April 4, 2020

UMW NAACP Chapter Set to ‘Make Waves’

UMW President Troy Paino (middle, suit and tie) poses with members of UMW’s new chapter of the NAACP. The chapter was chartered last May.

UMW President Troy Paino (middle, suit and tie) poses with members of UMW’s new chapter of the NAACP. The chapter was chartered last May.

Most meetings make their way onto the calendar, but some materialize out of thin air. Brianna Reaves might stop by the James Farmer Multicultural Center (JFMC) to run something by advisor Chris Williams. Next thing you know, Bilqiis Sheikh-Issa shows up, followed by Maya Jenkins and Dana Norwood.

Then it’s on.

“We didn’t come in to talk about business, yet somehow all of us are here,” Reaves, a sophomore who serves as president of UMW’s new NAACP college chapter, said of its executive board.

The board’s a sisterhood of sorts, a collection of young women, plus assistant secretary Cameron Washington and assistant treasurer Lewis Geter, who are ready to roll up their sleeves and do what it takes to get this fledgling group off the ground. They feed off each other’s energy – meeting for hours and marking up whiteboards like nobody’s business. Focused on the NAACP’s civil rights mission, they’re set to make change, no matter how small.

“You can’t start a wave without a ripple,” Sheikh-Issa, a first-year student who serves as vice president, said of the chapter, chartered last May. Read more.

Retired NBA Player Scores with Black History Keynote

Retired NBA player, activist and motivational speaker Etan Thomas delivered the Black History Month keynote last Wednesday at UMW. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

Retired NBA player, activist and motivational speaker Etan Thomas delivered the Black History Month keynote last Wednesday at UMW. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

It was a game-changing moment for Etan Thomas. Pulled over by the police, he sat silently on the road as an officer fixated on him. The policeman’s fingertips hovered over his holster, ready to grab his gun, while his partners tried to pinpoint why the black teen looked so familiar.

It must be from a mugshot, they said. When they demanded he pop his trunk, revealing high school basketball gear inside, they finally recognized the star athlete whose achievements were often splashed across the local newspaper.

The former Washington Wizard shared that story during his Black History Month keynote Wednesday at the University of Mary Washington. Packed into the UC’s Chandler Ballroom, students, UMW athletes and coaches, faculty, staff, university administrators, President Troy Paino and wife Kelly, and community members listened raptly as Thomas discussed systemic racism, police brutality, the school-to-prison pipeline, stop-and-frisk and more. Thomas’ appearance came as the University celebrates Farmer Legacy 2020, honoring Dr. James L. Farmer Jr., the civil rights icon and late Mary Washington professor, who would have been 100 this year.

Thomas’ activism was borne out of that teenage incident, he said, buoyed by his mother’s passion for social justice, and a speech teacher who encouraged him to channel his emotions into an oratory, which he delivered at regional and national competitions, garnering media attention.

“I realized I could use this basketball thing to speak for people who can’t speak for themselves,” said Thomas, whose advocacy work earned him prestigious awards from the National Basketball Players Association and the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Foundation. Read more.

Retired NBA Player Scores with Black History Keynote

It was a game-changing moment for Etan Thomas. Pulled over by the police, he sat silently on the road as an officer fixated on him. The policeman’s fingertips hovered over his holster, ready to grab his gun, while his partners tried to pinpoint why the black teen looked so familiar. It must be from a […]

Retired NBA Player Scores with Black History Keynote

It was a game-changing moment for Etan Thomas. Pulled over by the police, he sat silently on the road as an officer fixated on him. The policeman’s fingertips hovered over his holster, ready to grab his gun, while his partners tried to pinpoint why the black teen looked so familiar. It must be from a […]

Retired NBA Player Scores with Black History Keynote

It was a game-changing moment for Etan Thomas. Pulled over by the police, he sat silently on the road as an officer fixated on him. The policeman’s fingertips hovered over his holster, ready to grab his gun, while his partners tried to pinpoint why the black teen looked so familiar. It must be from a […]

Farmer Legacy 2020 Co-Chairs Johnson & Landphair Speak with WVTF Radio IQ

A wreath on the James Farmer bust on UMW’s Campus Walk recognizes Farmer’s 100th birthday and UMW’s Farmer Legacy 2020 celebration. Photo by Tom Rothenberg.

A wreath on the James Farmer bust on UMW’s Campus Walk recognizes Farmer’s 100th birthday and UMW’s Farmer Legacy 2020 celebration. Photo by Tom Rothenberg.

Farmer Legacy 2020 co-chairs Sabrina Johnson, Vice President for Equity and Access and Chief Diversity Officer, and Juliette Landphair, Vice President for Student Affairs, were recently interviewed on WVTF Radio IQ, an NPR affiliate, about civil rights icon and late Mary Washington professor Dr. James L. Farmer Jr. and UMW’s yearlong celebration of his life and legacy that launched in January, on the day after the 100th anniversary of his birth.

Johnson spoke of the impact Farmer had as a professor. “He touched the lives of so many students,” she says.  “It was the most popular class on campus.  It brought in historic numbers.”

Landphair spoke of Farmer’s concern that those who led the civil rights movement would someday be forgotten. “There’s a danger sometimes or a risk when you just reflect and celebrate as if the story is over. We have to hold on and protect and not backslide when it comes to the progress that’s been made.” Read more.

Chavis to Deliver Keynote Address for UMW’s Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration

In 1961, Benjamin Chavis Jr., tired of reading tattered books, boldly marched into the whites-only library in Oxford, North Carolina. The young teen, already a NAACP member, was promptly asked to leave; instead, he stood his ground. “He asked why,” a friend recalled to The New York Times. “A lot of us when we were […]

President Paino: UMW Positioned to Think Big

On the cusp of a new decade, the University of Mary Washington is poised to meet the changing needs of a student body that will become even more diverse. President Troy Paino delivered that message Tuesday at an All-UMW Assembly, while also sharing accomplishments, updates and reflections. Monday’s launch of UMW’s Farmer Legacy 2020 celebration […]

Launch Party Ignites Farmer Legacy 2020 Celebration

A wreath on the James Farmer bust on UMW’s Campus Walk recognizes Farmer’s 100th birthday and UMW’s Farmer Legacy 2020 celebration. Photo by Tom Rothenberg.

A wreath on the James Farmer bust on UMW’s Campus Walk recognizes Farmer’s 100th birthday and UMW’s Farmer Legacy 2020 celebration. Photo by Tom Rothenberg.

Nearly 500 people turned out yesterday to help UMW kick off Farmer Legacy 2020, a yearlong celebration of Dr. James L. Farmer Jr., the day after what would have been his 100th birthday.

The hourlong launch party packed plenty of emotion, from student accounts of life-changing experiences they’ve gained through UMW – and learning about Farmer’s legacy – to a moving rendition of Happy Birthday by Mary Washington gospel ensemble Voices of Praise.

Held in the UMW University Center’s Chandler Ballroom, the celebration commenced a year of events paying tribute to Farmer, the late Mary Washington history professor who founded the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and made an immeasurable impact on the civil rights movement as a member of the Big Six. Fredericksburg residents, Board of Visitor members and colleagues in higher education joined UMW students, faculty and staff in recognizing Farmer and his contributions, and vowing to follow in his footsteps by dedicating themselves to civic action and inclusion.

Honorary celebration chair, Congressman John Lewis of Georgia, the last surviving member of the Big Six, had to cancel plans to attend yesterday’s launch due to a recent cancer diagnosis. Attendees signed a card for him. Read more.

2020 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration

2020 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration
Demanding Truth, Demanding Justice

The profound words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. ring louder than ever today as we fight for truth, justice, and the soul of our nation. Join the James Farmer Multicultural Center in celebrating Dr. King’s work and legacy.


MLK Jr. Kids Day

Sunday, Jan. 19 | 3 to 5 p.m.  |  James Monroe High School

Children from the Fredericksburg area are invited to enjoy games, activities, and crafts to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the community MLK celebration. The event is sponsored by the Fredericksburg-area Partnership for Academic Excellence.


I Am MLK, Jr. Documentary & Discussion
Tuesday, Jan. 21 | 6 p.m. | Colonnade Room 315, University Center
A stirring documentary examines Dr. King’s lifelong commitment to civil rights and the legacy that continues today.


The University of Mary Washington Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Keynote Speaker: Rev. Dr. Benjamin Franklin Chavis Jr.
Wednesday, Jan. 22 • 7 p.m. • Chandler Ballroom, University Center
Sponsored by the Office of the President

Reverend Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., entrepreneur, global business leader, educator, chemist, civil rights leader, NAACP Life Member, syndicated columnist, theologian, and author is currently the President and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA): The Black Press of America. Dr. Chavis serves on the Board of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO). Dr. Chavis is also the former President and Co-Founder of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network (HSAN), the world’s largest coalition of hip-hop artists and recording industry executives.

A native of Oxford, North Carolina, Dr. Chavis received the Bachelor of Arts, BA, in Chemistry from University of North Carolina. He even earned his Masters of Divinity, M.Div., magna cum laude, from Duke University while serving an unjust 34-year prison sentence as a member of the Wilmington 10, who Amnesty International declared political prisoners, a case that garnered international attention and was pardoned 40 years later. He also received the Doctor of Ministry, D. Min, from Howard University and completed course requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy, Ph.D., in systematic theology, from Union Theological Seminary. Dr. Chavis is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ.

Dr. Chavis began his career in 1963, as a statewide youth coordinator in NC for the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). In 1993 and 1994, Dr. Chavis served as the Executive Director and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and remains an active supporter of the NAACP. In 1995, Dr. Chavis was the National Director and organizer of the Million Man March. From 1995 to 1997, Chavis was the Executive Director and CEO of the National African American Leadership Summit (NAALS). The 2010 theatrical release of the full-length movie Blood Done Sign My Name distributed by Paladin, directed by Jeb Stuart, starring Ricky Schroder, Nate Parker, and Lela Rochon depicts a true story from Dr. Chavis’ early days in the Civil Rights Movement during the 1960’s and 1970’s in his hometown of Oxford, NC.

Dr Chavis has authored books and other publications including: An American Political Prisoner Appeals for Human Rights, Psalms from Prison, Toxic Waste and Race in the United States of America: A National Report on the Racial and Socioeconomic Characteristics of Communities with Hazardous Waste Sites, and FUSION: Bridging the Gap between Civil Rights and Hip-Hop with MC Lyte (2015). His areas of expertise include corporate diversity and inclusion, human rights, climate change, voting rights, bridging the gap between civil rights and hip-hop, and criminal justice reform.


Speaking Truth to Power
Thursday, Jan. 23 | 7 p.m. | Lee Hall Underground
Members of the UMW community honor Dr. King and other justice fighters through art, music, dance, and spoken word pieces.


MLK Jr. Day of Service

Saturday, January 25 | 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.  |  Chandler Ballroom, University Center

The UMW MLK Day of Service provides students a way to give back to their community to honor the legacy of Dr. King and his commitment to strengthening communities. Many different service projects, which will be donated to various agencies in the Fredericksburg area, will be available for students to complete.  Afterwards, a discussion will take place regarding service, civic engagement, and inclusivity.

A continental breakfast and lunch will be provided.  All members of the campus community are invited to participate.  Please register online at MyUMW.


All events are free and open to the public unless otherwise noted. For more information, please contact the James Farmer Multicultural Center at 540/654-1044 or umwjfmc@gmail.com .