2020 McCarthy Award Recipient - Ebonie Alexander

The Institute for Engagement & Negotiation (IEN) at the University of Virginia is pleased to announce that Ebonie Alexander is the recipient of the 2020 Gerald P. McCarthy Award for Leadership in Environmental Conflict Resolution. The McCarthy Award is presented annually to an individual who demonstrates leadership in preserving and protecting the Commonwealth's environment through collaboration.

Ebonie is distinguished by her skills and accomplishments in conflict resolution, specifically her work navigating the interests involved in garnering support for the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act (UPHPA) and her career dedicated to advocacy on behalf of socio-economically underserved communities.

In 2019, Ebonie and the land trust community led the effort to make Virginia the 14th state to adopt the UPHPA to ensure rightful ownership of inherited family land. The challenges of heirs property and the resulting loss of rural family land in the African American community are a massive drain on Black household wealth and income inequality, with Black farmers now representing only 1 to 2% of all family owned farms in the country. One major factor of this land loss was the unequal legal landscape of partition law which allowed any co-tenant, even those outside the family, to force a fire sale. To fix the problem in the law, Ebonie and her allies assembled a broad coalition of important Virginia constituencies (VaULT, Virginia Bar Association, Uniform Law Commission, Virginia Conservation Network) to get the UPHPA passed. This was no small feat as Virginia is slow to adopt uniform acts and changes to Virginia’s civil law and its procedures are not easy to achieve. Adoption of the UPHPA is a victory for inherited family landowners who are now afforded greater protection in the law to retain their family ownership. Upon signing the UPHPA into law, Governor Northam stated, “This bill spells out steps courts will take to ensure all co-tenants’ rights are preserved and prevent the loss of inherited land. It is about basic fairness and equity for all, and I’m happy to sign it.”

Photo courtesy of Ebonie Alexander