Photo Credit: Gregory Jackson, Jr.
'Your Excellence Is How You Fight': Meet The UVA Alumni Helping Freshman Students Succeed
Photo Credit: Quentin Washington
Following the "Unite the Right" white supremacist rally that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia, black alumni from the University of Virginia came together to help the school's incoming freshman move in and offer words of assurance and encouragement.
Although the rally has since come and gone the city of Charlottesville is still recovering from its aftermath. From the unfortunate death of Heather Hayer to the severe beating of Dre Harris both at the hands of white supremacists, Charlottesville and the rest of the nation are trying to recover in the face of such hostile bigotry.
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The University of Virginia is also a part of that. When the rally ultimately concluded at the site of a Thomas Jefferson statue on the university grounds, the white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and alt-right members in attendance were greeted by university students counter-protesting the rally. Now, those students, as well as incoming students are adjusting and readjusting following the event, and black alumni are there to help.
Led by Cameron Webb and Gregory Jackson, Jr. the two reached out to other black alumni from UVA to help incoming black students move in and adjust to campus life, and received an overwhelming amount of support.
Quentin Washington in Downtown Charlottesville.
"Cameron, who is moving back to Charlottesville this fall, and Greg, who grew up in Charlottesville and has an even closer affinity to the city, realized that we needed to do something, and their discussion turned in to a small group of us talking, which then turned into a GroupMe chat of 200 Black Alumni," Quentin Washington, a UVA black alumni, said. "Cameron and Greg led the charge with drafting our official statement against the acts of hate incited in Charlottesville and UVA, as well as a statement to our incoming Black First Years (Class of 2021). I knew that we needed to put our words into action, and began planning our visit to Charlottesville to be a united force of peace and support for our students."
Washington and the rest of the black UVA alumni not only helped students move into their dorm rooms this past weekend, but are also assisting student groups to ensure that students achieve academic excellence while also taking care of themselves.
"The incoming students were just like any other freshman on their first day of college," Washington said. "They were more nervous about meeting roommates and finalizing their classes, than worrying about being in danger. I think that was one of the best parts of the weekend; seeing the resilience of our student body."
Washington, who served as a Resident Assistant to one of the dorms while attending UVA, showed students around campus, as well as advised them on the best places to study and the importance of having office hours with their professors.
"I also told our students that excellence, especially academic excellence, is the way we fight. Activism tends to be a normal title for many students, especially students of color, but they are students first," he added. "I told them that self-care, and academic achievement is top priority, but they must also exercise their leadership skills to advocate for the betterment of the university."
Moving forward, the black alumni will continue to focus on the safety and success of UVA's students, having created the #HoosAgainstHate movement as a network where alumni can use their resources to help students in any way possible.
"Your excellence is how you fight. Your unique voice on campus is valued and is what university academia needs. Don't be distracted by ignorance; instead, focus your energy on the betterment of yourself, and those around you. Your impact for good will always outweigh ignorance and hate. Always."
Take a look at some images from the move in weekend below.