'I raise my voice with so many of yours and say, Black Lives Matter'
A Message from President Davis-Blake
(Above: A mural at the location where George Floyd died in Minneapolis, created by Xena Goldman, Cadex Herrera, Greta McLain and other artists.]
Members of the Bentley Community,
As we come to the close of this week, I want to share with you some personal reflections on the events of the past several days. I hope and believe that these events are the beginning of a momentous turning point in our nation where long needed changes to ensure justice and equality for all will finally come to pass. And yet, while the opportunity for change is before us as never before, I ask myself, “Will I seize this opportunity for personal change? Will our friends and colleagues at Bentley? Will our nation?”
As I think about this question for myself, I have found it helpful to reflect on what I know about learning and change from my background as a learner and a teacher. Almost all of us have taken a “required class” — the one we had to take in order to graduate but saved for our last semester. While we might have memorized the material required for the exam, written the mandatory paper and even received a grade of “A,” we immediately forgot what we “learned” during the class and emerged completely unchanged. Contrast that to the class that engaged your mind and heart and spirit and changed you forever.
So, I ask myself, “Will this moment be for me and for our community just another required class where we provide the necessary correct answers and go on unchanged, or will we individually and collectively allow it to be a profoundly meaningful, life-changing experience that gives us the strength, courage and compassion to change ourselves, our university and the world?”
Someone whom I view as a great teacher once said that it is not enough to move through adversity; we must allow adversity to move through us so that we are forever different. So, I have asked myself daily how I can allow this moment of national pain, sadness, suffering, anger and outrage to move through me so that I can change personally and as a leader of an institution with a mission to change the world.
This week, I have focused on truly hearing, seeing and feeling what Black people both inside and outside of my community are saying because real understanding is necessary for lasting personal change. I want to share just a few of the many things I have heard and seen this week that I am holding in my heart and allowing to change me: George Floyd calling out for his mother as he lay helpless and dying; a young father describing his fear that his sons will be subjected to daily indignities and microaggressions because they fit “the profile;” a seasoned professional talking about how his accomplishments and competence are ignored, marginalized and discounted only because he is Black; a student who shared how alone she can feel at times, even within our community of thousands; and our own faculty and staff talking about the exhaustion and isolation they feel from doing “diversity work” alone, unseen and unheard. As I reflect daily on these specific individuals and others I have heard and seen this week, I raise my voice with so many of yours and say, Black Lives Matter.
I recently saw a mural of George Floyd painted at the spot where he died (see the image at the top of this page).
One of the artists, Xena Goldman, said, “As we look to reinvent the world we live in, redefining our landscape is an excellent way to start. It can inspire the community to act, it can help the community heal, and it can mark that a historic moment happened in a certain place. It can amplify voices and make visible something that has felt invisible. We don’t want to stay silent anymore. We don’t want police brutality to be invisible anymore. By creating something large, this is our way of saying we don’t want people to look away.”
The weekend is a time when many of us step away from work, internships or class and take time for personal reflection. I ask each of you to join me in reflecting on what you have seen, heard and felt this week, allowing it to flow through you and change your interior landscape so that you return to work, your internship or studies Monday morning a changed person ready to work together on our exterior changes in practices, policies, structures and most importantly, culture. And I ask that every day after that, as we do this work together, you will continue to work personally, as I am doing, to develop eyes to see, ears to hear and hearts to understand.
As we work together to change our exterior landscape, I ask that we be understanding and gentle with each other. Please reach out with compassion to those who are suffering and who are not OK right now and allow their pain to flow through you and change you as you seek to truly hear, see and understand them. Please participate in the change efforts we will undertake with an understanding heart as change inevitably involves making some mistakes and trying again. And please commit to using and raising your voice in support of those members of our Bentley community who are calling out, who are feeling profiled, alone, unseen or unheard, or who need to be reminded that their life matters. I look forward to working with and learning from all of you as we seek to make our Bentley community better and stronger in the days and weeks ahead.
All my best,