September 25, 2020

Podcasts on UMW Activism Spell ‘Good Trouble’ for Students

Eliza Vegas marched in her first protest this summer for Black Lives Matter. The University of Mary Washington is inspiring her to do more. “An overwhelming sense of home and community brought me here,” said Vegas, a Mary Washington first-year student who learned of the University’s long history of student activism when she listened to […]

Landphair Pens Column on John Lewis in Richmond Times-Dispatch

Vice President of Student Affairs Juliette Landphair

Vice President of Student Affairs Juliette Landphair

Vice President of Student Affairs Juliette Landphair, who is the Farmer Legacy 2020 co-chair, penned a column in The Richmond Times-Dispatch on the late Rep. John Lewis’ legacy and the impact that he and Dr. James L. Farmer Jr. have had on the University of Mary Washington and its students.

Sixty years ago, much like today, many American young adults were on fire to dismantle racial discrimination. U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., who recently passed away as an international icon for civil rights and public service, was one of them. Born in 1940 into a tenant farming family in Pike County, Ala., where half of their cotton crop’s earnings went to the white landowner, Lewis grew up in a poor, rural part of the nation completely alien from stereotypical recollections of 1950s consumerism and suburbanization. As historian Dr. Andrew Lewis recalls, John Lewis’ childhood “conjures up a world that the twentieth century seemed to have passed by.”

While in college at American Baptist Theological Seminary in Nashville, Tenn., Lewis became active in civil rights protest. Over a few critical months in late 1959 and early 1960, he and other young activists, including the extraordinary (and not enough remembered) Diane Nash, attended workshops on nonviolence and its philosophical roots, taught by the minister James Lawson. Principles such as the power of the collective and the redemptive community settled into Lewis’ conscience and remained the rest of his life; he later described “crossing over” into a lifelong commitment to the movement in 1960 while participating in the Nashville sit-ins.

At my institution, the University of Mary Washington (UMW), Lewis figures prominently in our story. We like to think it is a special bond, but of course, Lewis made all admirers feel important. In 1961, Dr. James Farmer, leader of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), who later became a Mary Washington College professor, helped recruit the 21-year-old Lewis to join 12 others on the Freedom Rides. They would travel on two buses through several Southern states challenging interstate transportation facilities. During the Rides, Lewis was attacked by angry whites in South Carolina and Alabama.

More recently, Lewis agreed to serve as honorary chair of Farmer Legacy 2020, UMW’s yearlong celebration of the 100th anniversary of his friend Dr. Farmer’s birth. This past November, in his official acceptance of his chairperson role, Lewis met with a small UMW delegation in his Capitol Hill office for nearly an hour. I was fortunate to be among the attendees. With his celebrated warmth and humility, he spent nearly an hour with us, asking about UMW and our lives, and sharing stories. He especially was attentive to Jason Ford, our Student Government Association president who, as a black man himself, knew he was in the presence of a giant on whose shoulders he stood. Read more.

James Farmer Multicultural Center Thanks #UMWRun4Justice Participants

The James Farmer Multicultural Center thanks everyone who participated in the Virtual #UMWRun4Justice 5K this past weekend, especially UMW Women’s Lacrosse and Coach Maddie Taghon, Women of Color, and the Black Student Association, as well Alumni Relations for help with spreading the word. The event raised $2900 that will be used in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and other social justice initiatives at UMW. The desire is to create opportunities to help open conversations and develop a more inclusive campus. Please enjoy the video below of JFMC Director Marion Sanford thanking participants.

 

 

UMW Chooses New Name for Building: James Farmer Hall

The University of Mary Washington Board of Visitors today voted to change the name of Trinkle Hall to James Farmer Hall. With this action, the Board memorialized a beloved member of the Mary Washington community who spent most of his career fighting injustices.

University of Mary Washington’s Board of Visitors voted to change the name of Trinkle Hall to James Farmer Hall. Dr. James L. Farmer Jr., one of the “Big Six” leaders of the civil rights movement, spent his final years as a professor of history at Mary Washington. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

University of Mary Washington’s Board of Visitors voted to change the name of Trinkle Hall to James Farmer Hall. Dr. James L. Farmer Jr., one of the “Big Six” leaders of the civil rights movement, spent his final years as a professor of history at Mary Washington. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

“I commend the action of the Board today,” said Rector Heather Crislip. “We are talking about one of the most beautiful and iconic buildings on campus, and its name should reflect our community and our values.”

The vote to change the name of this building comes at a pivotal time in our nation’s history. Today’s action was precipitated by the exhaustive work of UMW’s Campus Environment Presidential Ad Hoc Committee. That group was charged in 2017 with evaluating campus art, monuments, and other representations of the University’s history and community in order to ensure that Mary Washington is a welcoming environment for all.

In its subsequent 74-page report presented to the Board in November 2019, the committee’s research revealed that certain works of art and artifacts present a one-dimensional interpretation of UMW’s history. The Board unanimously voted to endorse all 17 of the committee’s recommendations for addressing the issues, with the greatest urgency placed upon identifying a new name for Trinkle Hall, named for a former governor of Virginia who was an active proponent of eugenics and segregation. The board further directed that the new name provide an opportunity for celebration, positive growth, and affirmative identity of the campus.

Earlier this year, a Naming Committee of UMW alumni, faculty, staff, and students solicited nominations for consideration. The committee then narrowed the field by tallying the top five nominees, surveyed the community regarding these nominees, and conveyed the results to President Troy Paino, who voiced his support of the committee’s recommendation to the Board. Read more.

UMW Celebrates 30th Anniversary of Americans With Disabilities Act

When UMW junior Lueden Sheikhnureldin arrived at Simpson Library that early fall morning, something felt off. The old-style wooden chairs in the study area where she’d crammed for so many exams had been replaced by sleek gray-and-green seats.

UMW’s Office of Disability Resources offers access to students in need, with 12 percent of students registered to receive its services. This month, the University is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990.

UMW’s Office of Disability Resources offers access to students in need, with 12 percent of students registered to receive its services. This month, the University is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990.

“I couldn’t concentrate,” said Sheikhnureldin, whose ADHD can cause sensitivity to details like a chair’s texture and feel. “I thought, ‘This is confusing. Everything is changing. I can’t do this.’” She retreated to her Madison Hall room, instead, to study for a biology test.

An English major pursuing a degree in education, Sheikhnureldin is one of hundreds of UMW students with disabilities ranging from ADHD and autism to issues with vision, hearing and movement. “There really isn’t a category that isn’t represented here,” said Jessica Machado, director of the Office of Disability Resources (ODR), which provides services, accommodations and access.

It’s one of the most utilized offices of its type in Virginia, Machado said, with 12 percent of Mary Washington’s more than 4,000 students registered. That’s particularly poignant this month, while the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) celebrates its 30th anniversary. UMW officials like Machado are using the milestone to recognize three decades of strides toward equality for the disabled and also the work left to do.

“We must directly challenge the assumptions and effects of ableism and work to ensure that every member of the UMW community can realize their goals and aspirations here, and that all of us together thrive and flourish,” Provost Nina Mikhalevsky wrote in an email to campus. Read more.

UMW Community Works with City on Freedom Rides Historical Marker

Last fall, UMW students and city residents retraced the route of the Freedom Rides, the historic protest to desegregate interstate travel, organized by James Farmer. Members of the UMW community are working with the City to establish a historic marker on the site of the old bus station in Fredericksburg, the Freedom Riders' first stop on their 1961 trip. Photo by Lynda Allen.

Last fall, UMW students and city residents retraced the route of the Freedom Rides, the historic protest to desegregate interstate travel, organized by James Farmer. Members of the UMW community are working with the City to establish a historic marker on the site of the old bus station in Fredericksburg, the Freedom Riders’ first stop on their 1961 trip. Photo by Lynda Allen.

James Farmer Multicultural Center Assistant Director Chris Williams, Assistant Professor of History Erin Devlin and Assistant Professor of Historic Preservation Christine Henry were interviewed in The Free Lance-Star about their efforts to work with the City of Fredericksburg to establish a Virginia state historical marker at the site of the old bus station where the Freedom Riders stopped first in their quest to desegregate interstate transportation in 1961. The station formerly stood on the corner of Princess Anne and Wolfe streets, near where the fire station is now.

Some of the riders were arrested in North Carolina, South Carolina and Mississippi. In Anniston, Ala., a mob of Ku Klux Klan members slashed the bus’s tires as it attempted to leave the terminal, and later threw a firebomb at it.

UMW students and staff and community members visited the field where the bombing occurred last fall, as part of a trip recreating the journey of the Freedom Riders.

“To our surprise, there was no marker out there. No historical marker saying that right here, the original 13 Freedom Riders were fire-bombed,” said Chris Williams, assistant director of UMW’s James Farmer Multicultural Center, which organized the trip. “I was enraged and so were the students.”

Back home in Fredericksburg, Williams was still thinking about ways the story of the Freedom Riders and James Farmer could be told better—and that led to the idea of placing a highway marker at the site of the old bus station.

Williams, Devlin and Henry, in partnership with the City of Fredericksburg, have started the process of applying for the marker from the state Department of Historical Resources. Read more.

Memorializing George Floyd: UMW Board Passes Resolution, President Seeds Scholarship

In its June 10 meeting, the Board of Visitors of the University of Mary Washington unanimously passed a resolution declaring solidarity with the family of George Floyd and the scores of protesters who are making their voices heard. “We stand with the thousands in our country and around the world, including members of the Mary Washington community, who have engaged in peaceful protests to affirm that Black Lives Matter, and to call for an end to the social injustice and systemic racism that permeate the fabric of our country,” the resolution stated.

UMW’s Board of Visitors passed a resolution declaring solidarity with the family of George Floyd and those engaged in peaceful protests to affirm that Black Lives Matter.

UMW’s Board of Visitors passed a resolution declaring solidarity with the family of George Floyd and those engaged in peaceful protests to affirm that Black Lives Matter.

In addition to the Board action, President Troy D. Paino announced that he and his wife Kelly Paino will seed a new scholarship in the memory of George Floyd. The scholarship will promote the development of leadership skills for students committed to addressing societal issues disproportionately affecting black and underrepresented communities. Their initial gift of $5,000 will serve as a challenge to members of the University community to financially assist Mary Washington students who are emerging leaders dedicated to driving action around social issues. The Painos’ challenge was quickly matched by Board member Allida Black and her wife Judy Beck, who will issue their own $5,000 challenge for the fund. The scholarships goal is $100,000.

The resolution was the first priority on the agenda during the Board’s regular meeting. Members also recommitted themselves to the University’s Statement of Values and adherence to policies and practices that promote equity, fairness, access and an inclusive environment of mutual respect for all members of the Mary Washington community. Further, they stated their dedication to “rooting out any practice within our community that stems from implicit bias, or systemic racism.”

The resolution, submitted by Board member Rhonda VanLowe, comes on the heels of a number of steps the University has taken over the last several years to ensure that UMW is fully welcoming and inclusive. Following the adoption in 2017 of the strategic vision drafted by President Paino, UMW organically developed a community values statement known as ASPIRE. The University established the new role of Vice President for Equity and Access and focused on hiring more diverse employees, as well as created additional campus-wide opportunities for dialogue around, awareness of, and training about racism, implicit bias and microaggressions.

The James Farmer Multicultural Center (JFMC) continues to serve as a resource for programming and center of support for all students. Additionally, the JFMC offers opportunities for experiential learning such as a social justice leadership summit and the fall 2018 and 2019 social justice trips that followed the path of the original Freedom Rides. In 2020, the University launched a year-long celebration marking the 100th anniversary of James Farmer’s birth and helping preserve the legacy of the civil rights icon and former Mary Washington professor.

Eagles Fly High During Virtual Awards Ceremony

University of Mary Washington senior Nehemia Abel received the Grace Mann Launch Award during the annual Eagle Awards ceremony, presented virtually Friday evening. This event honors student leaders and outstanding campus organizations. New this year was the James Farmer Defining A Legacy Award. As one of the emcees for the video awards ceremony, Brianna “Breezy” […]

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.