Dear School of Music Community,
This is a profoundly challenging time for our university, city and country. I am overcome by sadness, dismay, and horror as I observe the multi-layered anguish, grief and frustration unfolding across our nation in response to the recent killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahumaud Arbery. There are few words I can say that encompass the gravity and significance of what is happening. However, I believe that inaction and silence are complacent and conveys a grave indifference to the immense suffering that surround us. Clearly, these events expose the deep wounds of racism that have plagued our country for far too long. My heart aches and goes out to everyone hurting from the pain of these latest tragedies, and the centuries of injustice they represent.
I would like to believe that equity, respect and social justice are central to the well-being of our school, our shared communities and our world. The omnipresent anguish in so many communities is the direct result of the systematic racism that is foundational to our American society and yet simultaneously tears at our very core.
I don’t pretend to know the ideal pathway to justice. However, I will begin today and every day going forward with a promise to listen with an open heart. In this suspended moment of despair, I also want–and need–to maintain hope that we will navigate to a place of deeper understanding, respect and meaningful reform. As Dr. King explained in Stride Toward Freedom, “True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.” I sincerely believe that until we listen to the voice of the unheard and respond with justice, we will not know true peace.
We know we have more work to do to combat racism and to foster inclusive excellence. All of us have to listen, and we must continue to embrace our core values through active and engaged anti-racist practices, and we must actively confront the hatred and bigotry in our society. We must embrace the labor of our scholars and musicians who engage in important work concerning the problems of racism and societal disparities. As an academic community, we must take responsibility to educate ourselves and others about the structures, issues, and assumptions that perpetuate racism. Most importantly, we must listen and learn from those who live with the pain and fear of racism every day.
As we process and reflect upon recent and current events, I would like to offer several resources shared by our friends at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine that I found to be of great value. I hope you will find them to be helpful tools as we seek understanding and healing.
Resources for Offering Support and Solidarity
● Resources for Engaging in Anti-Racism at work
● Your Black Colleagues May Look Like They’re Okay – Chances are They’re Not
● Affirming Black Lives Without Inducing Trauma
In these distressing and overwhelming days, I urge you to take care of yourselves and each other. This is a time that calls upon us all to recognize the pain that so many are feeling, and find ways to support the Black community. Let us pause, and acknowledge those that have lost and suffered from hatred, prejudice and racism. Most importantly, let us find comfort together in our shared humanity, and in our hope and demand for justice.
Eileen L. Strempel