Meet the Charlottesville Community Champion Daniel Fairley II
This summer, Custom Ink ran a pilot to find and support people driving change in their communities. We called it Community Champions and we piloted it in Charlottesville, Virginia where our production facility and one of our stores are located. You can read more about the program in our companion story.
Our Charlottesville community voted and selected community activist Daniel Fairley, II as our first-ever Community Champion. He has put his heart and soul into helping those around him, putting his efforts into several important organizations including 100 Black Men of Central Virginia Charlottesville Alliance for Black Male Achievement, and Loaves & Fishes Pantry.
We did a Q&A with Daniel to learn more about where he came from, what he’s doing to drive change, and where he hopes to go.
CI: Tell us your story. Where and how did your work start? Why did you do it? How has it changed? How has it changed you?
Daniel: I moved to Charlottesville in 2016 just after I finished my Master’s in Education at the University of Vermont. I came here to work at the University of Virginia (UVA) and be closer to my parents. Soon after I came to Charlottesville, I began seeking opportunities to engage with the community on a deeper level. I was new to town and I wanted to be an active citizen, so I reached out to Dr. Marcus Martin to see how I could be more engaged with the black community in town. He recommended I volunteer with the 100 Black Men of Central Virginia. Once I attended a meeting and volunteered for the M-Cubed (Math, Men, and Mission) summer academy in 2017, I was hooked! I loved connecting with the young men and offering them a fresh perspective as an “older brother” figure. However, as I became more connected in the community, I began to see the stark racial and class differences in our town. Many of the black people I met experienced generational poverty and lived in public housing. Meanwhile, many of the white people I met were children of UVA professors and transplants to the area. I grew up in an upper-middle-class military household. Most, if not all, of my friends growing up had parents in the military, government, or government contracting. I grew up seeing people of all races, ethnicities, and backgrounds build their wealth through the military. So it was shocking for me to see the abject generational poverty of many of my black brothers and sisters. People who I always knew had the potential to be generals in the military or special agents in the federal government. From my initial interactions with the black community of Charlottesville, I knew I needed to use my power and privilege to help break the cycle of generational poverty and empower our youth.
CI: What inspired you?
Daniel: There have been multiple inspirations (positive and negative) that have led me to this point in my life. As I mentioned before, I grew up in an upper-middle-class household and community. I rarely had negative interactions with the police or the government because I was surrounded by this authority on a regular and personal basis. I am honored to say I only had examples of positive black male role models in my life. My dad is a successful entrepreneur and former Marine, my grandfather (rest in peace) served in the Air Force and owned his own dry cleaner with my grandmother, my uncle is the Deputy Director of Operations for the USDA, and my stepdad is a retired marine and retired special agent for the Pentagon Force Protection Agency and 9/11 survivor. These are just the people in my family! Not to mention preachers, coaches, neighbors, and mentors. From every side, my community was invested in my success, so I had no choice but to succeed. And success didn’t mean the number of degrees on my wall, or money in the bank, success for me was doing something that I was proud of every day, supporting my family, and uplifting my community. Out of everyone I listed, my uncle was the only person to earn his bachelor’s degree. So I have a broad idea of success but every version of success involves passionately working hard to achieve your goals.
However, what galvanized me into action was the “Summer of Hate” as it is known here in Charlottesville. Starting with the KKK invasion of our town in May, to the tiki torch Neo-nazis surrounding the confederate statue in July, and culminating with the “Unite the Right” riots that occurred August 11th and 12th. This summer shook myself and many others to the core. It felt like a blast from the past and a horrifying glimpse into the future all at the same time. That summer, we lived in a history book being written before our eyes. On August 12th, I sat at work feeling hopeless to make change as every major news network broadcast our city in chaos. Our streets were full of people from outside of our town as well as many who were born and raised right here in Charlottesville.
Both Jason Kessler and Richard Spencer were graduates of UVA, and yet we as a community have a hard time reckoning with this truth. I saw this as an opportunity and a call to action. I saw into the eyes of people who hated my very existence and knew that I could not stand on the sidelines any longer. In this moment, I decided my passion projects of advising the Black Male Initiative at UVA and mentoring young black men through 100 Black Men, were not enough. I needed to jump headfirst into racial equity and youth development work to ensure that we never raise another child to hate someone because of their identity.
CI: Who and what does your work benefit?
Daniel: My work, both professionally and personally, is aimed at benefiting the disenfranchised and minoritized populations in our community. I believe wholeheartedly in the theory of “targeted universalism.” This theory states that if we push our resources to aid the most vulnerable people in our community we will actually lift up the entire community.
I currently serve as the youth opportunity coordinator focused on black male achievement in the City of Charlottesville. In this role, I connect and provide opportunities for our youth to achieve their dreams through systemic and programmatic changes. I sit on the boards for many organizations as a representative for youth voice in the community and use my position to advocate for systemic change in our school systems and city government. I also partner with organizations to facilitate empowering youth programs such as the creation of two documentaries focused on black male achievement in the city. This opportunity was created through a partnership with Light House Studio, Clarence Green, the Community Attention Youth Internship Program, and the BAMA Works Fund.
Last year, we worked with four young black men to create a documentary focused on interviewing successful black men in the community and having them tell their stories of how they got to where they are today as well as any advice they had for the young black men who wanted to follow in their footsteps.
Our second documentary will premiere on September 19th at 6:30 pm at the MLK Center in Charlottesville, VA. This documentary focuses on the kids and allows them to tell their story of what it is like to be a young black man to the adults and authority figures in their lives.
CI: What are you going to do with the resources you won from Custom Ink? How do you think it will help?
Daniel: I am going to use $5,000 to help fund the 2020 M-Cubed Summer Academy put on by the 100 Black Men of Central Virginia, and I am going to use the $5,000 in merchandise to purchase Custom Ink grocery bags, lanyards, and t-shirts for Loaves & Fishes Food Pantry.
You can get tickets for the September 19th premiere of Daniel and his team’s documentary A Different Side at https://adifferentside.eventbrite.com.