knew they were committed to the ongoing care that'd be required of bringing James into their lives. After lots of research and encouragement from James' medical team, they finally brought their son home.

Today, three-year-old James is thriving, filled with infectious joy that bubbles over and touches every person who comes in contact with him. "Part of love is when people recognize that they need to be with each other," said his adoptive grandfather. And because the Archbolds opted for an open adoption, there are even more people to love and support James as he grows.

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