Online reparations campaign to support Black college employees


Staff Writer
Published: 3/26/2021 1:22:05 PM

NORTHAMPTON — A reparations campaign has raised nearly $5,500 as of Friday for Black employees at one of the Five Colleges.

From furloughs to losing loved ones to the COVID-19 virus, “Black women and femmes in higher education and in general have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic,” reads a statement from a group of Black staff members from one of the Five Colleges that is working on the GoFundMe reparations campaign.

The name of the college, the GoFundMe says, is “intentionally redacted for (the) safety of these workers.”

“As staff members we tend to put the needs of our students and the college above our own,” their message reads. “Staff often feel unseen by our institutions. Black staff especially have been spread thin by our efforts, as we are called on more often than our white peers to do the work of equity and inclusion.”

Funds would go to a group of five Black employees at one of the Five Colleges to help with rent, child care and other necessities.

The fundraiser comes after Jodi Shaw, who is white, resigned from her job in the department of residential life at Smith College, alleging the school is a “racially hostile environment for white people.”

After her resignation letter was published online in a blog written by Bari Weiss, a former New York Times opinion writer, Shaw has raised nearly $300,000 on GoFundMe. At least $150,000 will be donated to people in “hostile work environments,” and funds will be distributed through a nonprofit that will be announced, Shaw wrote on the GoFundMe page earlier this month. Anything over $290,000, she writes, will go back to her “to spend as I see fit on personnel, items, and services to help guide and support me as I navigate this new environment and continue to promote this cause.” Shaw mentions she hired an assistant.

An email sent to Shaw on Wednesday about the campaign was not returned. In late February, she wrote in an email that she can’t talk about her legal strategy, “but good legal representation is extremely costly, and I am a relatively low-paid worker who is now out of a job.” She said she wants to see Smith end “training programs where people are singled out and shamed on the basis of their skin color.”

The reparations campaign organizers have a different view on the trainings. “These trainings were designed to improve the work and learning environments for people of color, yet the narrative has been co-opted for Shaw’s direct financial gain,” a statement from organizers reads.

“When Black members of our community approached us asking for reparation for the backlash and poor national news coverage of Shaw’s resignation, we wanted to respond with providing meaningful financial reparation from the community as well as bring attention to the ways Black staff in the Five Colleges are actually being disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and furloughs,” Kat Freeman, who graduated from Smith College in 2010, said in a statement.

The goal of the recently launched reparations campaign is to raise 10% of what Shaw raised, according to organizer and UMass Amherst graduate Avi Flynn.

Greta Jochem can be reached at

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