After reading President Jim Ryan’s letter Feb. 19 to the University community, a specific quote resonated with the U.Va. Black Alumni Initiative — “Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” a quote from Theodore Parker and used by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
We recognize that the students of the University have more knowledge of the events that preceded the viral video recording at the Multicultural Student Center. Big and small news media, as well as small-minded trolls, have built a narrative around this video that exacerbated the current divisive climate in our nation and has contributed to division within our community. In acknowledging the hardships we once bared while attending the University, we recognize you all are negotiating a different world, culture and experience with which we have no familiarity. Echoing the sentiments of Ryan, we stand with you to grow through all challenges, to make your University, our University and our country a better place for all.
We quote our ancestor, Fred Hampton, who collaborated across racial lines to bring forth national change. He encountered violent fear based upon narratives presented by the media due to his charisma and being an agent of change. By the age of 21, he would exclaim, “Nobody [leaves]. We all stay right here. With the people. Because we love the people...All power to all people!” In the sentiment of collaborative resolutions he said, "We’re going to fight racism not with racism, but we’re going to fight with solidarity."
From our vantage point, we see a student demanding respect for a space made to encompass a shared love and empowerment for all, which focuses on underrepresented communities on Grounds. With an understanding of the published purpose of the Multicultural Center, we evoke Hampton in asking that no students leave, if they are coming as our allies “supporting underrepresented and marginalized communities, while cultivating the holistic empowerment of all." When students come with positive intentions, a mindset centered on collaboration and set their goals in alignment, this creates empowerment of marginalized groups on Grounds, all while galvanizing separated communities.
We are uncertain of the next steps the students will take on Grounds or how the University will facilitate healing and create collaborative dialogue. We do agree that it is vital to address sentiments expressed by our sister and others in support of her during the recording. We applaud Ryan's warm and timely response, which demonstrates the tone for addressing diversity on Grounds. We align with his words, aiming to pacify turmoil and mitigate vitriol against a student of the University. This story has moved away from the national headlines, but as with each of our experiences at the University, we know the air grows dense and an atmosphere of sorrow lingers. This experience is yours to navigate, but we are here, we are listening and we will support you in any way possible.
The U.Va. Black Alumni Initiative is a group “committed to cultivating a network of #BlackWahoos & building partnerships within the U.Va. and Charlottesville community to provide resources, mentorship, & advocacy for current Black students, faculty, staff, Alumni, and citizens of Charlottesville.”