Women & Politics with Senator Jennifer McClellan and Sheba Williams

Senator Jennifer McClellan has dedicated her life to serving the people of Virginia and to ensuring that all Virginians have their voices heard in government. Sen. McClellan has served greater Richmond in the General Assembly for 17 years. She has earned a reputation as a strong legislative champion for Virginians, passing landmark laws to protect voting rights, safeguard abortion access, tackle climate change, rebuild crumbling schools, expand Obamacare in Virginia, protect workers rights, and reform Virginia’s criminal justice system.

Now, Senator McClellan is running for Congress to continue delivering for the people of Virginia, and to make sure their voices are heard in Washington, D.C. McClellan recognizes the tremendous legacy of Virginia’s 4th Congressional District, from Rep. John Mercer Langston to Rep. Donald McEachin. She is committed to continuing that legacy of service, and to breaking barriers as Virginia’s first Black woman member of Congress.

McClellan was elected to the House of Delegates representing Richmond in 2005. When the late Donald McEachin was elected to Congress in 2016, McClellan was elected to serve McEachin’s former Senate seat. She has served in the Senate since 2017, and serves as Vice Chair of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus. Sen. McClellan has also been a leader in addressing Virginia’s painful history of racial inequity. As Chair of the Virginia Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Commission, Jenn promotes Dr. King’s legacy and continues his work, particularly racial healing, economic and social justice, and community engagement.

As a community leader at the local, state, and national level, McClellan has served on a wide variety of non-profit and civic organizations’ boards, including the YWCA of Richmond, the Virginia League of Planned Parenthood, the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia, the Children’s Museum of Richmond, and the Robert Russa Moton Museum. She is also a member of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

Sheba Williams, Executive Director of No Lef Turns, was born and raised in Richmond, Virginia. She is the mother of 3 young adults. At the age of 10, Ms. Williams and her older sister awoke to an empty house. Her mother and father had been arrested the night before. Her mother was sentenced to 6 months in Henrico County Jail and her father was sent to Virginia’s Department of Corrections, with a sentence of 38 years. That was her first memory of the injustices of the penal  system in Virginia. As a child, her paternal grandmother and maternal grandfather  worked together to raise her and her sister. Though her mother only served a  short sentence in comparison to her father, she would never recover fully from having a felony conviction on her record. The state of Virginia was never designed to rehabilitate and allow for others to heal following a conviction.

In 2012, Ms. Williams moved back home, to Richmond, VA. Ms. Williams began working with people who were hurting because they were no longer considered “whole” citizens. Losing hundreds of inalienable rights was such a burden that she was inclined to advocate for those who had done their time but weren’t allowed to move beyond their convictions. It was always about the needs of others; it was never about her own situation. She made things work for her family with little to nothing, at times, but there were so many others surrounding her that didn’t have the support and resources available to navigate through life with a felony conviction in Virginia. Inspiration came from others who were surviving life after a conviction in Virginia. Inspiration came from others who didn’t know where to turn, but never gave up. Inspiration came from knowing that almost 95% of individuals who were convicted of a felony in Virginia must reintegrate into society as our neighbors, leaders, brothers and sisters. With 5 others, Nolef Turns Inc. was founded in 2016 as an all-volunteer group that advocates for people with felony convictions throughout Virginia.

Through all the trials and tribulations, Ms. Williams fights tirelessly for others. She knows that there is a need for crime and punishment, but she also knows that, at some point, it should be left in the past. In order to grow as a community, we must find forgiveness in those who make mistakes. Ms. Williams firmly believes in redemption and allowing others to have access to the tools they need to be able to become self-sufficient following a felony conviction. Employment is the key – whether it be corporate employment, self-employment or entrepreneurship. Being gainfully employed is the nucleus to housing, education, family structure, crime reduction, emotional stability, and so many other things and that is the core mission of Nolef Turns Inc.


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