“We wear the mask that grins and lies…” – Paul Laurence Dunbar
Unmasking Hampton Roads (#UnmaskingHR), a three-part learning series held in October and November 2019, was designed to help residents of the region take off their masks, be candid with each other about race and racism, and work together to make our communities more equitable and inclusive spaces for everyone. The series was inspired by the poem “We Wear the Mask” by African American writer and poet Paul Laurence Dunbar.
#UnmaskingHR took place in Hampton Roads twice in the fall of 2019:
Oct. 10, Oct. 17 and Oct. 19, 2019 – Norfolk and Virginia Beach
Location: Old Donation School (4633 Honeygrove Rd, Virginia Beach, VA 23455)
Oct. 10, 7 to 9 p.m. Included a buffet-style dinner, “Abolitionist Museum” stage play by Sheri Bailey and Company, and facilitated small group discussions; doors opened at 6:30 p.m.
Oct. 17, 7 to 9 p.m. Included a panel session featuring community leaders and a public Q&A session; doors open at 6:30 p.m. Panel moderated by WAVY News10 Anchor Anita Blanton. Panelists:
•Julian Baena, president, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Coastal Virginia
•Khayla Walker (also know as Cuyjet), peer facilitator and alumnus, Teens with a Purpose and spoken word artist
•Dr. Amelia Ross-Hammond, founder and chairman, the African American Cultural Center of Virginia Beach
•Dr. Patricia Turner, member of the Norfolk 17 and retired veteran educator
•Forrest “Hap” White, author, “Black, White and Brown: The Battle for Progress in 1950s Norfolk
•Lavell White, educator and motivational speaker
Oct. 19, 10 a.m. to 12 noon Included an intensive diversity and inclusion training and bias workshop facilitated by Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities; doors opened at 9:30 a.m.
Nov. 14, Nov. 21 and Nov. 23, 2019 – Portsmouth, Chesapeake and Suffolk
Location: Tidewater Community College (Portsmouth campus, 120 Campus Dr, Portsmouth, VA 23701)
Nov. 14, 7 to 9 p.m. Included a buffet-style dinner, “Abolitionist Museum” stage play by Sheri Bailey and Company, and facilitated small group discussions; doors opened at 6:30 p.m.
Nov. 21, 7 to 9 p.m. Included a panel session featuring community leaders and a public Q&A session; doors open at 6:30 p.m. Panel moderated by WAVY News10 Anchor Anita Blanton. Panelists:
•James Boyd, president, Portsmouth NAACP
•Mary Hill, Executive director, Suffolk African American Cultural Society
•Bob Matthews, news anchor and host, WNIS radio
•Randy Williams, owner, Talley & Twine
•Chief Kelvin Wright, Chesapeake Chief of Police
•Dr. Allan Bergano, co-founder, Hampton Roads Chapter of the Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS)
Nov. 23, 10 a.m. to 12 noon Included an intensive diversity and inclusion training and bias workshop facilitated by Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities; doors opened at 9:30 a.m.
Both Unmasking Hampton Roads series consisted of three parts, featuring shared meals, film screenings, performance art, discussions and exercises to help participants understand the historic and contemporary role racism plays in structuring their communities, talk honestly about the effects of racism in their lives, and learn tools to recognize and address racial biases and disparities through professionally-facilitated workshops.
Beneath the Surface
Unmasking Hampton Roads was the second event in a new partnership between the Hampton Roads Community Foundation and Virginia Humanities called “Beneath the Surface: Race and the History of Race in South Hampton Roads.” The goal of this initiative: to deepen awareness of the role race and racism play in issues confronting the region, and to lay groundwork for positive transformation. A public conversation with Dr. Beverly Tatum on May 30, 2019 was the first event in the initiative, attended by more than 800 residents of the region and viewed via livestream video by more than 1,500 people.
Why Hampton Roads?
In 2018, the Hampton Roads Community Foundation launched its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Initiative as a critical strategy to accomplish its mission of making life better in Hampton Roads through leadership, philanthropy and civic engagement. Bringing this series to Hampton Roads helps the Community Foundation advance racial equity and ensure the success and wellbeing of our region’s diverse residents.
Unmasking Series Background
Unmasking Hampton Roads was the third Unmasking Series in the state of Virginia. In 2016, journalist/writer Samantha Willis co-created the series with Richmond Magazine after a blackface scandal rocked the city (#UnmaskingRVA), and with Virginia Humanities, continued the series in Charlottesville in June 2018 (#UnmaskingCville), nearly a year after white nationalist groups brought deadly violence to the city. Samantha led the development of Unmasking Hampton Roads (#UnmaskingHR) in collaboration with the Hampton Roads Community Foundation and Virginia Humanities.