Based on the findings of the December 17, 2022, report on Slavery and the Medical College of Virginia, the Project Gabriel Commission is charged with recommending to the Administration and Board of Visitors of VCU specific ways in which the institution should:
- identify and memorialize all enslaved individuals who labored on MCV grounds and property; and
- provide a tangible benefit such as a college scholarship or community-based economic development program for individuals or specific communities with a demonstrated historic connection to slavery that will empower families to be lifted out of the cycle of poverty.
Process to Final Recommendations:
- Extensive Research and Engagement: Commission members engaged with local experts, historians, and individuals closely connected to the work, conducting personal research and gathering information.
- Community Forums and Feedback: Through community forums, meaningful discussions on memorialization, scholarships, and economic programs were held, fostering a collective approach toward potential recommendations. These events were designed to engage with the community and gather valuable feedback, which served as the basis for developing preliminary recommendations around the Commission's charge.
- Key themes revealed: Community Forum Themes
- Preliminary Recommendations: By transcribing and analyzing community feedback, along with the insights gained from extensive research and engagement, the Commission formulated preliminary recommendations, which were presented at VCU's Board of Visitors meeting in May 2023. (View the BOV Gabriel Presentation)
- Validation and Input: To ensure inclusivity and effectiveness, additional forums were held in summer 2023 to validate, prioritize, and gather further input on the recommendations.
- Operational Planning and Workgroups: Following the validation of community recommendations, four workgroups, comprising members from VCU, VCU Health System, community churches and organizations, and local community representatives, were established. These workgroups were dedicated to developing strategies for implementing recommendations related to memorialization and identification, scholarships, and community programs.
Grounded in the extensive research conducted by Dr. Peter Wosh and Jodi Koste, the Commission convened for twelve meetings and organized five community forums between January and July 2023. After transcribing and analyzing the feedback received from the community, the Commission developed preliminary recommendations. To ensure the utmost inclusivity and effectiveness, additional forums were conducted in summer of 2023 to validate, prioritize, and obtain further input on these recommendations.
These recommendations signify VCU’s commitment to reconciliation, community engagement, and the betterment of the university as an institution and a national model. The final recommendations and supporting strategies are presented below.
Undertake research efforts to determine if the names and backgrounds of the enslaved people who labored on MCV grounds and property can be identified.
Explore the use of First African Baptist Church (Randolph Minor Hall) as a memorialization site for these enslaved people.
Conduct a pre-planning study to explore a variety of possible programming uses for the Randolph Minor Hall building (formerly known as the First African Baptist Church).
Establish clear roles and responsibilities for the operation and maintenance of the facility in the future.
Assess and determine how this effort may complement or compete with other possible donors’ interests with Richmond projects dealing with enslavement and reconciliation.
Establish a compelling case statement and examine fundraising feasibility.
Explore the feasibility of requesting a Budget Amendment in the 2024 Regular Session of the General Assembly session in an amount to be determined for planning and other costs.
Secure funding for the design and renovation of the First African Baptist Church (Randolph Minor Hall) building.
Convey the First African Baptist Church site, in an effort to restore the historic landmarks, to Virginia Union University; through conveyance VCU and VUU would establish a national model for racial reconciliation.
Establish the First African Baptist Church as a hub for educational, social and economic revitalization while honoring its legacy of leadership and advocacy as the moral center of the individuals who have a demonstrated connection to slavery or those who are still experiencing the legacy of slavery.
Ensure that the building will have spaces that focus on memorialization, connection to the College Alley, telling the history of the institution, archival research for medical issues that concern the black community, etc.
Document the work of the Project Gabriel Commission.
Engage the Middle of Broad, VCU School of the Arts, and students.
Collaborate with the EMSWP on 3D scans of human remains.
Align with the Family Representative Council (FRC) of the East Marshall Street Well Project (EMSWP) to develop memorialization initiatives.
Identify memorialization locations for the EMSWP ancestors, to include an interment site.
Construction of a significantly appropriate Memorial and an Interactive Learning Center at the site of interment.
Establish an annual memorialization event to be observed by all medical students prior to undertaking their first anatomy class.
Develop formal guidelines for appropriate university actions, including community engagement, in the event of future discovery of human skeletal remains or material culture.
Work with the EMSWP Memorialization and Interment Committee to develop Request for Proposals (RFPs) related to memorialization and interment locations and design concepts.
Subject to applicable law, establish a minimum of 5-8 scholarships consistent with the requirements of the Va. Code § 23.1-615.1 Enslaved Ancestors College Access Scholarship and Memorial Program.
Consider the establishment of “Gabriel Scholars” that:
Entails an annual scholarship to occur no less than the period the institution used enslaved labor (27 years).
Are endowed through fundraising efforts above any other scholarships currently established or planned.
Build off established MCV Foundation equity scholarships for professional and graduate cohorts at the VCU Health Sciences Schools.
Augment scholarships with robust advising and wrap-around services to ensure the success of participants both during and after attendance at VCU.
Establish specific scholarships within VCU’s schools of health sciences for both those individuals with a historic connection to slavery, as well as those students committed to serving in communities with a historic connection to slavery.
Establish Student Success Programs for multidisciplinary subjects, with a focus on STEM/H and education fields.
Explore ways to collaborate with current VCU initiatives focused on engaging Richmond Public School students.
Introduce an annual Gabriel Scholars ball to support the scholarship development strategy.
The supporting strategies are:
- Develop a framework for the scholarship criteria.
- Create a welcoming and affirming climate for Gabriel Scholars.
- Establish programs and extracurricular activities that will include community-based service-learning activities for Gabriel scholars.
- Establish a cross-campus, cross-sector Gabriel Scholars integrative advisory structure.
- Provide opportunities for youth focused on college and career readiness.
- Provide summer internships for high school juniors and rising seniors.
- Increase awareness of scholarships.
- Provide career support for VCU students, even after graduation.
- Introduce career opportunities at VCU Health and VCU.
- Address support services for VCU students that create barriers to employment.
- Expand programs for students who are college bound that introduce education and pathways focused on STEM/H.
- Provide information regarding entrepreneurship and how to start a business.
- Design programs that increase academic success for students attending nonaccredited schools in the Greater Richmond area, with a focus on Richmond Public Schools.
- Provide/expand mentorship programs for K-12 students and communicate opportunities to parents/guardians.
- Provide education and pathways focused on STEM/H.
- Increase outreach, awareness, and communications regarding programs and events happening at VCU.
- Coordinate activities with VCU entities to host Summer Enrichment programs.
- Host information sessions on how to apply for college that includes students and parents/guardians.
- Establish a strategic partnership between VCU and Richmond Public Schools (RPS).
- Identify alignment between RPS’s and VCU’s strategic goals to create impact.
- Create inclusive and accessible skill-building educational modules for community members that can be supported by various units across VCU and empower the community.
- Map existing “micro-credentialing” opportunities at VCU and regional partners available to the community.
- Establish a “micro-credentialing” strategy including regional partnerships, to help meet regional workforce and entrepreneurship needs.
- Launch a “Summer Boot Camp” that combines several topics each year based upon ideas gathered from the community.
- Establish a “VCU Mobile” approach that utilizes partnerships with community organizations to address access barriers faced by community members.
- Enhance the small minority business development community ecosystem to ensure that it thrives.
- Examine the VCU procurement policies to assist vendors in successfully navigating the process.
- Engage with community partners that are focused on small minority business development.
- Identify opportunities throughout VCU to support small businesses.
- Identify and address known “barriers.”
- Intentionally create social capital for SWaM (Small, Women-owned or Minority-owned) businesses that have been certified through the Commonwealth of Virginia.
- Build a VCU “connector” model that enhances partnerships with community organizations and community colleges to support workforce development and capacity needs of community residents and businesses.
- Build and/or expand partnerships with community colleges, trade schools, and organizations that focus on credentials and certifications.
- Support initiatives that focus on workforce development for individuals who have historically encountered barriers as a result of incarceration, recovery from addiction or homelessness.
- Establish programs that focus on capacity building for small businesses.
- Work with community partners to establish “hub” models that address community-identified needs.
- Establish health and wellness hubs.
- Develop research hubs to engage community residents in research programs.
- Explore a hub that focuses on healthy foods and nutrition.
- Address community grand challenges through vertically integrated projects and team-based approaches that prioritize community input and measure outcomes.
- Decrease crime/gun violence, food deserts, alcohol sales.
- Address community Mental Health challenges and digital divides.
- Develop a robust SWaM program in collaboration with Richmond City vendors.
- Tell the history of the organization through an initiative in collaboration with community partners.
- Leverage VCU’s youth and family-related resources to mobilize efforts with community partners to create strong youth development and family support opportunities.
- Enhance partnerships with community organizations and programs to build additional capacity that supports youth and adults.
- Establish/revive intentional partnerships with specific communities, notably Carver Elementary School and the JXN Project.
- Create early childhood intervention/mentorship models to improve access to early childhood education.
In addition to the recommendations outlined to support the State legislation, the Commission has identified several critical activities that need to be enacted to support Project Gabriel going forward.
Provide resources to support the management and coordination of the Project Gabriel recommendations.
Identify a Senior Leader and Project Manager in the VCU President’s office to oversee and coordinate the project activities.
Provide appropriate administrative support and resources for the project.
Establish a Project Gabriel governance structure to ensure implementation of the recommendations.
Establish a committee that will be led by the VCU Senior Leader and supported by the Project Manager that includes all responsible VCU/VCU Health entities and invited community advisors.
Launch a Communications Plan to share updates regarding Project Gabriel’s progress.
Implement a communications plan.
Redesign the Project Gabriel website.