I have asked myself over and over in recent days what I can say that will bring comfort to the Suffolk community, and particularly our members of the Black community who are suffering in the wake of the barbaric and tragic killing of George Floyd. I’m not sure there is really anything I can say that can bring comfort or help ease that pain.
But I can tell you that I mourn with you. I know many of you are hurting, and I want you to know that I am supporting you. And our Suffolk community is supporting you.
In a meeting with members of the senior leadership team Tuesday, Joyya Smith, our vice president of Diversity, Access and Inclusion, reminded us of the real suffering that is happening, not only across the nation, but within our own community. Joyya asked us to pause and remember those who have lost their lives. She asked us to take a moment to acknowledge what has happened, and the pain it is causing others, including Suffolk students, faculty, and staff members. I would ask you please to do the same.
I also want you to know that across this community, people are coming together and asking what they can do and how they can help. As a community, we need to do all that we can to peacefully address systemic racism, violence, injustice, and inequity in our society – and then we need to do more. All across campus, we are seeing opportunities for voices to be heard on these issues.
- This evening, (Thursday June 4), at 7 p.m., our student organization Unspoken Feelings will sponsor a virtual open mic night for Suffolk students. The program title is “Our Voices Will be Heard.” While the event was conceived for students, organizers say all are welcome.
- A Sharing Circle for faculty and staff to discuss the impact of racial trauma on the Suffolk community will be held virtually from noon to 1 p.m. tomorrow, (Friday, June 5).
- Tomorrow evening, (Friday June 5), the Black Student Union, the Caribbean Student Network, and the Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion will host a virtual discussion on police brutality and violence targeted toward the Black community. Similarly, the event is primarily for student voices, but the organizers have invited all Suffolk community members to join.
- A town hall discussion on racial injustices for the Law School community is planned for 6 p.m. Thursday, June 11. Members of the broader Suffolk community are also welcome and can email firstname.lastname@example.org for virtual meeting details.
Members of our community are also coming forward to suggest other ways in which we can respond. One idea is a virtual wall for community members to post messages of peace. Another is a virtual photo board, where community members could post activist photography, including of people demonstrating. There are opportunities for greater training and awareness for faculty and staff, and for speakers in the fall, and so much more. All over this University, we are hearing community members ask, “How can I help?” I don’t have all the answers, but I am proud that so many of us are asking this question, and together we will decide how to effectively respond, not just this week or next, but also next year and beyond in support of needed change. Doing so is central to our mission as an educational institution. We take very seriously our responsibility to promote positive change, and to address and combat inequity, institutional racism, and oppression – always peacefully and never through violence.
And as we continue to develop our collective answer to the question ‘How can I help,’ we mourn George Floyd and all who have unjustly lost their lives.
Marisa J. Kelly