Students across the University of Georgia are calling for changes within the university and Athens communities to promote racial justice through tangible programs.
Two initiatives, Athens for Black Lives Matter and Dawgs Demand Better, are banding the groups together to promote change in Greek life, community resources and acknowledgement from the university.
These initiatives began on social media due to the recent acts of racial injustice and alongside the Black Lives Matter movement rising across the nation. Both Athens for Black Lives Matter and Dawgs Demand Better have combined their efforts to promote justice for the oppressed.
“Athens is such an active and enjoyable community, but it’s easy to forget that there’s a whole group of people out there who do not get to enjoy the same benefits as others because of the injustice they’re facing,” said Isabella Canales Claudio, co-leader of Athens for Black Lives Matter.
The Athens for Black Lives Matter initiative focuses on three areas to build from and promote change within: community, campus and policy. By acknowledging these three areas, the group intends to create a safe space for students and community members to discuss and learn about anti-racism, share their experiences and uplift Black voices, according to an Instagram post.
Dawgs Demand Better has a similar statement of purpose of wanting to create a more just community through education, reconciliation and action. One of the demands for this initiative is to “call on President Morehead to formally recognize and denounce the University of Georgia’s ties to slavery and white supremacy,” according to an Instagram post.
“The demands for wisdom, justice and moderation and the demands by the UGA NAACP are important,” Jay Mathias, a UGA alumnus and creator of Dawgs Demand Better, said. “Until those are meaningfully and specifically addressed by the university, we’re going to continue these efforts.”
Demanding recognition of UGA’s controversial history by university administration is not the only demand of these students. Leaders of both groups are focusing on change in UGA’s Greek life from the inside since the recent racism testimonies were released by another initiative, Pledge Against Racism UGA.
Pledge Against Racism is moving to change Greek life, specifically Panhellenic and Interfraternity Councils, by addressing racism faced by members and advocating for a new system to address these issues, according to its website.
“We promise to hold every Greek Life organization and individual accountable,” the organization said on its website. “We will ensure there are strong safeguards, practices and vetting processes in place that will hold individuals accountable.”
Athens for Black Lives Matter has combined efforts and resources with Pledge Against Racism to provide members and supporters with anti-racism education and offer actions to promote change. Their calls to action include signing petitions, calling for change from university faculty and offering educational workshops for the members of the initiative.
“We want to create a space where we can dig into university policy and learn about political policy as well to promote change,” Morgan Ford, co-leader of Athens for Black Lives Matter, said. “Not only that, but we want to promote Black artists, leaders and businesses as well to support and uplift them.”