Message to my beloved team members:
It’s hard to express how I’m feeling right now so I turned to one of my favorite poets, Mr. Langston Hughes for help. His poem is entitled:
What Happens to a Dream Deferred?
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore-
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over-
Like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
Like a heavy load
Or does it explode?
A few months ago we thought the worst happened when the Indoor National Track and Field Championships was cancelled. Next came the cancellation of our entire outdoor season due to the Coronavirus pandemic. This was followed by the cancellation of symbolically important graduation ceremonies for many of you and your families. All dreams deferred.
To your credit, you hunkered down with families, friends and compassionately adjusted and redirected daily activities in a constructive manner. I’m so proud of all the adjustments you’ve made while also achieving one of the most successful academic semesters in our recent history while awaiting a more normal tomorrow.
Over the past few days with the tasing of the young college students such as yourselves, and the murders of AhmaudArbery, Breonna Taylor, and most recently George Floyd in Minnesota I’ve been wondering what will a “normal” tomorrow look like? Will it be reminiscent of the truculent social unrest I experienced as a youth in the late 60’s at the height of the civil rights movement? A time when Dr. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X were murdered. My heart aches now as it did then. The pain I feel reminds me that the “dreams” of both iconic leaders remains “deferred.” This includes disparate health care, education, and overall treatment as a human being. Fortunately, the men and women, of all color, who died for our right to voteand peacefully protest has been a right that continues to be our RIGHT and our OBLIGATION to those who died for each of us.
I’m sorry you are forced to endure the pain of these unjust killings the ugly and vile exposure to systemic racism that’s exploded on the national scene and disrupted the normalcy of how you may have perceived our social construct.
Racism, what does it mean? Why don’t we talk about racism? Should we talk about racism? The emotional disturbance to which we’ve been tethered for the past week will determine how you consider these questions.
Racism is defined in Teaching for diversity and social justice as:
The systemic subordination of members of targeted racial groups who have relatively little social power in the United States (Blacks, Latino/as, Native Americans, and Asians), by the members of the agent racial group who have relatively more social power (Whites). This subordination is supported by the action of individuals, cultural norms and values, and the institutional structures and practices of society.
The pain of racism and resultant consequences has plagued our nation over the past 400 years since 1619 when the first Dutch ship arrived with Africans stolen or sold from their lands purposed to be enslaved. This truth is one that has festered in the souls of my great grandparents, grandparents, parents, and family. Unfortunately my team is now confronted with this deplorable reality of social maladies and injustices predominately inflicted on “minority” men and women. Inequality in education, housing, healthcare, economic and environmental factors, police brutality, impact us all. Combating, and overcoming these and other social injustices will take courage. Resolutions to these problems are complex, uncomfortable, and HARD. You will need stamina, you will need each other.
Each of us has a role to play in securing peace in these turbulent times. We each must assume responsibility/accountability for securing change whether Black, White, Asian, Native American etc. The baton has been passed from my generation to your generation. With the inevitable “explosion” to “deferred dreams” as cited by and perhaps even prophesized by Mr. Langston Hughes in his aforementioned poem I believe is now YOUR opportunity.
I’m writing to let you know I am with you as you peaceably protest. I’ve marched also and attended rallies. I’ve cried about police brutality in my youth and now in the twilight of my life; I’m still crying. I’m also still fighting. It’s important that you know our entire staff is with you in solidarity. We’re here to listen to you talk, discuss, vent, express your feelings and opinions and ideas. And for those of you who are processing silently that is okay; I just hope you find some way to express yourself.
In the words of the great novelist, poet and activist James Baldwin “Not everything we face can be changed but everything we need to change must be faced.” Please be safe and take care of each other.
Peace and Love,