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Recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia, have opened up old wounds that so many of us, in the Black and in other communities, had hoped would heal. The news regularly showed white supremacists and Klan members invoking fear. On college campuses across the U. It was rare to see Black students walking by themselves out of fear for their own lives and that of their peers.

In — more than a decade after the landmark Brown v. In fact, it was fairly quiet. Briley and Ely hail from Portsmouth, Va. She submitted her application, including a compelling letter explaining her need for financial support. For Ely, her financial aid package was also a defining factor for why she decided to go to the university.

In their eyes, they are not trailblazers. They went to the university to get a quality education and they were determined to get one. But little did they know they were about to change the course of a centuries-old institution and pave a distinct path forward for so many other accomplished Black students whose stories are interwoven because of the color of their skin. While their overall goal — graduating — was the same as every other college student, the three young women first had to navigate an unexplored environment, feeling alone and with only a handful of people on their side.

With that question in mind, Buck, along with the three women and a few others, held meetings in to begin the process of creating the Black Student Organization BSO. Buck attests that it was more than his comment that persuaded the president to finally approve of the BSO. It is culturally praiseworthy. Hulon Willis Jr. But the process of advancing diversity provided many challenges, especially for the few Black students during the Wm seeking black years of campus integration. Inthe Office of Minority Affairs was established. The first director of the office was Leroy Moore. The department evolved to the Office of Multicultural Affairs in and now to the Center for Student Diversity to reflect its expanded vision and service.

Currently there are charters for eight of the nine National Pan-Hellenic Council organizations. More Black students and organizations populating the campus helped offset the sense of otherness the university created for them. Though many non-Blacks perhaps saw this as self-segregating on a university campus still trying to evolve, Black students found their identities reinforced and supported through these communities. McLendon, professor emerita of English and Africana Studies, director emerita of the Black studies program and chair of the 50th Anniversary of African-Americans in Residence Committee.

Braxton, professor of English and humanities, John Stanfield, professor of sociology and Berhanu Abegaz, professor of economics, among others, with the support of Joel Schwartz, professor of government and director of the Charles Center, had met before I arrived in For the few Black faculty employed during the s Wm seeking black s, the opportunity to open up such relevant courses that taught Black history and culture was not just essential in making the campus more comfortable for Black students; it was also rooted in the reality of lived experiences of all students within society.

Hardy, an honorary alumna, was one of the most influential leaders for Black students, staff and faculty, leaving a legacy of profound impact. She served many roles during her tenure at the university, eventually becoming associate vice president for Student Affairs from to She was known to be tough but nurturing, and she encouraged her students to go outside of their comfort zone. Inshe was the guiding force in the creation of the Hulon Willis Association, the African-American alumni organization at the university. But this place is preparing me for reality. Hardy developed and executed a point system in an effort to help Black students flourish throughout their college experience.

She ased Black freshmen with Black upperclassmen who would serve as mentors, and every year hosted a Black leadership conference on campus where students across the U. During her tenure, the Black student population doubled, and larger percentages of Black students graduated on time.

When I have done good for Black students here, they must return my good work by doing good for someone else one day. Additionally, a group of devoted alumni recently created a scholarship endowment bearing her name for need-based aid. Hardy was a strong advocate for providing needed resources for deserving students.

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For many Black students, racism on campus is an ageless reality that continues to be a part of the experience. It also does not suggest that every Black graduate experienced times of anxiety, stress or depression. Continued acts of racism on campus, however, have taken a toll on some Black students, some of whom transfer, withdraw or harbor legitimate resentment. There has been increased emphasis on empowering admitted Black Wm seeking black and students of color in general 30 percent of the newly admitted student cohort.

Allen Ph. Inthe student assembly passed a resolution calling on the university to study its slaveholding history, make it public and establish a memorial to the enslaved. The following year, Chancellor Emeritus Professor of English Terry Meyers initiated a similar resolution in the faculty assembly.

Currently, a subcommittee of the Lemon Project is working on a plan for a memorial on campus to enslaved individuals whose labors built up and improved the university. The mission of the office is to create a community that is representative and inclusive of individuals with different backgrounds, talents and skills, where all faculty, staff and students feel supported and affirmed.

The annual Donning of the Kente Ceremony, a partnership between the Lemon Project and the Hulon Willis Association, has taken place every commencement since This rite-of-passage ceremony, in which students of color receive stoles from their families and friends to wear with their graduation robes, seeks to recognize and reward achievement, encourage students to continue striving for excellence and provide an intimate end-of-college experience for graduating seniors of color.

InPresident Taylor Reveley convened a Task Force on Race and Race Relations, a group comprising faculty, students and alumni, to examine and improve diversity and inclusion efforts on campus. President Reveley and the Board of Visitors have acted upon a of the more than 50 recommendations put forth by the task force, some of which can be accomplished in the short-term and others that will take much longer.

In addition to the one named after Hardy, the second was named in honor of Lemon. This past June, hundreds of alumni gathered in Washington, D. The weekend served as a moment for Black alumni to come together and provided a feeling very similar to a family reunion. Alumni from a range of classes networked and shared stories from yesteryear.

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At one point, we raised our hands if certain university-related moments were part of our individual story. The raised hands showed how intertwined many of us were, independent of our decade of graduation. The committed kinship with professors, students and alumni can, and does, create purposeful and educational opportunities over the long-term. So, what do the next 50 years hold for Black alumni, current and prospective Black students, and for the campus community as a whole? For many Black alumni, moving forward includes providing financial support, participating in the upcoming presidential search and much more.

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Create more support for students from marginalized backgrounds. For everyone — former, current and future students — we have to become proactive, innovative and responsible to ensure a more welcoming and inclusive environment. We will continue to be a microcosm of society, and adapt to accommodate our diverse body in any changing climate. He currently teaches history in Cambridge, Mass. For more information on the 50th Anniversary of African-Americans in Residence, including a current list of events, see www.

If you would like to contribute to the Carroll F. Hardy Scholarship, the Hulon L. Willis Sr. Lemonade: A mural titled "Lemonade: A Picture of America" was installed in Swem Library recently in honor of the university's first African-American residential students. Photo by Mike Bartolotta, University Advancement.

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