Celebrating Juneteenth in ADVANCE: Taking a Stand Against Racial Injustice

Dear Nighthawk Patriots,

Today is a very important day in our country’s history. This day, recently declared a holiday in Virginia by Governor Ralph Northam, commemorates the announcement of the abolition of slavery in Texas, the last of the former Confederate states to abolish slavery. This is also an opportunity to honor the significant roles and innumerable contributions of African Americans to the Commonwealth and the nation, especially as we come together to collectively fight anti-Black racism at both the individual and institutional levels following the recent killings of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and far too many others.

By now, we hope you may have read full statements sent by President Kress at NOVA as well as Interim President Holton and President-designate Washington at Mason representing the inclusive views of both institutions. ADVANCE reiterates that diversity is our strength and racial injustice will not be tolerated. Moreover, ADVANCE is committed to improving the social and economic inequities experienced by historically marginalized student populations within U.S. higher education.

In addition to providing support, listening to, and being in conversation with Black students and other oppressed student groups, several action steps are happening at both institutions to address systemic racism and will have a positive impact on ADVANCE students, including a few examples below:

  • NOVA is implementing implicit bias and cultural awareness training for all employees
  • Mason is directing senior leadership to conduct a thorough review of offerings and resources that contribute to social justice, racial equity, and peaceful conflict resolution
  • Mason is committed to rooting out areas where the institution has fallen short of their intentions, through either conscious or unconscious bias
  • NOVA will be advertising for their first Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer this summer

The ADVANCE Team is also aware that students may be coping with recent events in varying ways or may experience racism as a daily occurrence. Whether you are looking to engage in self-care or get active in your community, we recommend taking action steps, a few of these including:

  • Supporting, connecting, and checking-in with your community
  • Learning about and challenging identities, privileges, and how we contribute to systemic racism and other forms of oppression at the individual and institutional levels
  • Engaging in behavior/actions that foster environments of safety and inclusivity
  • Educating ourselves and our community with resources including the University Life Supporting Black Lives Page to inspire engagement, reflection, and advocacy

As ADVANCE Success Coaches, we hear, see, and value the lives of our Black students and colleagues. We understand the severity of our national climate and the negative impact on your mental health and well-being while trying to prioritize your education. We are motivated to ensure our direct support for you as ADVANCE students. Our emails and virtual office doors are always open if you are seeking comfort and safety.

In solidarity,

The ADVANCE Team

Posted in Racial Justice 2020.