Over the second weekend in april, more than 1,800 people—including nearly 1,200 alumni—attended Black Alumni Weekend on Grounds. Started in 1985 by a group of alumni involved with the Ridley Scholarship Fund, the event takes place every other year, with events planned by a committee of alumni. This year’s event came on the heels of the arrest of third-year African-American student Martese Johnson by Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control agents in March, which garnered national media coverage.

Martese Johnson (Col ’16) spoke on a panel with other student leaders during Black Alumni Weekend. Tom Daly

Both Johnson (Col ’16) and University President Teresa Sullivan addressed the weekend’s attendees, and the group UVA Alumni for Change organized a silent march from the Rotunda to Carr’s Hill in support of both. In her address, Sullivan acknowledged the difficulties that have placed UVA in the spotlight time and again, and spoke about the University’s efforts to serve historically underrepresented populations. She also addressed the history the University has with slavery, as well as its plans to name its newest residence hall Gibbons House after William and Isabella Gibbons, who were enslaved here.

This period of transformation for the University, in addition to it being the 30th anniversary of the event, helped bring in record numbers of attendees, says Javona Braxton (Col ’99), who has been co-chair of Black Alumni Weekend since 2011. “While there were some serious conversations that took place,” she says, “it still was a catalyst for black alumni to stay in contact with the University.”

Kristen Finn

To view more photos of the weekend's events, check out the Black Alumni Weekend Flickr album.