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.

Colors of Africa – Celebrate African, Caribbean, and African American Culture, Feb. 15

Colors of Africa Saturday, Feb. 15 | 6 p.m. | Chandler Ballroom, University Center

Colors of Africa
Saturday, Feb. 15 | 6 p.m. | Chandler Ballroom, University Center
Sponsored by the African Student Union and the James Farmer Multicultural Center

Colors of Africa seeks to celebrate the culture that Black people create. Whether it is Black people of the African continent, African Americans, or the Caribbean, Blackness is a transnational and multicultural experience and it ought to be celebrated as such.

Sponsored by the African Student Union and the James Farmer Multicultural Center. If you have any questions, contact the James Farmer Multicultural Center at 540-654-1044 or visit students.umw.edu/multicultural

Etan Thomas to Give Black History Month Keynote, Feb. 12

Former Washington Wizard, activist, author and motivational speaker Etan Thomas will deliver UMW's Black History Month keynote address on Feb. 12.

Former Washington Wizard, activist, author and motivational speaker Etan Thomas will deliver UMW’s Black History Month keynote address on Feb. 12.

Former Washington Wizard, activist, author and motivational speaker Etan Thomas will deliver UMW’s Black History Month keynote address on Wednesday, Feb. 12 at 7 p.m. in the UC’s Chandler Ballroom.

Thomas is a prolific author of poetry, nonfiction books and articles. His 2018 work, We Matter: Athletes and Activism, is one of Book Authority’s Top Ten best activism books of all time. The African-American Literary Awards named it a best nonfiction book for 2018. Thomas received the 2010 National Basketball Players Association Community Contribution Award for social justice and the 2009 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Foundation Legacy Award. He writes for The Guardian and is seen on MSNBC and ESPN as a special correspondent. He also co-hosts a radio show, The Collision, where sports and politics intersect.

Hosted by the James Farmer Multicultural Center, the event is part of Farmer Legacy 2020, a yearlong celebration honoring the 100th anniversary of the birth of the civil rights icon and late Mary Washington professor Dr. James L. Farmer Jr., who orchestrated the Freedom Rides in 1961 to desegregate interstate transportation and bus terminals. UMW is committed to advancing Farmer’s work in social justice and civic engagement, and like Thomas, is preparing young people to address our society’s greatest challenges. Read more.

Williams Interviewed in Free Lance-Star on Netflix Hip-Hop Documentary

UMW James Farmer Multicultural Center Assistant Director Chris Williams

UMW James Farmer Multicultural Center Assistant Director Chris Williams

James Farmer Multicultural Center Assistant Director Chris Williams was interviewed in The Free Lance-Star about his contributions to Netflix’s Emmy Award-winning documentary series, Hip-Hop Evolution. Williams, who has worked as a freelance music journalist for the last decade, appeared in the third episode of Season 4, entitled “Super Producers.” Williams’ articles and interviews with classic soul and R&B artists have been published or cited in Ebony, The Atlantic, Huff Post, AOL Music, The New York Times, Pitchfork, The Washington Post, Rolling Stone, Slate, Vice and others.

According to The Free Lance-Star:

In 2015, Williams pitched a series of “origin stories” about the key players in the mid-1990s Virginia hip-hop scene—Teddy Riley, Missy Elliott and Timbaland, The Neptunes (the producing duo Chad Hugo and Pharrell Williams) and D’Angelo—to Red Bull Music Academy, which publishes an online magazine and hosts music workshops and festivals around the world.

For his series, he interviewed the artists’ friends, relatives and collaborators, as well as agents and music executives who worked with them.

He interviewed Riley himself for a story on how the Harlem-raised producer, who’d worked with the Jacksons and Bobby Brown, among others, moved to Virginia Beach in 1990 to establish a studio. The story chronicled how Riley influenced the music scene, discovering and mentoring The Neptunes.

Those stories pointed the “Hip-Hop Evolution” team toward Williams.

“They told me, ‘Chris, your name just kept popping up everywhere,’ ” he said.

Williams was able to put the team in contact with Riley and helped them shape the episode to include him. 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 […]