Our Beloved Community: Black Lives Matter @ School welcomes alumni back for community & action panel


Black Lives Matter @ School hosted and sponsored a number of events for the SUNY New Paltz community in February 2022. “Our Beloved Community,” an alumni panel dialogue on Feb. 17 was among the most inspiring.

The event brought together four Black alumni – Erica Brown ’10 (Business) ’16 (Psychology), Ashley Knox ’07 (Spanish; Black Studies) ’10 (Sociology) ’11g (Humanistic/Multicultural Education), Candice Van Dyke ’10 (English) ’12g (Humanistic/Multicultural Education) joined Scholars Mentorship Program (SMP) Director Mark Rumnit ’93 (History) – who are working in the Hudson Valley to empower their communities to respond to racial oppression.

Brown works as the community engagement coordinator for Radio Kingston; Knox is the executive director of nonprofit Go Beyond Greatness, Inc.; Van Dyke is the Chief Diversity Officer of SUNY Ulster; and Rumnit has worked with hundreds of New Paltz students and alumni from historically underrepresented backgrounds in his role at SMP.

All the panelists credited the community around them and the mentorship provided to them for helping them overcome systemic disadvantages in their lives and careers.

They described how feeling supported by older role models and a general sense of belonging were the keys to achieving higher education and career success.

“What I found is that when somebody believes in me, it’s taking a big chance on me, and then on others as well,” Rumnit said. “I just think it’s so important that we work to be role models, giving it back to generations of people.”

A large audience turned out for the discussion, which was moderated by Chris Whitaker, advisor and information associate in the School of Education, and Anthony Dandridge, lecturer in Black Studies.

The event was part of the Black Lives Matter @ School, a month-long series of events asking students, staff and faculty to examine the black experience more closely during Black History Month.