Our History

Project Timeline

2007:

  • General Assembly issues statement of regret for the institution of slavery.
  • UVA Board of Visitors follows suit with a statement of regret for using slave labor and a commendation for the General Assembly’s statement.
  • UVA also places memorial marker to recognize enslaved persons for their contribution to building the University at the west entrance floor to the Rotunda hallway.
  • A group of Charlottesville and UVA community members begin discussing what repair could like in Charlottesville. Founding members of UCARE included Leni Sorensen of Monticello and John Alexander, Dion Lewis, and Frank Dukes of the University of Virginia.
  • Project personnel begin a series of one-on-one conversations with dozens of community and university members, discussing these ideas of repair and reconciliation.

2008:

  • Frank Dukes, Director of the Institute for Environmental Negotiation, and fellow group founders apply for a one-year grant from the Andrus Family Fund to fund research and community meetings to begin to understand the impact of slavery, segregation and discrimination.
  • The project receives funding for one year. After many one-on-one interviews with community members, faculty and staff, the project hosts two different roundtable discussions: one for university student leaders, and another for all community members. Participants offer strong support for the project.
  • The project applies for a three-year grant from the Andrus Family Fund to continue building relationships and connecting with university and community members.

2009:

  • In February, the project receives approval for three years of funding from the Andrus Family Fund.
  • A Steering Committee is formed, and action teams, centered around the topics Truth, Understanding, Relationship, and Repair are created with student, community, and faculty representation. The project is known as the University Community Racial Reconciliation Project (UCRRP).
  • Action groups meet throughout the summer to build relationships and brainstorm action steps to instigate change in the community. (See below for descriptions of the Action Groups and for meeting summaries from these sessions.)
  • In September, the project changed its name to University and Community Action for Racial Equity (UCARE).
  • The City of Charlottesville holds its kick-off for the Dialogue on Race in December, and UCARE organizes support for the Dialogue.

2010:

  • UCARE supports Dean Dion Lewis and the Office of African American Affairs in the Martin Luther King, JR Day event: Film screening and discussion of Closer to the Truth, a documentary about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Greensboro, NC
  • A joint UVA-Community class is led by two UVA faculty (Frank Dukes and Phyllis Leffler) and a community partner (Karen Waters of Quality Community Council). The class includes both community members and UVA students. The class is called UVA: Race and Repair, and will be taught again.
  • UCARE Staff continues to reach out to area community members and UVA staff to raise awareness of the project and gather more ideas on action steps.
  • UCARE interns begin or continue work on several projects: developing a website, research themes for policy changes, connect with Madison House and develop issue brief papers for historical events in Charlottesville that can be used by a number of different organizations.
  • UCARE intern and Student Council Diversity Initiatives co-chair Ishraga Eltahir spearheads a movement for a more significant memorial at UVA to honor and recognize the enslaved people who served there. She and other students issue a university wide survey, organize an informational forum about black history at UVA, and hold four on grounds focus groups to get feedback and ideas for the memorial and the process of development.

December 10th Forum Recap

Thanks to all who attended the UCARE Open Forum on December 10th, 2011.  We officially launched the keystone document of the UCARE effort, the “Call to Reflection and Action.”  This document represents years of conversations, outreach, research and investigation into the realities of race in Charlottesville.  To get more information about the document or to read it, click here.  Any references in this summary to page numbers are from the “Call to Reflection and Action.”

Over 40 people attended the Open Forum, which was held at Westminster Presbyterian Church.  After brief presentation on the goals of the UCARE project and a round of introductions, we broke into three groups to discuss the contents of the “Call to Reflection and Action.”  The groups mirrored the organization of action steps in the report:  Goal I: Truth and Understanding; Goal II: Repair; and Goal III: Relationship.  A summary of the discussions of each group is below.  Participants were also asked to rank the actions suggested by the report based on their important in the short-term versus the long-term.  This allows us to focus on the actions that need to happen now while preparing to take on the actions that will take longer to complete. Click here to see a a graph that represents all the votes cast.

 

____________________________________________________________

Goal I:  Truth and Understanding
(Research, Teach and Promote a More Complete Knowledge and Understanding of the Shared University and Community History)

A major focus of this group was looking at U.Va.’s research techniques in Charlottesville.  The problem of disclosure (U.Va. groups failing to adequately share results of research) was brought up more than once.  One suggestion was to create an ethics board that reviewed U.Va. research practices. Investigations into the way that U.Va. monetarily subsidizes Charlottesville groups and how that affects research dynamics were also mentioned.  Another important suggestion was making cross-cultural and multi-cultural trainings or classes mandatory.  In light of U.Va. racialized history and race-related incidents, participants suggested that all students be required to take a class on multi-culturalism.  UCARE has collaborated with various groups to create cross-cultural trainings for U.Va. volunteers, but this training could be extended to an even broader sector of the U.Va community.  Participants also suggested that U.Va. should get more involved with the City’s Dialog on Race and the proposed Human Rights Commission.

Short Term
In the short-term, several goals and actions were prioritized.  The most short-term action was action 1.1a, “Provide sustaining support for research to be housed within existing University offices, such as the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies” (page 24).  This action overwhelmingly received the most attention in short-term planning.  Participants acknowledged the importance of addressing U.Va.’s past by integrating its racial history into its “mainstream” historical presentations.  To this end, many people marked actions 1.3c and 1.3d as high in short-term importance.  These goals are “More fully integrate African American history into the UVa history booklets” and “Integrate the racial aspects of UVa and Charlottesville history into existing University tours and orientation” (page 26).  Along these lines, group members identified two groups of actions as also important in the short-term, Goal 1.2 “Collect and make accessible histories of long-time University and community membersand Goal 1.4.  “Publicly and visibly acknowledge the history of UVa complicity in slavery, segregation and discrimination as well as efforts to right those wrongs” (each of these goals has a host of specific actions; see them on pages 25-27).
Long Term
In the long-term, action 1.2c, “Set up “Story Corps”-type recording posts where people can listen to and record for posterity the history of neighbors and families, both on UVa Grounds and in the community” (page 25) was highlighted.  Fortunately, there are groups in Charlottesville who are carrying out similar efforts along these lines.  UCARE continues to support these groups.  Goal 1.7, “Provide frequent opportunities for members of the Charlottesville area and University communities to come together to learn about our shared histories,” (page 29) was also prioritized.  Finally, action 1.8aIn conjunction with community organizations and with broad outreach, organize a Southern universities symposium to share this work” (page 30) was highlighted.  Repeatedly throughout the forum, the problem of the current culture and negative attitudes were discussed.  Action 1.8a speaks to the necessity of reaching beyond Charlottesville borders to create a healthy culture throughout the South.  

___________________________________________________________________

 

Goal II:  Repair
(Address Continuing Racial Disparities Through University/Community Partnerships)

Discussion in this group focused on the impact that U.Va. has in Charlottesville and the obligations that U.Va. has to the community.  

Short Term
In the short-term, several actions clearly stood out.  Action 2.4b was by far the most important priority identified by the group.  This action calls for U.Va. to get involved in the affordable housing conversation by “having more University-created affordable housing options for employees, particularly those with lower pay grades, as is done in many other universities” (page 36).  In this, forum participants acknowledged that other universities have faced the affordable housing challenge and asked that U.Va. also does so.  See page 40 for a list of similar efforts at other universities that deal with a range of issues in their local communities.  UCARE hopes that this becomes a central focus of U.Va.’s presence in Charlottesville in the near future.  

Another important issue this group dealt with was wages at U.Va.  Participants agreed that finding ways to better compensate U.Va. employees was a major priority.  To that end, action 2.1a, “Make a public commitment to institute a living wage for all who work at the University, contracted as well as University employees” (page 32) was one of the group’s most important short-term goals.  Other methods of addressing economic issues were also discussed, including providing larger subsidies for child-care, housing allowances, or transportation.  UCARE has maintained that this action is crucial for the social and economic health of Charlottesville and hopes that the community can address this issue soon.  
Other short-term priorities were action 2.2b which calls for U.Va. to “provide technical support such as funding and/or grant-writing assistance for community initiatives such as the Crescent Hall and Westhaven Clinics, which are used for research purposes” (page 34); action 2.3a which asks The Curry School of Education to “build upon the work of many of its faculty and students and continue to seek partnerships with local and regional educational institutions to deal with education inequality, particularly in the Central Virginia area and particularly among students that carry out student teaching in that area” (page 34); action 2.6aPromote a scholarship program specifically for African American students from Central Virginia” (page 37); and action 2.9b, which parallels discussions about compensation at U.Va. and calls on the community to “address the difficult questions about money and labor issues” (page 38).  Many forum participants recognized the need for immediate and far-reaching action in the community.  The forum left no doubt that affordable housing and worker compensation are among the most important areas to be addressed.  

Long Term
In general, there was much more focus on these short-term goals than on long-term goals, reflecting the need for the community to take steps now to address injustice.  However, one long-term goal stood out in discussion.  Participants pointed towards action 2.8a as an important priority, which calls for the development of “formal and informal relationships with Virginia Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) in which an exchange of knowledge and resources takes place. Begin with student leadership and build on existing relationships” (page 38).

 

__________________________________________________________________

Goal III: Relationship
(Build Relationships Based upon Mutual Respect, Equity and Partnership Between the University and Local Communities)

Like in the Truth and Understanding group, there was intense discussion about research and researching methods within the community.  Participants saw the need for U.Va. students to get out of the “bubble” of U.Va. culture.  Some kind of ethics-regulating board was discussed, as well as a reformatted Institutional Review Board (IRB) form.  IRB forms are the main standard of ethics that researchers must comply with.  Participants also addressed what they saw as “unspoken assumptions” about U.Va. researcher superiority in Charlottesville.  Forum participants asked the question “Does U.Va. feel that it has a problem?” and wondered on how best to address the deep seated problems in U.Va./Charlottesville relationships.  Some specific suggestions were to publicize the recent Orange Dot Project report (link) as a way to help break into the “bubble” of U.Va. culture.  Other participants suggested that U.Va. connect to peer institutions to see how they are handling these issues (see page 38).  The idea of having mandatory “dismantling racism” trainings for U.Va. students, especially incoming first-years, was also mentioned.  

Short Term
Interestingly, the group’s most important short-term and long-term priority was the same: action 3.1f, which encourages people to “endorse the establishment of a community Human Rights Commission, being developed by the Dialogue on Race” (page 42).  UCARE supports the Human Rights Commission and it is evident that it has broad support in the community as well.  Participants acknowledged that the Human Rights Commission was both urgently needed and that it would take a sustained effort to make it viable.

Another short-term action highlighted was action 3.2c that asks that “whenever a class/student goes into the community for research purposes, have the student share the resulting paper/presentation with the community members involved” (page 42).  The problem of disclosure of research and subsequent research fatigue is clear; this action encourages researchers to address the issue.  UCARE has spoken to professors who have already recognized this problem and have begun finding solutions.  Many faculty members are requiring that students deliver copies of their final reports to their research partners and invite them to presentations about the project.  

Long Term
In the long-term, the group identified action 3.1e as a priority which suggests the creation of “a “Community Connection” program that includes a tour of neighborhoods and sites of interest and honest discussion with community members. Demonstrate leadership by having members of the Board of Visitors, the President and Vice-Presidents, deans, members of the Faculty Senate, and others participate in this program” (page 42).  Though many group members supported this action, they recognized that it would take time and planning to make sure such an effort was effective, just, and fair.  Such an effort might go a long way towards demonstrating to U.Va. some of the deep social divides that UCARE has encountered, but it also must avoid falling into old patterns of U.Va.-centric superiority.  Participants  realized that this effort would take time to come to fruition and should not be engaged in lightly.  This action would require substantial neighborhood support and must develop out of grassroots efforts.  

Action 3.4a was identified as both a long-term and short-term priority.  This action calls for the community to “promote more African American events that already occur on Grounds to the wider community, such as concerts by Black Voices” (page 43).