On Monday, May 24, members of the UVA Football Team were invited to a board of trustees meeting to meet with the board and senior administration to discuss their advocacy group, The Groundskeepers. Formed in the wake of George Floyd’s murder one year ago, the group initially started as an outlet for the team’s black players to voice their feelings of turmoil and hopelessness. UVA Football assistant coach and St. Anne’s-Belfield parent Marques Hagans P ’32 ’30 serves as the group’s advisor. Marques, his wife, Lauren Hagans P ’32 ’30, and the couple’s two sons were also in attendance.
"We have all been inspired by the work of the Groundskeepers in our community over the past year,” said Board Chair Frank Edmonds, who arranged for the visit.
Describing the formation of The Groundskeepers and the need for an inclusive advocacy group, Mr. Hagans used this analogy. Imagine we’re getting ready to play VT. We’re in the tunnel and we’re hype. The white guys run out of the tunnel, and the black guys all stay back. What would you think? You’d think, ‘Why didn’t you come out with us?’ That’s what we black people think when these racial inequality incidents happen. Why didn’t you come out of the tunnel with us?
Imagine we’re getting ready to play VT. We’re in the tunnel and we’re hype. The white guys run out of the tunnel, and the black guys all stay back. What would you think? You’d think, ‘Why didn’t you come out with us?’ That’s what we black people think when these racial inequality incidents happen. Why didn’t you come out of the tunnel with us? — Marques Hagans P ’32 ’30
Today, members of The Groundskeepers seek to use empathy and understanding to coax everyone out of the tunnel to advocate for equality regardless of race, rank, or creed. Recently, members of the UVA Women’s Lacrosse team joined the coalition by taking the group’s symbolic “Take Back the Grounds” walk. The march begins at the spot where anti-racist protestor Heather Heyer was killed during 2017’s Unite the Right Rally and ends at the UVA rotunda, with a stop at the Memorial to Enslaved Laborers.
"It symbolizes the fact that we can do hard things together,” says Nick Grant, former UVA cornerback who graduated this May and a founding member of The Groundskeepers. “We’re taking back the grounds that people tried to fill with hatred.”
The #GroundsKeepers commit to change through accountability, voting, furthering our education and educating those around us, using our voice, spreading love without violence.— Virginia Cavaliers (@VirginiaSports) August 31, 2020
Will you? pic.twitter.com/7a9GmnmkDT
While involvement in The Groundskeepers is currently limited to UVA students, Lauren Hagans envisions future engagement opportunities with the St. Anne’s community. “My mission is to serve children and the best way to do that is to prepare them for where the world is going. I want them to see through a broadened lens of global citizenship. We can do it with the virtues of compassion and empathy, recognizing a difference of opinion that’s based on a value of common humanity.”
Be helpers. Use your voice. Do it with kindness and compassion. And start at home. — Lauren Hagans P ’32 ’30
"We are appreciative of the leadership role the Hagans family plays in our School and local communities as we continue our journey to learn and embrace change," said Mr. Edmonds. “We also thankful that Terrell Jana, Nick Grant and Hayden Mitchell were willing to take the time out of their busy schedules to have a conversation with us. Each of us was struck by the passion and maturity of these young men and by their steadfast commitment to promoting change through education, empowerment, and understanding.”
For Mrs. Hagans, positive change can be measured in small everyday actions, such as reading books or listening to podcasts on equity and inclusion. “Be helpers. Use your voice. Do it with kindness and compassion. And start at home.”
The Hagans’s youngest son had this to add: “I’m just trying to make the world a better place.”