VCU School of Social Work

“I have been proud to see that members of our community – faculty, staff, students and alumni – have raised their voices to affirm that Black Lives Matter.”

Dear alumni,

In my last letter, I reached out on behalf of the school to update you on the school’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In short order, it upended our lives and continues to pose a grave threat to public health and well-being, particularly among those disproportionately impacted — Black and Latinx communities, older adults and those with preexisting health conditions.

In the past couple of months, we have also seen repeated, painful reminders of an even more pernicious pandemic — the deeply embedded white supremacy and anti-Black racism in our social institutions.

The murders of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd are only the most recent iterations of longstanding structural, state-sanctioned violence against Black people. Here in Richmond, Virginia, and all over the U.S., we have witnessed and shared in the collective rage, anguish and resolve for change that have prompted weeks of protest. In the School of Social Work, I have been proud to see that members of our community — faculty, staff, students and alumni — have raised their voices to affirm that Black Lives Matter and to press those in positions of authority for police accountability and dismantling unjust, oppressive systems.

Just as these events have prompted a national reckoning about our responsibility to end racism, we in the School of Social Work are also grappling with our own complicity in maintaining the status quo. This fall, as VCU reopens its campus, our school will begin work on a multiyear effort to address anti-Black racism and oppression in all its forms in our common life as a community, including but not limited to our curriculum and the culture of our school as an organization.

This effort, led by faculty members Daryl Fraser (B.S.’00/H&S; M.S.W.’07/SW) and Alex Wagaman, Ph.D., will work with a group of faculty members, adjunct faculty, staff, students and alumni to take a healing-centered approach, developing practices and spaces for us all to learn how to do the hard work of identifying and challenging anti-Black racism in our everyday lives and interactions, and committing to sustained efforts to eliminate it.

We look forward to sharing news of this initiative’s progress and to engaging you as stakeholders as the effort moves forward.

For VCU,

Beth Angell
Beth Angell, Ph.D.
Dean and Professor
VCU School of Social Work

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