‘You are the best of us’

MORE THAN 200 BLACK PROFESSORS
GUEST COMMENTARY

Editor’s Note: More than 200 Black professors signed this open letter to the 2017 graduates of Bethune-Cookman University.

Dear Graduates:
First, congratulations! We are so proud of what you have accomplished. You have studied, prepared, planned, learned, and have earned what our parents, grandparents, and ancestors have had to fight, scrape, and die for in this nation. We are proud of you for that!

Beyond becoming graduates, we are floating this morning thinking about how you stood up to your university and protested the woefully under-qualified secretary of education who attempted to address you at your graduation. Watching you stand and turn your backs to her makes us elated.

Overjoyed. Humbled. It was a day and a moment that should have been about celebrating you and what you achieved.

We cheered
The world watched you protest the speaker you never should have had. We cheered as we saw so many of you refuse to acquiesce in the face of threats and calls for complicity.

Your actions fit within a long tradition of Black people fighting back against those who attack our institutions and our very lives with their anti-Black policies and Anglo-normative practices.

Betsy DeVos’ commitment to dismantling public education and her egregious framing of Historically Black Colleges and Universities as “pioneers” in school choice are just two examples of why she should never have been invited to speak at an event celebrating Black excellence.

We shared your outrage when it was announced that DeVos would serve as your commencement speaker and receive an honorary degree. As your administration hid behind the rhetoric of “learning from people with divergent perspectives,” current students objected. Alumni petitioned.

We watched from a distance wondering how but knowing why this moment was taken from honoring you.

Honored us all
But then you turned it around, figuratively and literally. We beamed with joy as we watched videos and read tweets of how you took your graduation back to honor yourselves. To honor your founder.

To honor our ancestors. To honor us all.

You represent the best of Mother Mary McLeod Bethune who took the little she had and built an institution that remains committed to bringing out the best in us. You are the best of us.

We, the undersigned, are Black professors and college administrators— some of us at HBCUs, some of us at Predominately White Institutions, some of us HBCU alums – and we thank you. We salute you.

And we love you.

Dan Blue Endowed Chair in Political Science at North Carolina Central University Dr. Yaba Blay organized the collective effort among these instructors. Assistant Professor of Urban Education at Loyola University Dr. Camika Royal, and Associate Professor of Women’s Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Ohio State University Dr. Treva B. Lindsey wrote this letter. It was originally published on www.cassiuslife.com.

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