Joe Frazier said that, though he loves studying sociology, he gets frustrated with the apathy that’s often unavoidable in college courses. Joe received degrees in sociology and philosophy in 2013, and he’s currently pursuing master’s degrees in both subjects.
He said, “It starts to feel kind of pointless to talk about these problems all day long but not look at ways to stop them.” The issue that weighed on Joe the most was undoubtedly police brutality on black youth.
So he took matters into his own hands. Following Michael Brown’s death in 2014, Joe and some friends spontaneously traveled to Ferguson, Missouri, to meet with activists on the front lines. They came back to Blacksburg inspired to be part of creating an inclusive climate at Virginia Tech, and Joe had a specific plan in mind.
He originally pitched the Student Police Unity League—affectionately known as SPUL—to the Blacksburg and Virginia Tech Police Departments. He showed up at each shift—7 a.m. and 7 p.m.—for nearly a week to convince the departments to play volleyball on integrated teams consisting of police officers and black Virginia Tech students. No convincing was needed. Twenty officers were on board without a second of hesitation.
Students, though, proved to be harder to recruit. Joe finally spoke up at an NAACP meeting on campus.
He said, “If we want to start doing something, this is the place to start. I understand the frustration, but, at the end of the day, that’s not helping the problem. By taking a hands-off approach, you’re not doing anything.”
He was summarizing Paulo Freire, who said, “Washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral.”
This quote drives Joe’s passion for activism. And, apparently, it drove others to do the same. Eighteen students signed up following that meeting. Four teams were created, and the season went better than expected. Everyone who participated came out of the season with a renewed mindset regarding culture. And, for some of the police officers, they came out of the season a bit more sore.
Literally and figuratively, Joe Frazier wants people from diverse backgrounds to play on the same team. The volleyball league was just the tip of the iceberg.
Joe and another student have begun to speak about race and activism at local high schools. They’re looking for funding to take SPUL to local schools and also to Roanoke.
On March 22, the two students will host the first Allyship and Activism Leadership Conference at Virginia Tech, which will focus on not only race issues, but also issues regarding the LGBTQ community. More than 100 high school students have signed up, which maxes out the space.
Following commencement in 2013, Joe took a year off to work at an independent school in Christiansburg, where he worked with at-risk youth.
Joe will graduate this spring with two master’s degrees. He has applied to join the Virginia Tech Police Department following graduation and dreams of attending law school one day.
Joe serves as the political action chair for the NAACP. He has facilitated, spoken at, and organized countless vigils, programs, and initiatives since he traveled to Ferguson less than two years ago. In addition to social justice, Joe is passionate about weight lifting—in 2015, he placed second overall in his division at the state championships.
Joe mentioned that the highlight of his college experience was meeting his girlfriend, Karen, while working at Owens. After that, though, he said, “SPUL was the biggest thing for me. It was a large project that I launched by myself. Seeing it all come to fruition let me know all that I was capable of doing without help. It really boosted my confidence.”
For his desire to see our campus and our nation become united once again, and for his unwillingness to abandon his compassion while doing so, I’m honored to present the Aspire! Award for CIVILITY to Joe Frazier.
2017-2018 Aspirations Breakfasts*
December 1, 2017
Owens Banquet Room, 8-10 a.m.
*Registration is required to attend the Breakfast.
April 21, 2017 Recipients
Bobby Hollingsworth - Curiosity
Annemarie Bresson - Self-Understanding and Integrity
Christopher Bardo - Civility
Nala Chehade - Courageous Leadership
Elizabeth Galbreath - Ut Prosim
Hillary Kovacs – Ut Prosim
Robert and Kara Julius – Ut Prosim
Jerry Colyer [posthumous award] – Ut Prosim
March 17, 2017 Recipients
Lt. Tony Haga – Courageous Leadership
February 17, 2017 Recipients
Danielle Jeffers - Curiosity
Colleen McGovern - Self-Understanding and Integrity
Min Kyung “Julie” Sim - Civility
Lamont “Gucci” Livingston - Courageous Leadership
Jacob Long - Ut Prosim
Alece Alderson – Civility
November 4, 2016 Recipients
Rhiannon Hasenauer - Ut Prosim
Zack Sever - Civility
David Gardner - Courageous Leadership
Zachary Hoopes - Curiosity
Bridger Johnson - Self-Understanding and Integrity
Jon Fritsch – Self-Understanding and Integrity
October 7, 2016 Recipients
Zachariah Ewen - Ut Prosim
Jordan Evans - Civility
Megan Lee Myklegard - Courageous Leadership
Alex Hamilton - Curiosity
Bryan Faulkner - Self-Understanding and Integrity
Catherine Cotrupi – Curiosity
April 22, 2016 Recipients
Samantha Hall - Ut Prosim
Charelle Berry - Civility
Audrey Semel - Courageous
Jess King - Curiosity
Mike Schoka - Self-Understanding
Frances Keene – Ut Prosim
John Graham – Ut Prosim
Susan Anderson – Courageous
February 19, 2016 Recipients
Javier González-Rocha – Self-Understanding and Integrity
Obaid Rehman – Civility
Claire Kelling – Courageous
Meghan McLoughlin – Ut Prosim
Erica Nagotko – Curiosity
Anthony Purcell – Civility
Gladys Sartin– Self-Understanding
October 2, 2015 Recipients
Walter Gonsiewski – Self-Understanding
Seyi Olusina – Civility
Skyler Mueller – Courageous
Anastasia Matusiewicz – Ut Prosim
Natasha Laramie – Curiosity
Vera Kidd – Curiosity
Residence Life Resource Officer John Tarter – Ut Prosim
Robby Moser – Ut Prosim
March, 2015 Recipients
Juan de la Rosa Diaz – Courageous
Jamaica Sykes – Curiosity
Luke Birch –
Self-Understanding and Integrity
Jake Voorhees – Ut Prosim
Turki Saad Al-Zahrani – Civility
Captain Jim Snyder – Courageous Leadership
February, 2015 Recipients
Catherine Goggins – Courageous
Allison Laclede – Curiosity
Samuel Aguilar Chavez –
Self-Understanding and Integrity
Larissa Perara – Ut Prosim
Lauren Cashman – Civility
Jay Read – Civility
Scott Busiel – Self–understanding and Integrity
Robin Boucher – Curiosity
Tricia Smith – Ut Prosim