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Black Alumni Weekend celebrates thirtieth anniversary

U.Va. Alumni for Change delivers letter to President Sullivan

<p>This year’s programming was organized partially as a response to a combination of both the national and local outrage sparked in recent months by highly publicized incidents of police brutality as well as the issue of sexual assault on college campuses.</p>

This year’s programming was organized partially as a response to a combination of both the national and local outrage sparked in recent months by highly publicized incidents of police brutality as well as the issue of sexual assault on college campuses.

The thirtieth anniversary of Black Alumni Weekend was held this Friday and Saturday and featured events ranging from discussions about the changing role of the African-American community at the University to a screening of a documentary on the history of slavery at the University.

Black Alumni Weekend began in 1985 as an admissions recruiting initiative organized by the Walter Ridley Scholarship Committee — a group that oversees a scholarship fund for the University’s black students. The aim was to bring alumni of the scholarship program closer to the University’s black undergraduates through the provision of career mentorship.

Over the years, Black Alumni Weekend has morphed its focus on educational events and career-networking into an event that also encompases the social aspects of a traditional college reunion. Although the event is still funded by the Ridley Scholarship Fund, the Alumni Association helps out with the logistics of the reunion.

This year’s programming was organized partially as a response to a combination of both national and local outrage sparked in recent months by highly publicized incidents of police brutality as well as the issue of sexual assault on college campuses.

Events like “Politics Under America’s First Black President,” held at Newcomb Theatre, and “Our University: a discussion with black student leaders,” addressed racial tensions in America and within the University community.

Cate Liverman, director of reunion programs at Alumni Hall, said the race issues prevalent in the national media this past year impacted to some degree what the Ridley Scholarship Committee wanted to address in the events.

“When I first met with the Committee in September, the Ferguson issue was very much alive,” Liverman said. “We talked about the national issues and decided to have a panel discussion of alumni talking about what it means to have a black president and how it has impacted race relations.”

However, Liverman said the Committee did not want race to be the sole topic. The event “Engendering Rape: A Reading and Discussion” brought together an author and a psychotherapist for a perspective on campus rape with emphasis on how victims are affected.

On Saturday, U.Va. Alumni for Change — a group formed in the wake of the arrest of Martese Johnson — organized a march to the president’s house from the Rotunda with Johnson at the helm. Although it was not formally a part of Black Alumni Weekend, members of Alumni for Change delivered a letter to President Teresa Sullivan outlining what the group wants to see changed going forward.

The letter called on the University to triple African American enrollment students by the year 2020, and to increase the number of black tenured faculty to 15 percent.

Although Alumni Hall was not involved in the planning of the march, Liverman said the office coordinated with Sullivan on behalf of U.Va. Alumni for Change to make sure she would be there to receive the letter.

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