June 9, 2020

Dear HWS Community,

The past days have been witness to a groundswell of public resolve to stand with Black Americans against institutional and structural racism. Popular discourse is starting to echo what Black communities have said at the margins of power for centuries. From David Walker’s 1829 Appeal to Alicia Garza’s 2013 #blacklivesmatter, racial justice is a long time coming.

This is a moment that calls upon us all to learn, teach and act. The Office of the President and the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion invite community members to join us in engaging this moment through the following events, resources and programs:

  1. Join us on the afternoon of Saturday, June 13, for the first in a series of virtual teach-ins on racial justice: “Voices of Protest and Love: Liberatory Knowledge in the Hour of George Floyd.” Featuring Geneva’s wealth of educators, scholars and activists, the teach-in, Professor Virgil Slade explains, will ask: “What does true liberation mean? Does it mean the same thing for each of us? How do we go about achieving it? Who does the ‘educating’? Which voices are privileged and which are silenced? These are vexed and contested questions but when you live in a society where too many are taken from us too often, in a place where even requests to breathe are fatally ignored, these are conversations that we cannot afford to delay.” This program (click here for details and registration information) is co-sponsored by Africana Studies and The Office of Intercultural Affairs.
  2. Public health advocates and scholars have long described the “pervasive and lethal force of white supremacy” as a public health crisis. In the face of the double-harm of COVID-19 and institutional racism, the DEI webpage will regularly update resources for supporting the well-being and survival for Black students, faculty, staff and the wider community. 
  3. This weekend we received a compelling petition from more than 200 HWS students asking that our network of alums be engaged in direct conversations about supporting this moment of community need. Coincidently, we met with more than 100 alums on Friday afternoon to talk about diversity work at HWS – wherein many expressed a desire to support our students. In that spirit, we are launching a series of initiatives that will engage alums and students in shared community building. We will kick off on Friday, June 19, with a Juneteenth conversation between Black HWS alums and Black students titled: “Each One Reach One: The Future of Black Solidarity at HWS.” Details and registration information will be announced later this week. This event is a collaboration between the HWS Afro Latino Alumni/ae Association and DEI.
  4. As students, staff and faculty have recently urged, we must educate ourselves and others about the history and conditions that have brought us to a moment like the murder of George Floyd. In that spirit, the DEI webpage has created an “Anti-Racism Resources” link that provides literature and teaching material created by educators of color for teaching about race and racism. In addition, William Smith Sophomore Fatim Cisse has organized a bi-weekly “Hour of Power” to support students of color in building self-knowledge and self-love. Please visit the DEI page for information.
  5. Lastly, many students, faculty and staff have expressed an interest in engaging the wider community in equity work. In that light, DEI is offering micro-grants of up to $500 to students, faculty and staff who have an idea for an initiative or program that addresses Goal 5 of the Strategic Diversity Plan on Community Development. Applications will be open starting June 12 on the DEI webpage.

Our community has a generational opportunity to honor our individual and shared pasts, educate each other about our present moment and collectively envision a shared future. We hope you will join us in doing work within our community that will have consequence beyond it.


Joyce P. Jacobsen

Khuram Hussain
Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion