D’Youville Announces Plan to Address Racial Justice
Buffalo, New York – June 11, 2020 – D’Youville announced three initiatives today to elevate the issue of racial inequality and add support to racial justice as a strategic institutional priority this year.
The initial plan focuses on awareness through art, accessibility through scholarships, and long-term, actionable efforts through a larger task force.
“It is imperative that every leader in our nation look at their privileged position as an opportunity to influence societal change,” says D’Youville President Lorrie Clemo, PhD. “It the duty and responsibility of leaders to provide space for efforts to flourish and to encourage the communities entrusted to them to both act and self-examine. No collection of human beings is perfect, nor is D’Youville. However, this effort is our means to say that from a leadership level, we will do what is necessary as an advocate and an ally to support systemic change.”
Awareness through Art
From June 11 to 25, D’Youville will host internationally-known “graffiti superstar” and muralist Maxx Moses as an artist-in-residence.
“Moses was thrilled to come to Buffalo to work with our black students and community members to create a mural for our city and community that embodies strength, determination, and struggle, combined with self-love, and enlaced with Moses’ bright African American vision,” says Benjamin “BG” Grant, chief student affairs officer at D’Youville. The mural will be located on D’Youville’s College Center wall facing Porter Ave. to ensure impact on any person traveling down the heavily used city street.
Moses, a New York native and SUNY Brockport graduate, has painted murals and exhibited his work in Dubai, Amsterdam, Antwerp, Paris, Osaka, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. He is an art educator, community organizer, and has been a featured speaker at TEDx events. “My work is transformational,” Moses says. “It is purposely designed to uplift, enlighten, and inspire the way people think and feel.”
Accessibility through Scholarships
“In response to recent national events, recognizing and challenging our nation’s long history of institutionalized racism, D’Youville has established the George Floyd Memorial Black Lives Matter Scholarships,” announced Pamela Say, vice president for institutional advancement. “D’Youville will award the scholarship to five black students each year, providing free room and board to ensure all of their personal needs are met, so their only focus will be on academic success.”
Dr. Clemo hopes these scholarships will inspire other colleges to follow suit. “We aren’t the first to take on this type of initiative; but we do want to issue a strong challenge to every private university in this nation to create similar memorial scholarships to ensure that injustices against black Americans are never forgotten and to provide even more access to students of color at our institutions,” Clemo says.
Long-term, actionable efforts
D’Youville has created a task force to address the concerns of the Black Lives Matter movement and create tangible efforts to address racial inequalities within the Western New York community and across society as a whole.
The task force is comprised of students, faculty, staff, and administration and is led by Nik Peavy, director for student development and advocacy at D’Youville. Peavy comes to D’Youville from the University of Missouri – Columbia, where they received a master’s degree in educational leadership and policy and analysis and served within the university’s LGBTQ Resource Center. Peavy also will lead efforts at The Park Advocacy Center, an inclusive, supportive space at D’Youville which provides personal support and connects students to on-campus and community resources for life challenges which may hinder their success, whether they be personal, social, or economic.
A precursor to the formation of the task force, D’Youville’s Student Government Association and Division of Student Affairs are hosting a series of “Campus Climate Conversations” to check in with students of color to gauge how they are navigating the national landscape, learn how D’Youville can best support them, and find out where needs have not been met and how the university might correct that. Hayley Thomas, coordinator for student engagement and housing, will moderate the conversations. The university received a significant response to the invitation.
Support and additional counseling services are in place to respond to the needs of students moving forward.
“D’Youville remains committed to addressing issues of racial injustice, whether they be within our campus community or throughout Western New York and beyond,” Clemo says. “These initiatives add to the work and advocacy already directed by our student affairs office and Student Government Association to address issues of diversity and inclusion, such as our Pride mural, unveiled in 2019. We are listening to our students and know the work must continue.”
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