By Edith Guffey, UCF Board Chair
Over the years, I have written many articles about the importance of Black History Month, but in each, I have stated that celebrating Black History Month doesn’t let anyone off the hook for actually doing the hard work of confronting and changing racist systems that are endemic to our country and institutions.
So as we journey through Black History Month this year, I am reminded of and thankful for the journey that we have been on and continue on at UCF and as UCF’s Board of Directors. We had difficult and challenging conversations after the murder of George Floyd. There were plenty of ways for many of us to hold ourselves accountable. Personally, I had been on the UCF Board for years and had no idea that UCF had no Black managers. So yes, I “woke up” about how very white the financial world is, and yes, that can still be true when they serve organizations like the UCC and UCF, both of which are deeply committed to racial justice. It was clear that we couldn’t just expect diversity and a commitment to racial justice from companies we do business with; we had to demand it and seek it out for ourselves. After difficult, sometimes uncomfortable and challenging conversations, goals were set, work that was initiated took off, and today we are in a very different place.
On January 31, UCF announced the contracting of a new asset manager, Xponance, a Black-founded and majority Black-owned investment firm based in Philadelphia and Durham, North Carolina. With the addition of Xponance, over 60% of UCF’s domestic equities are now managed by diverse asset managers, exceeding the goal set by UCF back in 2020. At that time, UCF had announced the redoubling of its efforts in addressing racial equity by taking concrete steps.
Amazing! We give thanks to former Board member, the Rev. Gwendolyn V. Kirkland, who led a task force on setting diverse manager goals. We also give thanks to the Investment Committee Chair, Lisa Hinds; to the entire Investment Committee; to the investment team led by Dave Klassen; and to UCF’s CEO, Charles Buck, who quietly but consistently supports and leads this important work. Action matters, and we’ve come a long way since the beginning of these conversations.
Last October, the UCF Board of Directors met in Montgomery, Alabama. While there, we had the opportunity to learn the history of the city under the guidance of artist and civil rights activist Michelle Browder; to visit the Legacy Museum; and to walk the solemn grounds of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. All of these helped to confirm and further our understanding of the urgency that we feel about this work.
I believe that every person and every board have a responsibility to wrestle with the history of our country and decide what their role is in creating a different present and future; a more just world, if you will. But that is only possible if the past is truly known and seen.
Celebrating Black History Month is always important. But what happens the rest of the year is just as important. This year we see what’s possible when the mandate and commitment is clear.
Click here to learn more about UCF’s commitment to racial equity.