March 3, 2021

Students Stand Together for MLK Day of Service

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” This quote by Martin Luther King Jr. often appears on social media around the anniversary of the civil rights leader’s birth. Charlotte Russell, a first-year student at the University of Mary Washington, reflected upon those words, which were also emblazoned on the […]

Williams Featured on WJLA Story on Dr. Farmer’s Legacy

UMW James Farmer Multicultural Center Assistant Director Chris Williams. Photo by Karen Pearlman.

UMW James Farmer Multicultural Center Assistant Director Chris Williams. Photo by Karen Pearlman.

James Farmer Multicultural Center Assistant Director Chris Williams was featured in a WJLA story about how he and the staff and students involved with the JFMC carry on the legacy of Dr. James L. Farmer Jr. Watch here.

Alumnus Holds Court as Black History Month Keynote Speaker

Judge Kerwin A. Miller Sr. ’95, will deliver the virtual keynote address on Feb. 10, for the James Farmer Multicultural Center’s Black History Month celebration.

Judge Kerwin A. Miller Sr. ’95, will deliver the virtual keynote address on Feb. 10, for the James Farmer Multicultural Center’s Black History Month celebration.

Judge Kerwin A. Miller Sr., who graduated from Mary Washington in 1995, delivered the virtual keynote address on Wednesday for the James Farmer Multicultural Center’s Black History Month celebration.

As a young teenager growing up in the Bronx, Miller came across an article about how unlikely it was for an African American male to graduate high school. Taking that news story as both an insult and a challenge, he vowed he’d have a different outcome. At Mary Washington, he excelled both in the classroom as a business administration major and on the court as a member of the Eagles basketball team.

A few years later, Miller found himself in a different kind of court after earning a juris doctorate from Southwestern University School of Law in Los Angeles. He became an attorney with the Legal Aid Bureau in Baltimore, and worked his way through the legal system, serving as a public defender, assistant state’s attorney and eventually an administrative law judge. In 2019, he was sworn in by Governor Larry Hogan as the second African American judge in the history of Harford County, Maryland. Read more.

Alumnus Holds Court as Black History Month Keynote Speaker

Judge Kerwin A. Miller Sr., who graduated from Mary Washington in 1995, will deliver the virtual keynote address on Wednesday, Feb. 10, for the James Farmer Multicultural Center’s Black History Month celebration. As a young teenager growing up in the Bronx, Miller came across an article about how unlikely it was for an African American […]

Chris Williams: Living Farmer’s Legacy

UMW James Farmer Multicultural Center Assistant Director Chris Williams. Photo by Karen Pearlman.

UMW James Farmer Multicultural Center Assistant Director Chris Williams. Photo by Karen Pearlman.

At the University of Mary Washington, the late James L. Farmer Jr. is known as the civil rights icon who organized the 1961 Freedom Rides and as a Mary Washington history professor who regaled his students with personal stories in his big, booming baritone.

But to Chris Williams, who has served as assistant director of UMW’s James Farmer Multicultural Center since 2017, Farmer was a friend and neighbor with a “great sense of humor.” Growing up in Spotsylvania, Williams became close to the man whose quest for justice and equality would later inspire his own life’s work.

This week, Williams shared his story on the new PBS series “American Portrait.” UMW alum Shawn Mitchell ‘20, who interned at PBS last fall, suggested that Williams respond to the prompt, “What is the tradition you carry on?” Williams’ video was selected from 11,000 submissions for the episode, titled “I Rise,” which aired Tuesday night.

“Our job here is to continue the legacy of Dr. Farmer’s work but also teach incoming students and colleagues about who this great man was and what he sacrificed and what he contributed to the betterment of American society,” Williams told The Free Lance-Star. The Washington Post and Associated Press also helped spread the word about Williams’ appearance, and he will be featured on WJLA during Black History Month.

Williams cites JFMC’s social justice, diversity and anti-racism advocacy work, showcased through programming such as cultural events, teach-ins, a human rights film series and an annual justice summit. To kick off Farmer Legacy 2020 – the 100th anniversary celebration of Farmer’s birth – UMW students and local residents traced the same route in Oct. 2019 that the Freedom Riders took to desegregate interstate travel.

They returned from that fall break trip with a “renewed sense of vigor and purpose,” said Williams, who is working with UMW faculty members and Fredericksburg officials to have a historical marker erected at the former bus station on Princess Anne and Wolfe streets, the first stop on the Freedom Riders’ journey. Their goal is to have the marker in place this year, the 60th anniversary of the Freedom Rides.

“My relationship with Dr. Farmer is why I wanted to do these projects,” Williams said. “He fulfilled his obligation and duty of making this society better than when he entered it. So should we.”

Q: What are some of the ways JFMC has continued to engage students during COVID?
A: We’ve created great online programming, which can be found at www.umw.edu/multicultural. This spring, we’ll have events for MLK, Black and Women’s History months, as well as the Islamic Cultural Celebration and Passover Seder.

Q: What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
A: Seeing our incredible students persevere, despite daily challenges on and off campus.

JFMC Assistant Director Chris Williams with some of his favorite record albums. A prolific music writer, Williams will teach a music history course at UMW this fall. Photo Credit: Sabrina Vaz-Holder/The Free Lance-Star.

JFMC Assistant Director Chris Williams with some of his favorite record albums. A prolific music writer, Williams will teach a music history course at UMW this fall. Photo Credit: Sabrina Vaz-Holder/The Free Lance-Star.

Q: The most challenging?
A: Trying to deal with the pandemic on both a professional and personal level.

Q: You’re a music journalist who has been published in Ebony, Rolling Stone and The New York Times, among others, and you were recently featured on Netflix’s “Hip-Hop Evolution.” What’s next?
A: This fall I’m teaching a UMW music department course that covers the intersection of culture, race, politics and music history. Our students will also get to hear some transformative music by legendary artists.

Q: Who are your favorite performing artists?
A: Stevie Wonder; Marvin Gaye; A Tribe Called Quest; Earth, Wind & Fire; and The Isley Brothers.

Q: What’s your motto?
A: Tell the truth.

Williams Featured in Free Lance-Star, Washington Post

UMW James Farmer Multicultural Center Assistant Director Chris Williams. Photo by Karen Pearlman.

UMW James Farmer Multicultural Center Assistant Director Chris Williams. Photo by Karen Pearlman.

James Farmer Multicultural Center Assistant Director Chris Williams was interviewed in The Free Lance-Star about his appearance on PBS’s “American Portrait” on Tuesday, Jan. 26 at 9 p.m.; the article was also reprinted in The Washington Post. Williams was chosen from 11,000 people who submitted a response to the episode’s prompt, “What is the tradition you carry on?” Williams discussed how he continues Dr. Farmer’s legacy through his work with the James Farmer Multicultural Center.

 

Christopher Williams works daily to carry on the legacy of civil rights leader James Farmer.

The legacy is in his job description—assistant director of the University of Mary Washington’s James Farmer Multicultural Center. It informs the work he does at the center along with Director Marion Sanford—coordinating social justice teach-ins, creating a social justice fall break trip, curating a human rights film series and talking daily with students and community members about Black history and anti-racism.

The legacy of James Farmer—who founded the Committee on Racial Equality, led the first Freedom Rides and taught at UMW from 1984 to 1998—is also personal for Williams. He is a product of the James Farmer Scholars Program, which was created in 1987 to assist selected public school students in Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania, Caroline and Westmoreland counties with preparing for and enrolling in higher education. Read more.

Pastor, King Scholar to Deliver MLK Keynote

Aaron Dobynes was 5 when word from a Memphis motel made it to his grandfather’s farm in Alabama. A family friend stopped by to relay the news of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, and as the young Dobynes looked on, the two men began to cry. “I don’t know exactly how I was processing it, […]

Pastor, King Scholar Delivers MLK Keynote

Rev. Aaron Dobynes of Fredericksburg’s Shiloh (Old Site) Baptist Church, an expert on Martin Luther King Jr., presented UMW’s MLK Celebration keynote address on Tuesday.

Rev. Aaron Dobynes of Fredericksburg’s Shiloh (Old Site) Baptist Church, an expert on Martin Luther King Jr., presented UMW’s MLK Celebration keynote address on Tuesday.

Aaron Dobynes was 5 when word from a Memphis motel made it to his grandfather’s farm in Alabama. A family friend stopped by to relay the news of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, and as the young Dobynes looked on, the two men began to cry.

“I don’t know exactly how I was processing it, but it never left me,” he said.

Now a King scholar with double doctoral degrees, Dobynes delivered UMW’s Martin Luther King Jr. keynote address, presented by the James Farmer Multicultural Center, on Tuesday live via Zoom. A fourth-generation preacher who presides over Fredericksburg’s Shiloh (Old Site) Baptist Church, he wove his own personal civil rights story with words from the famous King speeches he’s studied for decades.

“King was shot and killed, but his spirit lay in all of us. We are the bearers of his dream,” Dobynes said. “We have to regularly and consistently, especially in this age in which we find ourselves, recognize what King said 40-some years ago. The work is never completed.” Read more.

Rev. Aaron Dobynes to Deliver UMW’s Martin Luther King Jr. Keynote Speech

Rev. Aaron Dobynes

Rev. Aaron Dobynes

The 10th pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church (Old Site), Dobynes will deliver the Martin Luther King Jr. keynote speech via Zoom on Wednesday, Jan. 27, at 6 p.m. A fourth-generation preacher who holds two doctoral degrees, Dobynes attended high school in Selma, Alabama, and will draw on his personal experiences and advanced studies to deliver an emotional presentation dedicated to Martin Luther King, Jr. Presented by the James Farmer Multicultural Center. Registration is required.

Forum Reveals Reality of Racial Issues at UMW

Do you have to be a person of color to be offended by a racial epithet? No, according to Alexandra Polymeropoulos, a junior at the University of Mary Washington. During a lively discussion Wednesday evening in a session of Mary Washington’s U.S. Race & Reality Forum, Polymeropoulos said she is riled every time she hears […]