Young Charlottesville To Speak Out About Race


A Three-Day Series on Anti-Racism

African American Heritage  •  Culture & Identity  •  News

On Thursday, June 21, Virginia Humanities will kick off #UnmaskingCville, a three-day series on anti-racism, led by Charlottesville youth and young adults. The series will include three events held June 21-23 at Piedmont Virginia Community College.

Inspired by poet Paul Laurence Dunbar’s “We Wear The Mask”, the Unmasking series first launched in Richmond in the winter of 2016.

“#UnmaskingRVA was unlike any public conversation on race I had ever seen,” says Virginia Humanities director of African American Programs Justin Reid. “It was Black millennial- and woman-driven, and just felt fresh and contemporary and youthful.”

After #UnmaskingRVA, Reid immediately solicited the help of independent journalist and Central Virginia native Samantha Willis, the co-creator of Unmasking, to bring it to Charlottesville.

The three-day #UnmaskingCville experience will offer a safe space for candid, solution-centered, youth- and young-adult-ed dialogue about race and racism.

“What makes UnmaskingCville unique is that it is led entirely by local youth and young adults,” says Reid. “UnmaskingCville is not just talk. By the end of the series, participants will feel more empowered and be better equipped to dismantle racism and promote equity and inclusion in the Charlottesville community and beyond.”

During Part I: Connect + Film on Thursday, June 21, from 6:30-8:30pm, participants will meet, talk, and connect over dinner. They’ll also attend a film screening curated by Enjoli Moon, founder of the Afrikana Independent Film Festival and assistant film curator at VCU’s Institute for Contemporary Art. Small group conversation and a talkback session will follow the film.

On Friday, June 22, from 6:30-8:30pm, Part II: Backstory Breakdown will be led by a diverse panel of young, changemaking, Charlottesville natives. They’ll explore how race and racism have shaped the City’s past, impact its present reality, and influence its future. Panelists include:

  • Niya Bates, public historian of slavery & African American life at Monticello
  • Zyahna Bryant, student activist, co-founder & chair of the Charlottesville High School Black Student Union
  • Nikuyah Walker, mayor of Charlottesville
  • Jordy Yager, independent journalist

 Backstory Breakdown will be livestreamed at facebook.com/VirginiaHumanities. During the livestream, questions can be tweeted using the hashtag #UnmaskingCville,or posted to the Virginia Humanities Facebook page.

The series concludes Saturday, June 23, from 10:00am-12:30pm, with Part III: Learning in Action. Social justice and inclusion educator Yolanda Avent will facilitate a workshop exploring impactful ways to confront racism and how to self-identify biases. Participants will also receive resources from organizations committed to growing Charlottesville into a more inclusive community.

This program is made possible through the generous support of Melanie Biermann and Marty Younker. Partners include The Bridge Progressive Arts Initiative, City of Promise, Creciendo Juntos, Hold The Line Magazine, Piedmont Virginia Community College, Studio IX, Vinegar Hill Magazine, Virginia Education Association, Virginia Humanities African American Programs.

Attendance is free but seating is limited and registration is required. RVSP online at VirginiaHumanities.org/UnmaskingCville.

About Virginia Humanities: Virginia Humanities connects people and ideas to explore the human experience and inspire cultural engagement. As the state humanities council, Virginia Humanities reaches millions in its estimated annual audience through festivals, grants, fellowships, digital initiatives, teacher institutes, radio programs, podcasts, apprenticeships, and school programs. Headquartered at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia Humanities endeavors to serve Virginians in every corner of the Commonwealth. To learn more, visit VirginiaHumanities.org.

Photos of panelists and other media assets are available here.