George Floyd Jubilee

14 10 2020

Since 2016, I have had the pleasure of getting to know Dr. Virgil Wood, a church leader, educator, and civil rights activist who has committed much of his life’s work to the struggle for economic and spiritual development among the nation’s disadvantaged.

Our work together led to the creation of the Beloved Community Initiative (BCI), which established an essay contest and hosted the MLK Jubilee Summit in 2018. In that same year, Dr. Wood was invited to give the Virginia Tech Graduate School Commencement speech (see below). The BCI has also produced a series of documentary-grade videos that capture the life and work of Dr. Wood and his colleague Dr. Owen Cardwell.

Dr. Virgil Wood’s speech runs from 1:10 to 1:18

With the pandemic uprooting all of our lives, a number of BCI initiatives – such as the 2020 essay contest – were put on hold this year. However, Dr. Wood and I continued to engage in far reaching conversations about the need for transformative change at local to national level.

Earlier this month, I asked Dr. Wood if I could start recording our conversations and condense them into shorter themed videos to share more broadly. He agreed, and we created a new “In conversation” series that will be posted on the BCI’s YouTube channel. In this new series, Dr. Wood will provide his perspectives on a broad range of issues relating to the Beloved Community and Beloved Economy.

Today – October 14, 2020 – would have been George Floyd’s 47th birthday. In the first video below, Dr. Wood reflects on Mr. Floyd’s life and looks ahead to the George Floyd Jubilee, when he would have been 50 years old.

In the second video below, Dr. Wood talks about his experience marching with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the 1960s and connects this experience with the current Black Lives Matter movement.

The Rev. Gilbert H. Caldwell (right) stands with the Revs. Martin Luther King Jr. (left) and Virgil Wood on the roof of a Boston public school in 1965. Photo courtesy of the Rev. Gilbert H. Caldwell.

In the third video below, Dr. Wood discusses the relationship between Martin Luther King Sr. and George Wallace and what this means for the Beloved Community.

If there are specific issues that you would like to hear Dr. Wood talk about, please contact me and I will include them in our future conversations.





Beloved Community Initiative Event, November 27

6 11 2018

The School of Public and International Affairs, in partnership with the Center for Humanities, and Virginia Union University, present The Beloved Community Initiative Event that will be coinciding with the Advancing the Human Condition Symposium on November 27.

The Beloved Community Initiative is a partnership between VT and Virginia Union University to explore and advance Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s conception of the Beloved Community in the 21st century. In 2017, the VT-VUU partnership launched the inaugural Beloved Community Initiative Essay Contest. The essay contest invited junior and senior high school students to choose one set of historical figures and prepare an exploration of those two (or three) persons, focusing on how the legacy of their life’s journey came together to advance the Beloved Community.

On November 27, 2018, The VT-VUU Beloved Community Initiative will celebrate the essay contest winners. The event will feature two panels on:
  1. the history of the Civil Rights movement through the lens of the winning essays; and
  2. understanding contemporary forms of structural inequality implications for creating systems of economic and social justice, paradigmatically captured in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision for a “Beloved Community.”

The event will take place in Assembly Hall in Holtzman Alumni Center on November 27, from 1:30- 5pm. No registration is required and the event is open to the public.

The following panelists will be speaking during the event:





Living Legacies of the Too Soon Gone – LSCRC Intersections Event

5 10 2018

On Oct 10, 3-5pm, Dr. Virgil Wood will speak (via Zoom) at the Leadership and Social Change Residential College (LSCRC) for an Intersection on the “Living Legacies of the Too Soon Gone.” During the event, Dr. Wood will talk about the ancestors of the Beloved Community and engage with students in a conversation about how they can help advance the work of the VT-VUU Beloved Community Initiative.





Public Talk – King’s Ethics & Kelso’s Economics

29 04 2018

On Wednesday, May 9, at 7:00pm, Dr. Virgil Wood (the 2018 VT Graduate Commencement Speaker), Prof. Harvey Cox (Hollis Professor of Divinity, Emeritus, Harvard University), and I will hold a public conversation on The Role of Dr. King, Jr.’s Ethics Kelso’s Economics in Creating a Workable Society. Prof. Cox will be joining the conversation via video conference.

2018-05-08_2218

Image of Dr. King, Jr. with Dr. Virgil Wood; Image of Louis O. Kelso

The event will be held in the Solitude Room at the Inn at Virginia Tech. Please share this announcement with students and community groups who may find this subject of interest. The event will provide attendees with a unique opportunity to engage with Dr. Wood and Dr. Cox, who have spent their lives working to advance economic and spiritual development across the nation.





MLK50 and the 2018 BCI Essay Contest

4 04 2018

At around 6pm today, it will be 50 years since the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It will also mark the end of the 2018 Beloved Community Initiative (BCI) Essay Contest. To thank the students of Virginia for participating in the essay contest, Dr. Virgil A. Wood (who worked with Dr. King, Jr. and his father), Dr. Sylvester Johnson (Professor and Director of the Center for the Humanities, Virginia Tech), and Dr. Corey Walker (Vice President, Dean and Professor of Religion and Society, Virginia Union University) held a webinar this morning – as part of the MLK Jubilee Summit – in which they explored the legacy of Dr. King, Jr. and provided their thoughts on what this legacy means for the students of today. A recording of this webinar is provided below.

The essay contest (described in the video below) was designed to provide junior and senior students at high schools across Virginia with the opportunity to explore exemplars of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s notion of the Beloved Community – a community based on social and economic justice and a common love for fellow human beings. Dr. King, Jr. often thundered “The moral arc of the universe is long but it bends toward justice,” quoting American Bards of generations gone. Dr. Wood’s life-long search for the elusive promised land of the American Dream led to the realization that at every point where the moral arc did bend, even ever so slightly, there stood a pair, or in some cases triplets, of Black and White ancestors of the Beloved Community. Sometimes these ancestors were not contemporaries, but they can be linked by the spirit they exemplified. Through their essays, students were challenged to explore the connections between these ancestors and to consider how they helped advance the notion of the Beloved Community. In the coming weeks, a review panel will select four winning essays that will be showcased at an event this fall.





The Beloved Community ‘Dream Reset’ Richmond Gathering

28 11 2017

Next week I will be taking part in a series of events and meetings in Richmond, Virginia, that will officially launch the Beloved Community Initiative. The press release below provides more details about this gathering. If you live in Richmond, please consider attending one of the four FREE public events that will be held from Dec 3-5. Please click here to register for these events.

Press Release – 11/28/2017

The School of Public and International Affairs is pleased to announce a workshop developed through the efforts of the Beloved Community Initiative (BCI). The Beloved Community ‘Dream Reset’ Richmond Gathering is a three-day event hosted in partnership with Virginia Union University and will be held at various locations in Richmond, Virginia, starting on December 3, 2017, and closing on December 5, 2017.

The working group associated with the BCI has developed the concept of “Spirals,” or holistic organizing efforts that combine broad, creative thinking and writing with input and inspiration of engagement and experience as a convenient heuristic to describe its aims for this effort. The Richmond workshop will examine community projects (engagement and experience) rooted in current understandings of social change that engage community members, students, and faculty, and seek actively to learn from them (creative thinking and writing) by means of sustained discussion (reflection).

The Virginia Tech team behind the BCI believe that as a leading academic institution, the university can serve as a wellspring of ideas for community change and strategies to secure social justice. These strategies can be developed, applied, and refined both with and in partner communities.

The Beloved Community ‘Dream Reset’ is a workshop convened by Dr. Virgil Wood and has been designed to encourage the sharing of ideas and new ways of thinking concerning social change. The planned events will explore the ongoing work in Flint, Michigan, and the educational uplift of children both physically and psychologically affected by the Flint water crisis. Additional sessions of the workshop intend to explore the following:

  • Investigate ways and means of cultivating hope as an essential resource and reservoir for encouraging community resilience by means of systematic assessment of specific community action strategies.
  • Examine and create conditions necessary to ensure environmental justice for all community residents, but particularly those suffering economically or as a consequence of social discrimination in partnership with the Flint city government and civil society organizations in that community.
  • Envision the broad political, social, and economic changes necessary to secure the moral arc identified by the concept of the Beloved Community at local, state, and national scales.

The workshop will feature presentation and commentary from the following list of speakers:

  • Marc Edwards, Charles P. Lunsford Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Virginia Tech
  • Ralph Hall, Associate Professor, Urban Affairs and Planning, Virginia Tech
  • Chivonne Battle, Virginia Tech, BCI Task Force
  • Virgil Wood, Ridenour Faculty Fellow, Virginia Tech; Pastor Emeritus, Pond Street Baptist Church; VUU Alum, Former Dean, Northeastern University; Former ten-year working associate of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Christian Moore, WHY TRY Founder.
  • Owen C. Cardwell Jr., Pastor, New Canaan International Church, President and Founder, Heroes and Dreams Academy
  • Max Stephenson Jr., Professor of Public and International Affairs and Director, Institute for Policy and Governance, Virginia Tech
  • Sylvester Johnson, Assistant Vice Provost for the Humanities, Virginia Tech
  • Anne Khademian, Director, School of Public and International Affairs Virginia Tech

Additional information and registration is available at www.belovedcommunityinitiative.eventbrite.com.