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Message from the Chair

Dear Volunteer Family and Friends,

As the Chairperson for the Commission for Blacks here at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, I want to share with you from the Vice Chairs and each and every Commissioner our commitment to STAND with our Black Students, Faculty, and Staff during this difficult time. We support the statement issued by our campus Interim Chancellor Wayne Davis, and Interim Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Engagement, Tyvi Small. We STAND against these acts of prejudice and racism on OUR campus. The Commission for Blacks is committed to diversity and inclusion and being a catalyst and a voice for Black Students, Faculty and Staff when they are made to feel marginalized by these racist acts. We STAND in solidarity with our Black Students, Faculty, and Staff. We decline these acts of bigotry, racism, and hate. Finally, the Commission for Blacks STANDS READY to be a part of the solution as we have always been and will always BE!

We are ALL VOL!

Sharon Couch, M.S.


The Commission for Blacks is a body appointed by the Chancellor to advise on planning, implementation, and evaluation of university programs, policies, and services as they relate to Black students, faculty and staff. The Commission reports to the Office of the Chancellor.

The Commission for Blacks recommends changes in or additions to university policies and procedures to reflect concerns specific to blacks. The group also makes suggestions for new and existing academic and extracurricular programs related to blacks; encourages research to identify the problems and progress of blacks on campus; and encourages black faculty, staff and student involvement in all aspects of campus life.

CFB Rally Statement, Resources, and Counter-Events

The Commission for Blacks is committed to the protection and retention of Black and African American students, faculty, and staff at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. The Commission for Blacks seeks to enhance the campus racial climate and provide a space where a civil discourse around issues of race, racism, and biases can occur in our roles as faculty, staff, and students. We stand in solidarity with colleagues at the University of Virginia as they strive to offer a civil and secure climate to their campus community in the aftermath of violent protests spurred by White supremacy, racism, anti-semitism, and racial hatred.

We join the American Educational Research Association (AERA) in condemning racism in all its forms and will work with others throughout the campus and the nation in the call to eradicate hate, injustice, and racial violence. We remind everyone as to the importance of using our educational institutions as a means of “studying, analyzing, and broadly communicating about” patterns and structures associated with White supremacy, racism, antisemitism, religious persecution, homophobia, and xenophobia. As scholars at UTK continue to contribute to our understanding of the inequities within our educational institutions, we will support the dissemination of the “knowledge and evidence” that supports “understanding and respect of others” while disrupting “the divisive patterns of disparity and denigration.” The Commission for Blacks sets as our goal for UTK that “No one should leave our classrooms or campuses believing that the symbols of oppression and killing are mere logos.”

Local Mental Health Resources:

For Students:

University of Tennessee Student Health Counseling Center (865) 974-2251

For Faculty/Staff:

Employee Assistance Program (855) 437-3486

For Everyone:

Surviving and Resisting Hate: A Toolkit

List of Educational Resources:

The Charlottesville Syllabus

UTK Africana Studies Program Statement

AERA Statement on the Hateful Acts in Charlottesville

Call for Membership

If you are interested in being a part of the Commission for Blacks (CFB), we invite you complete the online membership interest form for the 2019-2020 academic year.

The Commission consists faculty, staff, students, and external community members. Members are appointed by the Chancellor on an annual basis.

If you are a currently serving member of the commission and have an interest in continuing your membership with the Commission or if you are interested in getting involved with the Commission for the first time, please complete the form for consideration for membership appointment on the Commission. Deadline for submitting the membership interest form is May 31, 2019.

2017-18 Trailblazer Award Series: Patrica Bell-Scott

On April 17, 2018 the Commission for Blacks will present the 4th African American Trailblazer Award of the 2017-18 year to Patrica Bell-Scott.

Patricia Bell-Scott is professor emerita of women’s studies and human development and family science at the University of Georgia. Her previous books include Life Notes: Personal Writings by Contemporary Black Women, which was a featured selection of The Quality Paperback Book Club and the Black Literary Guild; Flat-footed Truths: Telling Black Women’s Lives; Double Stitch: Black Women Write about Mothers and Daughters, which won the Letitia Woods Brown Memorial Book Prize, and All the Women Are White, All the Blacks Are Men, But Some of Us Are Brave: Black Women’s Studies, an award-winning textbook that was named to the Black Issues Books Review list of “Books that Made the Century Great.”

Bell-Scott served for a decade as co-founding editor of SAGE: A Scholarly Journal on Black Women. She is a former contributing editor to Ms. Magazine. She is also a cofounder of the National Women’s Studies Association, for which she served as co-convener of the inaugural coordinating council and as chair of the search committee that selected the University of Maryland as the association’s national headquarters.

She has held post-doctoral fellowships at the John F. Kennedy School of Government and the W.E.B. DuBois Institute at Harvard University, as well as the Jane and Harry Willson Center for the Humanities and the Arts at the University of Georgia.

She has held professorial, research, and administrative appointments at the University of Connecticut, the Wellesley College Center for Research on Women, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and her alma mater, the University of Tennessee. A distinguished teacher, she is a cofounder of the University of Georgia Teaching Academy. She has also been honored by a diverse group of professional societies and institutions, including the Research on Women Special Interest Group of the American Educational Research Association, Division 35 (Psychology of Women) of the American Psychological Association, Connecticut Chapter of the Coalition of 100 Black Women; Journal of Negro Education; National Council on Family Relations. National Association for Women in Education, and National Institute for Women of Color.

A native of Chattanooga, Tennessee, Bell-Scott lives in Athens, Georgia with her husband, Charles Vernon Underwood Jr., a retired Tennessee Valley Authority information technology manager, and their rat terrier Pearl.

The Trailblazer Award is dedicated to recognizing and honoring the accomplishments of African Americans affiliated with the University of Tennessee that are trailblazers in their disciplines or within the fields of diversity, inclusion, and social justice. The Office for Diversity and Inclusion and the Commission for Blacks jointly organizes the speaking series.

Click here for more information on the 2017-18 Trailblazer Series.