Dear Fellow Students,
I write to you among one of the most turbulent epochs of modern human history. In just two semesters, our country and world have become in many regards unrecognizable. Not only have we made the switch to online and hybrid learning in a health pandemic, ANOTHER most tragic and inexcusable event of police brutality has ended in the murder of a black person, echoing the United States’ longstanding social epidemic of racism. Students, staff and faculty alike are struggling to find words to express the smear of emotions this sparked: outrage, heartache, confusion, fear, despair… Know that you are not facing these challenging times alone, though each of us are indeed experiencing this era in both shared and unique ways. Amidst these most convoluted issues, so many of us around the world are demanding the same things, a sentiment I tried to capture in the following poem:
The earth and its inhabitants are inflamed with dis-ease.
Deforestation, “No trees,” Earth says, “I can’t breathe.”
Cancerous chemicals spilled and spread as they please
While COVID patients on ventilators wheeze
And police forced the life from Floyd’s neck with a knee.
Now societies, from Amish to refugees,
Proclaim this never again shall be
It’s time for us all to share liberty
To address how racism has built our country
We are the people to proclaim the time’s past
No longer permit unequal systems to last
Let us restore, reinvent and transform,
A nonnegotiable societal norm
That rings across the globe loud and true
Black Lives Matter—we embrace you!
Let’s solve these diseases, down to their root
And end cries of “My hands are up; please don’t shoot.”
While these tasks may seem particularly daunting, each of us is an irreplaceable part of the Mason community. In response to the national protests surrounding racial inequality, students and faculty alike are asking, what can I do to transform my world? Asking this question is an important first step, and one you are most invited to take alongside Mason leaders, whether student or faculty. I encourage you to be on the lookout for diversity, equity and inclusion events, to engage in difficult dialogue, and to spend time imagining the world you want to create.
Do You Want to Be a Courageous Ally?
One such upcoming event is the “Courageous Allies” Conversation on Friday, October 9th at 4 pm EST. This is a candid conversation investigating what it means and looks like to be an ally for women of color in the academy and brings together Black women and White women in the academy. We are honored to welcome Dr. Shani Barrax Moore (University of North Texas), Dr. Karen Dace (Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis), Dr. Jennifer LaFlam (A Los Rios College), Dr. Dreama Moon (California State University San Marcos), Dr. Menah Pratt-Clark (Virginia Tech) and host Holly Mendelson (Insight Into Diversity).
You can register for the event here: http://cglink.me/r745935
A huge thank you to all the event sponsors: Black Graduate Student Association (BGSA), School of Engineering, CHSS Graduate Academic Affairs, Cultural Studies, Women and Gender Studies, Higher Education, Graduate Student Life, GAPSA (Graduate and Professional Student Association), Department of History and Art History, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, and the Department of Film and Media Studies. We could not have organized this without your generous donations!
Getting involved in GAPSA
GAPSA is GMU’s graduate student advocacy body, meeting once per month to promote the needs of our graduate and professional students and holding professional development and social events. If you want to make connections with student leaders outside your department, practice your advocacy, and have a say in the graduate student experience at Mason, we heartily invite you! Students are welcome to attend meetings, and each department is able to send a voting representative to weigh in on important decisions. If you are interested in serving as a Graduate Representative for your department, please ask your department chair whether your program has a rep or email email@example.com. Our first meeting will be Wednesday, October 14th from 1:30-3 PM.
“Check-in, Chat & Chill Hour” with GAPSA Pres, Tuesdays 3-4 pm
Representing GMU’s 11,000 graduate and professional students is a responsibility I do not take lightly. Inspired by Dr. Bray’s coffee time with graduate students, I will be hosting a virtual “Check-in, Chat & Chill Hour” every Tuesday from 3-4 pm beginning September 22nd. This is your chance to socialize with graduate and professional students, ask questions, get connected to resources you might not have known about, and raise any ideas, issues or concerns you may have regarding your GMU experience. Feel free to pop in, for 5 minutes or 50! I look forward to getting to know and serve you better! Watch your email for the link!
As we continue to navigate through these turbulent tides, remember we are riding the waves together, even as some paddle in rafts while others sail in yachts upon the systems passed down to us by our flawed fathers and mothers; we are interdependent beings in one connected ecosystem, and therefore each of us is responsible for helping to make the world a better place for all to live. I understand that this is a difficult time prompting tough conversations; if we don’t have these discussions now, we as a society will be faced with more violence and the same question will remain. There are things we can do NOW, and most importantly, we can continue to dialogue and implement action to build an equitable future!
Let us speak up when we see and hear injustice. Let’s use our privileges to educate ourselves and others. Let’s stand up for our colleagues and fellow Black and Brown human beings. As a white woman, I am reminded that it is not the responsibility of Black and Brown people to educate the rest of the world regarding racism and their experiences. These are tough talks that must be had to provide the space, reflection, criticism, and creativity to build new, non-oppressive systems that uphold human rights. Before we offend, let us first read, watch, question, do some digging, do some work, explore new perspectives. Then ask the questions have not been answered. Let us insist upon diverse and inclusive syllabi, faculty and mentors. And let us not allow this conversation to be simply a social media post; let us build a new lived experience that upholds equality, justice, and dignity for all—including our most vulnerable, marginalized, and systemically oppressed populations like those who were brought here through enslavement. We are here to learn, to expand, to consider. Let us hold ourselves and one another accountable with respect!
If you are a Black student interested in joining the Black Graduate Student Association, you can reach out to them and join through Mason360. Campus resources, including Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), are also available to support students during this difficult time. Please ensure that taking care of yourself remains your priority!
Finally, if you feel you have experienced discrimination and/or bias at GMU, please visit https://campusclimate.gmu.edu/report-an-incident/bias-incidents-and-the-reporting-protocol/
Thank you for your care, compassion, empathy, and resilience. You are what makes Mason unique and strong! Let us now make it truly inclusive. Let us now insist on change, big and small.
Wishing you health, dignity, respect, and success, now and always,
Anti-racism and Anti-blackness Resources