A six-figure grant is sparking action to repair race relations between town and gown in Charlottesville. The effort will combine resources from the University of Virginia and the surrounding community.
"There [are] a lot of people interested in understanding our history," said UCARE Project Director Frank Dukes. "They see the value the university has."
UCARE executive committee members stood on the rotunda steps Monday morning to announce the Community Reconciliation grant from the Andrus Family Fund. The money will support research, teaching, and community programs focused on UVA's treatment of African-Americans from slavery to segregation and current feelings of discrimination.
"I think if we look around the grounds, we represent a portion of our history very well. Another portion is not represented," Dukes said.
UCARE also delivered its "Call for Reflection and Action" report to university administration, deans, and the UVA Board of Visitors Monday. It finds ignorance and indifference toward issues of racism and discrimination.
UVA history professor Phyllis Leffler teaches a class on the topic. "Only through understanding can you begin to repair and reconcile," she said.
Leffler traces current attitudes among African-Americans toward the university back to the slaves who built the grounds and laws that barred black students. She said, "Which I think has deep, deep legacies of discomfort and hurt that I think need to be repaired."
Leontyne Peck has seen the relationship from the inside out as a former UVA employee. "We tend to not want the truth," she said. "And in order to get to an authentic relationship - whether it's community and university or otherwise - you have to get to the truth."
Peck hopes the grant funding will help UCARE reach its goals to repair relationships from town to gown. She said, "It's not something that begins today and ends five years from now. It's ongoing. It's for the rest of our lives to make sure people are treated with respect, with dignity and treated fairly."
The grant funding will allow UCARE to hire a part-time staff member to work on research projects and community presentations. The group also hopes the board of visitors will consider these issues in its new strategic plan.
Click here to review the results and recommendations from the "Call for Reflection and Action" report.
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