Five years ago, Brian Stevenson delivered a powerful Commencement Address upon receiving an honorary doctorate from Wesleyan. He shared his decades of work fighting racial injustice and discrimination in the criminal justice system and told the Class of 2016 that changing the world requires four things: getting closer to the places “where there’s suffering and abuse and neglect”; “changing the narrative” about race in this country; staying hopeful; and being willing to do uncomfortable things.
Over the last year, many of us have felt uncomfortably close to the places where suffering, abuse and neglect are part of daily life. That proximity can be painful, but it is through this closeness, with hope for a better future, that we create change, that we pursue justice. This is a tradition of secular society and of the major faith traditions. “Justice, justice you shall pursue,” it is written in the Book of Deuteronomy. And the Qur’an tells us to “stand out firmly” for justice — and to be its witness. We rededicate ourselves to this task.
Today Alison Williams (Vice-President for Equity and Inclusion) and I sent the following message to the Wesleyan community.
Many of us breathed a sigh of relief when the Chauvin trial ended in guilty verdicts. But before we took our next breath, we remembered that acts of hate and injustice remain an ever-present reality for so many in our society. We acknowledge the fear, pain, and outrage over not only the terrible murder of George Floyd, but also over the racism, religious bigotry, transphobia and misogyny that continue to plague our country. We are not, of course, immune from these forms of injustice. The impact on our campus community is very real.
Advancing racial equity, inclusion and justice for people of all races and ethnicities is critical to achieving the safety and security of everyone. We will work collectively to stand against everything that perpetuates and fuels hatred, discrimination and violence against any members of our community.
To that end, we want you to be aware of the following virtual events hosted by the Office for Equity and Inclusion:
4 p.m. on Wednesday: An open Community Conversation and Reflection
Noon on Thursday: BIPOC Community Space
Both of these events will present opportunities for sharing and healing. In addition, students have organized a vigil for students of color on Friday afternoon, April 23.
Also, you may go on-line to Report a Hate Crime or Bias Incident at Wesleyan (you may remain anonymous if you wish) or incidents can also be reported directly to Public Safety, The Office for Equity and Inclusion, Human Resources, or the Office of Dean of Students.
The Office For Equity & Inclusion serves as a resource for and leader in equity initiatives on campus. As we continue to develop programming and advocate for initiatives that center equity and inclusion, we welcome the insights and ideas of all members of the Wesleyan community. We invite folks to reach out to any of us, or to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We continue to mourn those lives lost to violence, and we continue the work toward a more just future.