It was the summer of 2013 and I was applying for my dream job at the time — to be the public relations director of the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.
It was an exciting time at Grady. Coming out of the Great Recession that began in 2008, funding was beginning to flow to finally bring some much-needed renovations to the building. Dean Charles Davis was just beginning his tenure and was bringing in some new energy. And the college was counting down to its 100th anniversary celebration in 2015. As the director of diversity and high school outreach at Grady since 2004, I was thrilled to be a part of it. But I knew that as the public relations director, I could help shape the message of Grady during this historic era.
Even though the dean and the search committee already knew me, I knew I needed to make a strong impression to show that there is more to me. As I prepared my interview presentation, I wanted to come up with a phrase that would define me and my marketing vision for the college. The college’s previous slogan — “A tradition. A trust.” — was too abstract. I wanted a phrase that connects the people in the Grady family, past, present and future. I wanted a phrase that extends from students in the classroom to alums in corporate boardrooms and national media. “We are Grady.”
This was perfect. I envisioned briefly having students and alums discuss who they are in a video, cite their graduation year and end with the phrase, “I am Grady.” And collectively, “We Are Grady.” I asked some current students and alumni to help me shoot a montage for my presentation, and I knew I struck gold.
Although I didn’t get the job (the college hired someone much more competent than me), my slogan was a hit. It was used as a tagline for the college’s centennial celebration in 2015. I helped recruit a wide array of alumni for a video that would be premiered at our black-tie celebration, including “Good Morning America” anchor Amy Robach, ‘95, “Morning Joe” producer Ben Mayer, ’06 and “Inside Edition” anchor Deborah Norville, ‘79. They introduced themselves, closing with the phrase, “I am Grady.” The video ends with 100 Grady students forming the shape of the number 100, yelling, “We are Grady.”
It was one of my proudest professional moments. Even after I left the college, the “We Are Grady” tagline stuck. It’s the first words you see on the Grady website, and it’s included in college marketing materials. I would always feel a sense of pride when I saw those words.
That was until June 2, when I read Sam Jones’ column in The Red & Black. It turns out that the person my college was named after was a noted white supremacist.
I was embarrassed. I was ashamed. How could I take pride in developing a campaign that celebrates the Grady name, especially at the time when I was the college’s diversity director? I was devastated.
When I saw a movement being formed to rename Grady, I had to be a part of it. In this group of very smart and accomplished alums, I discovered that I wasn’t alone in my ignorance. I’m positive most of Grady’s 20,000-plus alums — including those I eagerly recruited to be in that video — were blissfully ignorant as well. For too long, we swept the history of our namesake under the rug.
If we are to truly link the past, present and future of the University of Georgia’s college of journalism and mass communication, we cannot be ignorant anymore. I love my alma mater, but I am not Grady. We are not Grady.