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Local Service Brings National History and Global Issues Home

Our Women, Girls & Global Justice program at the Women's Center provides engaged scholarship experiences aimed, in part, at dismantling what many students see as a boundary between global and local social justice issues. Service in the local community informs students’ understanding of gender equity issues and other inequities faced by people near and far. In that spirit, we’d like to bring you an update on the first year of our MLK Women’s Hope Project and to leave you with some suggestions of Community MLK Celebration events focused on local aspects of the national and worldwide struggle for civil rights. It has been a busy year since the Women's Center first began an ongoing partnership with the local non-profit Monticello Area Community Action Agency’s (MACAA) Hope House program. Jaronda Miller-Bryant, who leads our Young Women Leaders and Women, Girls & Global Justice Programs, joined the Women’s Center’s staff in November, 2014, and quickly set about building a partnership to craft a Martin Luther King Jr. service initiative. As she got to know the University and Charlottesville communities, she considered how best to initiate “a project that would reflect on MLK's commitment to service, would last past the month of January, and would help us focus on the the idea that local is global."

She found a willing and able partner for such an effort at Hope House which offers housing and case management to area families experiencing or at risk of homelessness. Jaronda developed the Women’s Center’s Hope House partnership under the name MLK Women’s Hope Project with the intention of increasing the connection that her Women Girls & Global Justice interns and members of the Women’s Center’s staff have to the Charlottesville community. During the MLK Women’s Hope Project’s first full year, Jaronda’s interns have shown great initiative, organizing many events and initiatives for Hope House:

  • Through a co-sponsorship with the Sisters United, Thamanna Nishath organized a pumpkin painting event for children of Hope House families and as well invited the families to attend trick or treating on the Lawn.
  • Making the most of a beloved UVA tradition, Katie Johnson arranged for all proceeds from Lighting of the Lawn to go toward Hope House while Rebekah Kim organized a Christmas fundraiser for Hope House participants.
  • Makayla Palazzo has spent countless hours over the last semester writing grants in order to make life a little better for Hope House participants. She relays this experience in her own words through another post on our site this week.

Members of the Women's Center’s staff have gotten involved, too, participating in a school supply drive over the summer, donating everything from pencils to backpacks in order to give our "adopted" Hope House family the best start to the new school year. The MLK Women’s Hope Project will continue in 2016 informed by the experiences of the project’s first year and the insights we have gained into the challenges the clients at Hope House are confronting and the constraints that the organization’s staff faces in meeting the community’s needs for their services. As we reflect on our 2015 experience with the MLK Women’s Hope Project, we eagerly join colleagues, friends and neighbors in the events of this year’s Community MLK Celebration. It is always wonderful to see the varied array of events hosted by local organizations and UVA programs and groups. We hope to see you at some of these events celebrating faith, exploring the roots of American music, weighing the impact that photography has had on our understanding of civil rights, and looking closely at the most timely elements of The Call to Higher Ground found in daily news reports. Of course, there are enlightening displays and discussions of history as well and, in light of our work with local families and committed non-profit staffers at Hope House, we are especially excited about several events highlighting local history. We could all benefit from knowing more about how the national struggle for civil rights has played out right here in Charlottesville and at the University. You can do that by making a concerted effort to attend: "Unchained and Unbroken": A Multimedia Event  **Cancelled as of morning of 1/21 due to predicted inclement weather** Friday, January 22, 2016, 2:00pm to 4:00pm The Auditorium of the Harrison/Small Special Collections Library The University Library invites you to take a closer look at the history of the local struggle with desegregation, massive resistance, and oppression associated with Jim Crow, prejudice and hate. Roundtable Discussion: "Field Methods in Historic Preservation: Landscapes of Slavery on the Academical Village" Friday, January 29, 2016, 12:30pm to 2:00pm Campbell Hall, Javor Lecture Hall Room 158 Join Professor of Architectural History Louis Nelson and the students from his Field Methods in Historic Preservation class for an in depth discussion of their work this semester. They are examining a long-neglected dimension of the lived experience of the Academical Village: the relationship between the students, the faculty and their families as the village’s white population and the numerous enslaved African Americans who lived and worked for decades in and around it. Memorialization for Enslaved Laborers: Past, Present, Future Friday, January 29, 2016, 2:30pm to 4:00pm The Auditorium of the Harrison Institute/Small Special Collections Library This panel discussion will explore the history of the student group Memorial for Enslaved Laborers (MEL) including the student-led memorial design contest in 2011. A panel of past and current members of MEL, as well as UVA faculty members, will discuss the role of memorials as both educational and honorable. The panel discussion from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. will be followed by a reception from 3:30 to 4:00 p.m. Slavery at U.Va. tours will be offered following the program. So many of you, too, work and serve year-round inspired by King’s legacy and memorable words such as these, "Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?'" We thank you for your courage in taking on important and difficult conversations and for your sustained energy in working together for change.

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