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Standing Up Against Racial Injustice

In the wake of a turbulent year, the NKU community explored ways to dismantle racism and amplify Black voices.


Crystal Kendrick, NKU alumna
During the summer of 2020, Crystal Kendrick (’97) brought a national initiative to Cincinnati that empowered and supported nearly 400 Black-owned businesses: #Blackout. Kendrick, president of The Voice of Your Customer and publisher of The Voice of Black Cincinnati, was passionate about her plan to support Black-owned businesses.

“At least 51 percent of our local businesses are owned by one or more African Americans,” she says. “Promoting local, Black-owned businesses addresses wealth inequality and provides opportunities for those businesses as well as the communities they serve.”

Black Lives Matter March

Arturo Minera
In September, students Anna Marie Adams and Ki’Azja Watterson-Brown organized a march on campus in support of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. The march, which was supported by the Office of African American Student Initiatives, was attended by nearly 100 students, faculty, staff and alumni.

Sole Power

Isaiah Kelly, NKU alumnus
Isaiah Kelly (’20), founder of Smoove Creations, spent his summer creating a custom “Black Lives Matter” shoe to raise awareness about racial injustice in our country.

“I believe that it's everyone's responsibility to use their privilege to create change. We decided to use our voice and our craft to spread the message of racial reconciliation through footwear,” Kelly says. Proceeds benefit the NAACP, Project Zero Campaign and the bail fund in Louisville, Kentucky, for those arrested while protesting the death of Breonna Taylor. 
Arturo Minera

Getting Social on Instagram

Aaron Lavigne
You may know Aaron LaVigne (’05) for his role in the touring show of “Jesus Christ Superstar,” but you may not know that he uses his platform to fight against racism. Lavigne hosted conversations about racial inequality and social injustice on his Instagram account.

“I have been using my voice and platform through my job to fight for social justice,” he says. “The best way for me to use my voice is to offer up honest, inclusive and socially minded content on social media.” 

The New Jim Crow

IST 394: Close Readings in Integrative Studies, which is open to students, faculty, staff and alumni, delved into one book each week to discuss important interdisciplinary topics and issues. During fall semester, the class discussed the book, “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” by Michelle Alexander.

“The New Jim Crow challenges the civil rights community—and all of us—to place mass incarceration at the forefront of a new movement for racial justice in America,” says Rudy Garns, director of the Integrative Studies program. 

Tackling Diversity on Campus

Jackie Johnson
Jackie Johnson, vice president of Operational Risk Management Information Security at Synchrony, and member of the College of Informatics Advisory Board, recently became a member of the College of Informatics Diversity Task Force. The task force focuses on four main areas: faculty and staff recruitment and retention, student recruitment, student retention, and curriculum and pedagogy.

“I was impressed by the willingness of the Informatics faculty and staff to tackle the diversity opportunities, and I wanted to help influence and make a difference” Johnson says. “I believe NKU should be an advocate for social justice by increasing awareness with students, faculty and staff on the importance of fair and just economic, political and social rights.” 

Making Voices Heard

On June 17, the Black Alumni Council and NKU’s administration teamed up to host an open forum for alumni, students, faculty and staff to discuss the #BlackLivesMatter movement and systemic racism as well as NKU’s responsibility to support black students, faculty, staff and alumni.

“We are making our voices heard while making sure that we have a hand in shaping and developing the respect that we deserve. We encourage a unified and diverse community for all who step foot on NKU’s campus,” says Monique Johnson, president of NKU’s Black Alumni Council. 

A New Lecture Series

Arturo Minera
First-year students participated in an experience designed to foster a common, academic conversation and cultivate engagement between students, faculty and staff. Students learned about racial inequalities through a lecture series as well as various reading materials: “Racial Disparities in Health Status” by Ruqaijah Yearby, “The Missing Pieces of America’s Education” by Joe Heim and “The Birth of American Music” by Nikole Hannah-Jones. 

About This Article

Flynn Ashley
P. Flynn Ashley ('13, '15)
Contributor. NKU Magazine & Assistant Director, Alumni Outreach and Digital Engagement
Published March 2021
Photography by Scott Beseler

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