Vigil in the Wake of Violence

July 11, 2016

Dear Wellesley Community,

Our hearts are broken yet again. We grieve for Alton Sterling and Philando Castile and their families. We mourn the loss of Dallas police officers Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, Brent Thompson, and Patrick Zamarripa. We have seen it before in communities across America—guns and violence and killings—too often involving the interaction of young black males with the police. 

Our leaders are speaking out following the tragic events of last week. President Obama, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton, and Dallas Police Chief David Brown, among so many others. They seek to contextualize the killings, and they urge us all to be calm. What they say is heartfelt and sensible.

It is important to remain calm in the face of irrefutable injustice and as we collectively ask the questions: What, if anything, is going to be different this time? When will we reach the tipping point that leads to substantive change?

While I can only hope that as a country we reach the tipping point that leads us in a new direction soon, what I do know is that our community can—and must—play an important role in effecting change. I believe that there are meaningful steps we at Wellesley can take together, peacefully and purposefully, to improve the quality of our common life:

  • Let your voices be heard. Participate in local marches and demonstrations to peacefully condemn racism and social injustice. Write letters to those affected by the violence. However you choose to take action, dedicate your energies and best ideas to building trust among communities and constituencies. We must voice our demand for a country in which every citizen feels and is valued.
  • Embrace your community, especially those at Wellesley who may be different from you. Practice empathic listening—really hear points of view that differ from your own. If we can embrace diversity and reject bigotry in all its forms, we will be able to learn from one another and shape the world around us. It will take all of us to bring about meaningful change.
  • Please join us for a community gathering this evening, a vigil in the wake of violence, at 6 PM at the Multifaith Center in the lower level of Houghton Chapel. We will mourn those who have lost their lives, share reflections, and express our sorrows, fears, and hopes.

These events are deeply troubling to all of us. Please join me in reaching out to those who may be feeling particularly upset or threatened. Our Dean of Religious and Spiritual Life stands ready to offer individual support to our students, faculty, and staff. Dean Steinwert can be reached at 781-283-2656. Students can access counseling support at 781-283-2839. Tips for self-care are also available on the Counseling Services website.

If there were ever a time that called for us to open our hearts and our minds, it is now. Let us stand together, united as a Wellesley community, to condemn violence and bigotry, and foster understanding.

Sincerely,
Paula