The Collegian
Thursday, August 06, 2020

UR Students raise money to fight racial injustice

<p>A small representation of the protests that took play Sunday May 31, where approximately <a href="https://www.wtvr.com/news/local-news/police-233-arrested-during-sunday-protests-most-from-outside-of-richmond" target="_self">900 people </a>protested at N. Seventh Street.&nbsp;</p>

A small representation of the protests that took play Sunday May 31, where approximately 900 people protested at N. Seventh Street. 

Representatives from Westhampton College Government Association and Richmond College Student Government Association created a GoFundMe to raise money to help fight for racial equality on June 2, raising almost $20,000 as of June 20.

RCSGA president AJ Polcari said that they got the idea from Boston University, where the student government partnered with the university's Black Student Union to create a GoFundMe to raise money for organizations fighting for racial justice. This call for racial equality resulted from George Floyd's death and the multiple protests occurring worldwide.  

Polcari said he and WCGA President Noella Park had begun working with the Panhellenic Council, the Interfraternity Council and Black Student Alliance to gain student support for a GoFundMe. Then, representatives from both WCGA and RCSGA began reaching out to other student organizations and were able to gain the support of over 40 clubs in under 12 hours, Polcari said.

The fundraiser was scheduled to run from June 2 to June 9, Polcari said. After the organizing team sent the fundraising link to the leadership of supporting student organizations,  $1,000 had been donated to the GoFundMe, Polcari said.

“That’s when we knew that this was going to be pretty big,” Polcari said.

The GoFundMe quickly exceeded the original goal of raising $10,000. In a week, the just under $18,500 was donated to the GoFundMe, Polcari said. The fundraiser is quickly approaching the new $20,000 goal, according to the GoFundMe site.

“From my perspective and from all of us [who created the GoFundMe], we can’t be more grateful," Polcari said. "The support, the advertising and just the money that’s been given. It’s just fabulous."

Patel said the main goal of asking student organizations for their support had been to create unity among students and bring the school together to support one issue.

“There are so many different people and organizations on campus that, since [racial injustice] impacts all of our community or a huge portion of our community, it makes sense to include all of the organizations on campus,” Patel said.

The GoFundMe, according to the site, was created with the goal of raising money for three organizations: The Bail Project, Color of Change and the Virginia Anti-Violence Project. Polcari said these organizations had been chosen so the GoFundMe proceeds could address as many aspects of racial injustice as possible, while also paying special attention to widespread policy change.

The Bail Project, according to their website, uses donations to provide bail funds to people who can be proven to be wrongfully incarcerated, especially those who were arrested while peacefully protesting. Color of Change aims to build campaigns that urge companies and governments to create or change policies to create a system that is not prejudiced against Black people, according to their website.

One particular organization, the Virginia Anti-Violence Project, focuses on preventing violence against the LGBTQ population in Virginia, according to their website. Polcari said that the organizers felt that it was important to address the intersectionality in racial justice. 

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“We have seen so many situations where black trans women have been killed at the hands of police and also at the hands of citizens,” Polcari said. “We wanted to make sure that we weren’t forgetting about pride month, and also how institutional racism and systemic racism also impact LGBTQ+ [people] in so many ways.”

Patel, who helped lead the creation of the fundraiser, said they also wanted organizations that did not put donations towards operational expenses, such as salaries.

“We wanted organizations that were fully committed to adding the donations to their cause and what we were actually donating for,” Patel said.

Patel said she saw a similarity between this fundraiser and UR Here, an annual donation event meant to raise money for the operation of the University of Richmond. UR Here occurred on May 27 this year, just before the GoFundMe began, and raised over $1.1 million, according to the official UR Instagram page.

“If we can raise money for all of that [campus programming], we should be able to raise money to support our POC students on campus,” Patel said.

Rising junior Olivia Podber first heard about the GoFundMe through her involvement in Peer Sexual Misconduct Advisors, she said. News of the GoFundMe soon spread to other campus organizations she is involved in, Podber said.

“I kind of made the commitment early on that if I had just a couple dollars to donate to a bunch of different organizations, I thought that it would be going to good use during this time,” Podber said. “I know how important it is for grassroots campaigns to raise funds really quickly.”

Podber said she liked that the GoFundMe had an aspect of unity. Students from all different organizations had the opportunity to support a cause, drawn together by the fact that they are all from UR, Podber said.

“This is one that I was proud to do, because I was really excited to see our school put on something like this and it was run by students," Podber said. "I really love that initiative."

Contact international editor Susanna Getis at susanna.getis@richmond.edu.

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