Actionable Steps

Social media presents a myriad of tweets, commentary, and opinions on the events of the last few weeks. Rage, anger, disbelief, grief, and in some cases those who choose to deflect from the underlying cause of it all - systematic racism. I have hesitated adding to this range of emotion with the thought that my voice wouldn’t make a difference - that it wouldn’t change anything. But I realized while we can’t change what happened, we do have the power to change this from occurring again. Allow me to offer some perspective.

In the past few weeks we have literally watched the murders of Black bodies on national television. Yet as we grieve the loss of Amhaud Aubrey, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, David McAtee and many others, Black Americans also have to be available to explain to others how we’re feeling, whether we’re ok or not, and our opinion on what people should be doing to address this. We are expected to attend Zoom meetings, go to work, to continue to put on our armour and be ok. As tough and as resilient as we are - we are not ok.  

I appreciate the people who have reached out to me via text or called to ask if I’m doing well. It shows compassion, shows you care. Collectively we have to do more because this keeps happening. So with the same energy that you post on social media, I need you to harness it and be ready for action. Action starts with yourself in reflection. It starts with recognizing how you may intentionally or unintentionally propagate systematic racism. For those who may be new to this, guide your thinking with this reading list from Ibram X. Kendi. If you are ready to take action read this piece by activist and UVA student, Zyahna Bryant. 

Consider the organization you work for. Are there diverse voices at the decision making table? If not, what are you doing to ensure that happens? Are you going to point out inequitable practices and hold leadership at every level accountable?  

Are you going to support community based organizations that are doing the work? Donate your time, money, resources in a way that is beneficial to the community and not a way to self promote or satisfy misplaced guilt. Specifically for today, consider supporting the following local organizations. By no means is this an exhaustive list.  I encourage you to research organizations that support the Charlottesville Black Community.  

And most importantly, listen. Listen to the powerful voices of Black leadership in our community such as Don Gathers, Daniel Fairley, Leah Puryear, Joy Johnson, Karen Waters-Wicks, Tami Wright, Tanesha Hudson, and Cameron Webb. Support those who are doing the work 7 days a week in our community: Shantell Bingham, Lehman Bates, Andrea Douglas, Charlene Green, Myra Anderson, Destinee Wright, Libby Edwards-Allbaugh, Harold Folley, and Mary Coleman. The injustices you are now beginning to really see - we’ve been trying to tell you for a long time because we have lived it. 

When the hashtags are no longer trending and the streets are quieter, remember these emotions you are seeing and feeling. Turn it into action and fight for structural change. I will continue to reflect to better myself, support my UVA and Charlottesville community, and listen to the strong voices that show leadership in a time of great need.  I pray that you join me so that George Floyd does not pass us by as another hashtag.  


In Partnership, 

Ben Allen, Ed.D

Executive Director, UVA Equity Center 


The Equity Center was recently created in part to redress racial and economic inequality in university communities through critical conversations, authentic community partnerships with shared power, and meaningful action.