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Solidarity with Black Lives Matter

The anti-black racism at UVM has been here forever but recently it has been given license to grow and be visible. Each new incident escalates the trauma experienced by our black family members and also the threat of violence. I have worked within the system to try to effect meaningful change but I believe it is time for something radical.

Here are just a few examples:

* October - a white UVM student, explicitly said, on the first floor of the Bailey-Howe Library, how he wanted wanted to "shoot all the n---ers on campus".

* November - During the Saint Michael's and UVM exhibition game - UVM community members chanted "go back to Africa" to student athletes silently protesting during the national anthem. Despite UVM leadership being aware of the silent protest and them being present during the game they did nothing to stop the chanting, instead relying on the old white supremacist trope about civility and freedom of speech in their response.

* December - Racist posters on UVM green

* Yesterday - Someone posted vile and racist posters directly on the tunnel display for the Mosaic Center for Students of Color.

These actions have gone from the general to the very specific - they are now targeting support systems for black students. By extension they are also targeting black staff and faculty. How much longer until a white supremacist with an AR-15 comes to campus, buoyed by the complicity of silence and deflection from the white majority, to kill our black family members?

I, in good conscience, cannot wait for thoughts and prayers and repudiation in the aftermath of such an event. I am calling on you to sign onto an open letter to President Sullivan, the Board of Trustees and Mayor Weinberger. President Sullivan created this award to highlight individuals who are living the values of our Common Ground. Right now the value that is uppermost in my mind is that of Justice.

As is usually the case, it is the youth who are leading the way. However, I believe it is incumbent upon us as leaders to advocate strongly for not only our students but ourselves and our entire community.

Given the bravery and commitment of the Montpelier HS and now Burlington School District to vocally and visibly support the Black Lives Matter movement as public institutions, our institution either needs to join its voice in the cry for justice or remain silent and complicit in anti-black racism.

I am asking you to join me by signing on to these demands. You can simply email me to let me know if you want to sign on to making these demands.

I know that some or most of your will react in fear - what wlll happen to me, could I be fired, could I be reprimanded, might I have violence directed at me, do I have a place in this. The answer to all of those are yes.

But I want to remind you that for our black family members the answer to those questions are yes - EVERY SINGLE DAY - by virtue of the anti-black racism that is abetted by all the power structures currently in place.

At the end of the day, you are either on the side of justice or on the side of injustice. I am asking you right now to chose.

1. Complete adoption of all student demands from #nonamesforjustice
2. Installation of a fourth flag pole at the Davis Center to permanently fly a Black Lives Matter Flag
3. Tripling the staff of the Mosaic Center for Students of Color and its operating budget
4. Board of Trustees to announce UVM's endorsement of the Movement for Black Lives platform as an institutional supporter
5. Submit an application in collaboration with the City of Burlington to the Kellogg Foundation for the implementation of their $4 million grant for Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation and the formation of a Racial Justice Center at UVM
6. Ongoing and intensive training of UVM police in anti-racism and implicit bias on a semester basis. The permanent installation of a Black Lives Matter flag installed at UVM police headquarters
7. Increased funding for anti-racist events on campus from all sources including but not limited to Training & Professional Development, University Program Board, all named lecture series, etc.
8. Committing to becoming a Restorative Institution and city within 5 years.
9. Funding for 4 full-time positions to offer ongoing Examining White Identity and Racial Aikido Trainings for all interested staff and faculty. Increase capacity so that these trainings are offered to ALL NEW EMPLOYEES.

I leave you with just a few thoughts from from Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Audre Lorde, and James Baldwin

"A threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

"...when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
nor welcomed
but when we are silent
we are still afraid
So it is better to speak
we were never meant to survive."

"There is never time in the future in which we will work out our salvation. The challenge is in the moment; the time is always now."

In Solidarity,
John Mejia

Please send solidarity emails to the person on hunger strike to please include where you live (city/town).

Contact President Sullivan: (802) 656-7878
Contact Board of Trustees:
Contact Mayor Weinberger: 802-865-7272

Ward 1: Sharon Foley Bushor

Ward 2: Max Tracy

Ward 3: Sara Moore

Ward 4: Kurt Wright

Ward 5: William "Chip" Mason

Ward 6: Karen Paul

Ward 7: Ali Dieng

Ward 8: Adam Roof

East District: Richard Deane

Central District: Jane Knodell, City Council President

North District: David Hartnett

South District: Joan Shannon

Visibly support the Black Lives Matter movement through your words and deeds every single day.

If you have questions about this action please contact:
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