School leaders weigh in on racial equity


RADFORD – Radford City Public Schools Superintendent Robert Graham and Radford University President Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D. have each addressed the Radford community in recent days regarding the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25 by police and the subsequent nationwide outcry. The following are the two letters in their entirety.


Facebook photo – A solemn prayer walk took place recently along Main Street in Radford in protest of the death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department.

Dear RCPS students, staff and community members:

The incidents surrounding the death of George Floyd are horrific, unnecessary and painful. The injustices that so many people of color have faced for so long are heart-breaking and in need of immediate change. Dr. James Lane, State Superintendent of Public Schools for the State of Virginia, states, “Eradicating systemic racism from schools and communities is the hardest work of our time, work I am committed to through listening, learning and standing with others against injustice!” I share this quote because it is a message that the school board, our staff and I stand behind.

During the last three months, we have faced a COVID-19 pandemic that has forced us into mandatory school closures. We now are asked to quarantine, social distance, repeatedly wash our hands, don’t touch our faces and use personal protective equipment in order to prevent the spread of this deadly virus. The world we live in has certainly changed, but I am grateful and appreciative to all who have come together in order to provide for our wonderful City, and make sure that those who struggle during these trying times are cared for and supported.

As discussions continue regarding the reopening of schools, please know that RCPS is dedicated to providing a culture and environment for ALL students that is fir and equitable, regardless of race, gender, sexual identity or political affiliation. I ask our community to, once again, come together as a family, just as we have with the COVID-19 pandemic, to provide care and support to all that are hurting, frightened or angry. Right now, we must also be mindful of the diversity within our schools, and how we need to continue to work on understanding ourselves within our ever-changing community. Unified diversity is powerful, right and necessary in our school division and City now more than ever. Our school division is Excellence in Education…EVERY student, EVERY day! The only way we accomplish this is by providing an equal, equitable and fair environment for all, together as one strong family!



Robert F.Graham



Dear Radford Family:

On May 25, 2020, our world changed. Without question, the death of George Floyd has shaken our nation and created many questions that remain unanswered. Many individuals are attempting to understand this senseless loss of life.

My message to the Radford family and others is simple. You are not alone. Together, as a nation, we are trying to sort through our emotions and thoughts, as well as the known and unknown, and attempting to make sense of our current chaos and growing uncertainty. I encourage you to learn and push yourself to become aware of the issues, listen to the experience of all citizens of this great nation, and diligently work to improve society.

Clemson University President James P. Clements, Ph.D., a dear friend and respected colleague, recently said, “Let there be no doubt, we as a society must do better. Racism, injustice, and hatred cannot be tolerated. We can, and must, do better.” Jim and so many others, who have stepped forward, are right. Our nation needs more love and less hate. Our fellow Americans, old and young alike, need more hope and less fear.

These steps are necessary in order for our society, both individually and collectively, to move forward. We must keep moving forward. My hope is that my children and all children can and will live in a world built upon not only recognizing, but appreciating the differences of others. At the same time, we must live in a world in which individuals are held accountable for their actions and responsible for their words.

People of all ages and races deserve the right to live their lives without fear of what may happen and anger of what has happened. The need is clear. And, the time is now. That process starts today with each of us.

I ask that you join me in recommitting yourself, your actions, and your thoughts to love and hope, as well as acceptance and understanding. Change for a better tomorrow for our society and a deserving opportunity for all people must begin immediately!



Keep Moving Forward,

Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D.



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