Making Things Better

Alex Deaderick '15

Alex Deaderick headshot

In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic and at the height of the racial justice movement in June 2020, Alex Deaderick ’15 watched the news unfold from his home in New York City.

On television and social media, Alex saw coverage of protests all over the country and nearby. He wanted to get involved, but he found himself remembering past protest experiences, including as a student at Williams, and he was wary, fearful for both his physical and mental well-being.  

As an undergraduate, Alex participated in Claiming Williams Day events, discussions around race, and campus protests, including one against stop and frisk—an injustice he only came close to fully understanding after his own harrowing encounter with police in East Flatbush, Brooklyn. While on the phone with his father, police targeted him in an all-too-familiar tactic in that neighborhood and throughout the city. He knew if he hung up the phone, his life would be in the hands of the two officers, and a system that upholds white supremacist structures and routinely devalues and actively seeks to maintain control over Black life and Black lives.

Alex was terrified. What was suspicious about him standing outside of his apartment building, wearing a Williams lacrosse t-shirt, talking to his father on the phone? In this moment, everything he had done up to this point—being committed to his studies, a two-sport athlete, in the city for an internship, and treating everyone with respect—didn’t matter. The shield he thought he had built around himself had vanished.

At Williams, he was protesting for his life, while feeling weighed down by the apathy of his fellow Ephs. He was “screaming from the mountaintops why I deserve to live and why my life is valuable,” but students would head back to Schow to finish a problem set or to Cole Field for practice and life would continue on as it always had. In this moment, he came to an important realization: when you have to ask someone to believe you and rely on them to change their behavior, they hold power over you.

Since his time as a student, Alex’s activism has matured and he’s worked to identify ways that he is able to effect impactful change in a way that is safe for him. So while he wasn’t eager to take to the streets with others last summer, he still wanted to make a difference.

Scrolling through Instagram one day, he was inspired by a post from Jordan Davis ’17. Jordan had asked her followers who wanted to support the movement through financial donations to consider doing so through her, so that she could enhance their contributions through her company’s matching gift program.

Alex knew that his employer at the time also had a matching-gift program, offering a two-to-one match for employees giving to a number of organizations. In fact, he had just received a company-wide email that highlighted five organizations that were on the approved matching list: the Equal Justice Initiative, the ACLU, the Center For Policing Equity, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and The Bail Project. Following Jordan’s lead, Alex posted to his Instagram story, encouraging his friends and followers to let their donations have three times the impact through his company’s program.

Screenshotof IG post

Almost immediately, donations started to come in. In just a few days, 76 people sent donations to Alex’s Venmo account that, when matched, totaled $25,000. 

“I never expected to raise more than a few hundred dollars. I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from Ephs across class years who gave to the cause, even from Ephs who I hadn't seen or talked to in years,” he said. Nearly half of the donors were Ephs, many of whom shared his story on their own channels. “The community is what makes Williams great and her colors shone bright that day.”

At Williams, Alex says, he was aware of students having a “spectrum of experiences. There were the Black kids who had a great experience, and the Black kids who didn’t. And there were folks kind of in the middle, who straddled that line.”

Alex describes his own student experience as one with ups and downs, and one that left him committed to doing what he can to improve the experience for future Black students. Working toward that goal, he has given his time to both the Williams Black Alumni Network (WBAN) and the Alumni Fund, working to raise money to increase access to resources on campus and create a more inclusive and equitable institution for students of all identities and experiences.

“We can continually make things better,” he says.

And he has.

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