What if we, as an imperfect society, sought justice for the oppressed with the same conviction that those in power seek to stay in power? What if we took time to honestly reconcile the racism and oppression on which America was built? What if we, as individuals, made the conscious decision to choose love in our daily decisions? Would we accelerate the slow bending arch of history toward justice that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. promised more than fifty years ago?
It is easy to believe this arch toward justice has broken, cracked under the constant weight of institutional racism and oppression described so powerfully by activist attorney and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative Bryan Stevenson in the HBO documentary True Justice. How can we believe in that arch when we see time and again the misalignment of the law and justice in the lives of people of color, especially young men? How can we believe society will adequately kindle the unborn flicker of hope that lives in each human when it is so quickly extinguished in so many of our communities by age-old injustice?
An incredibly heavy film to watch as a community on Sunday evening, Stevenson’s message challenged the Proctor community to begin to reconcile the racism on which America was founded. Illuminating the powerful roots of slavery that manifest themselves today in the form of mass incarceration, Stevenson asked us how, in a country like America, can we allow there be such a misalignment between the application of the law and true justice?
This critical process of honest self-reflection Stevenson asks of us requires time, a commodity we are challenged to find during our daily lives at Proctor. Through the efforts of Multicultural Coordinator Lori Patriacca ‘01 and Proctor’s equity and inclusion committee of faculty and students, Proctor chose to utilize Martin Luther King, Jr. Day to engage in essential conversations related to inclusivity as a part of the NAIS Assessment of Inclusivity and Multiculturalism. On Monday morning, students and faculty engaged in discovery committees exploring data and engaging in conversations around all areas of life and leadership at Proctor. Conversations were robust, appropriately uncomfortable, and incredibly important as Proctor continues to do its best to self-reflect as an institution and collect honest feedback from the internal community on how we can best move forward. Embers of hope were fanned within each of us as we heard divergent voices wrestle with individual experiences and beliefs within the context of our institutional responsibility to lean into issues of race, equity, and inclusion. It was an imperfect, but incredibly valuable process for the community.
We concluded the day with a performance and keynote by recording artist Victory Boyd. Victory shared a message of hope, of progress despite the divisive media narrative that besieges us daily. As she sang, she opened our hearts to embrace the type of never-ending, never-giving-up love we need to embrace in order to keep bending that arch of history toward justice.
Victory closed with her song Believe in Love. As she sang the lyrics below, we left empowered to both wrestle with the past, honestly look at the present, while keeping love and hope firmly placed at the heart of tomorrow. Thank you to all of the students, faculty, and staff who made today possible, and a huge thank you to Victory and Jeffandy AllTogether for sharing their music with us.
Tell me all the things that you
Feel, it does take time for wounds to heal
But you wait around and pity while the time is
Rolling on by, all because they didn’t apologize.
Take me to a place I’ve never been.
There’s no such place that love can’t transcend.
I have stories of times when I’ve proved it all
To be true. Take my word and I’ll take care of you.
Be kind, be strong, believe
Be kind, be strong, believe...in love.
Believe in love
Don’t you give up on love