Beloved Community Initiative

Beloved Community Initiative 2018-01-16T01:42:45+00:00
Beloved Community Initiative
Essay Contest
Community Ancestors
Selection Process & Prizes
Essay Submission
About Dr. Virgil Wood


Beloved Community Initiative: About the Initiative

A partnership between Virginia Tech and Virginia Union University to explore and advance Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s conception of the Beloved Community in the 21st Century

The challenges confronting our communities and nation today are daunting. They include religious, racial, and ethnic divisions that have resulted in violence and displacement of populations, economic despair accompanied by crumbling infrastructure, hunger, unequal access to healthcare and education, and more. The tragic events in Charlottesville and the national conversation that has ensued reminds us of the critical need for morally courageous public and civil society leaders informed by history, research, and evidence, who are dedicated to inclusion, collaboration, and thoughtful engagement. Now, more than ever, is the time for examining and pursuing moral fortitude in public leadership.

Virginia Tech’s School of Public and International Affairs and Virginia Union University’s School of Theology have partnered to create a space for intellectual and practical engagement and experimentation to identify the ideas, steps and practices that together could foster a more beloved American community. In honor of Dr. King’s important ideas, this will be called the Beloved Community Initiative and it aims to bring together faculty, students, and the public around the following overarching objectives:

  • Create opportunities to educate and prepare well-rounded, empathetic, and creative public service leaders who are aware of the fundamental importance of social justice to the preservation of freedom and the insurance of human rights;
  • Help communities bring scholarship and evidence to bear on structural problems and challenges linked to citizens’ understanding of their identities and place in the world;
  • Conduct research on social policy and social justice that could help advance collective understanding of the steps necessary to realize the Beloved Community;
  • Build strong partnerships with communities and other universities to learn and grow and enhance educational opportunities linked to deeper understanding of the critical role of social imaginaries to democratic self-governance.

The VT_VUU partnership has launched a 2018 Essay Contest to provide junior and senior high school students across Virginia with an opportunity to explore individuals who sought to help realize Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s concept of the Beloved Community in American society. Click here to see the invitation letter sent to every superintendent in Virginia.

This initiative is led by Dr. Virgil Wood, a veteran civil rights activist and former colleague of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who has joined VT SPIA as the Ridenour Faculty Fellow for this academic year. Dr. Wood is working with several Virginia Tech and Virginia Union University faculty members as part of a core working group for the effort, including: Dr. Ralph Hall (Associate Professor, VT SPIA), Dr. Corey Walker Vice President (Dean, School of Theology, and Professor of Religion and Society, VUU), Dr. Sylvester Johnson (Assistant Vice Provost for the Humanities, Professor and Director of the Center for Humanities, VT), Dr. Max Stephenson (Professor and Director, Institute for Policy and Governance, VT SPIA), Dr. Marc Edwards (University Distinguished Professor, Civil Engineering, VT), and Dr. Amy Pruden (Professor, Civil Engineering, VT).

Virginia Tech faculty engaged in this project will draw on their institution’s guiding creed of Ut Prosim (which translates to ‘That I May Serve’) to promote conversation and support research and experimentation concerning King’s idea of the Beloved Community as a possible social imaginary for the 21st Century. Engaged VUU faculty will draw similarly on a distinguished history of teaching and scholarship rooted in a vision of citizenship, moral leadership, and education as they address the challenge of this work.


Submission Deadline: 6pm, April 4, 2018

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