Our nation’s current state of affairs requires the attention of all leaders to champion social justice and end racial inequality. But before action must come thoughtful, engaged, and strategic planning. As the presidents of Georgia’s publicly supported historically black colleges and universities we present the following statement.
“We have reached a crossroads; the events of the past few weeks have made even more certain our need to address the issues of social injustice and racial inequality. Across the country, people (like our students, faculty, staff, and I) are hurting, angry, and weary. It is imperative that we work together to make things better for each other, our communities, and our country. We must end racism now,” says Kimberly Ballard-Washington, interim president of Savannah State University.
Paul Jones, president of Fort Valley State University, says “As a Black man in America, I can relate to the feelings of hopelessness regarding our justice system in the United States and how it is often unfair and tilted against people of color. I am not immune to society’s ills because I enjoy the privilege of being a university president. I say to those who have resisted engaging in this matter, I call on you to join us in saying enough is enough. Racism is tearing away the very fabric of our country. It is taking its toll on us all, so we all share the responsibility of making things better.”
“Racism is reprehensible in all forms. The unconscionable acts of hate that have become commonplace must end. Like many of you, the injustices that I’ve witnessed in the past few months have left me feeling heartbroken, concerned, and incensed. We are at a tipping point in America regarding race relations, and if we do not employ constructive solutions, we will continue to witness and experience destructive responses. The events that are unfolding are the result of legitimate pain, frustration, and the symptom of a bigger problem. The social and economic injustices that continue to plague our country have to end,” says Marion Ross Fedrick, president of Albany State University.
As university presidents, we are taking an active and distinct role in educating our constituents (students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members). Our institutions have a historic legacy of developing strong leaders who fight at the forefront for equality in education, social justice, and who died for civil rights.
Albany State, Fort Valley State, and Savannah State has a responsibility to create opportunities for dialogue. We must lift voices, particularly of those who are often silenced. We are entrusted with our nation’s most cherished resources, minds seeking education, and enlightenment.
We must prepare this and future generations of scholars and servant leaders to manifest the freedoms that America promises. These weeks of protest, often punctuated by anger, frustration, and tears, remind us that organizing, strategizing, and mobilizing can make real and lasting change. By consistently taking a stand, and speaking out, we can help to prevent tragedies, like the most recent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmad Aubrey, Rayshard Brooks, and others from ever happening again!
In the coming weeks, our institutions will host a tri-campus symposium on race relations in America. We must all understand and respect that Black Lives Matter!