Over the last week we have collectively borne witness to the news of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis while in police custody, have seen the spread of angst and anger in communities, and seen images of protesters across the country. We have seen property damage. We have seen teargas shot into crowds and riot police knocking over protesters. We have seen police kneeling alongside protestors, peacefully. We have seen images of military helicopters intimidating crowds. We have seen journalists attacked and arrested. Amidst all of this (and the pandemic) it is hard for individuals and communities to find a framework for the turmoil that doesn’t make it feel overwhelming. We wonder where and when the healing will begin, when the requisite societal changes will take shape, and who will lead us through this valley.
At Proctor, we are processing these images and news stories just as everyone else is. What seems clearer now is that there is something deeply amiss. Something off. Something that cannot continue unabated. Although sometimes we might feel isolated in Andover, a school set on over 2,500 acres, we are not an island. Even from this place of undeniable privilege, we are, as John Donne once wrote, a part of the main. His words remind us of this unity in our shared humanity, “:..Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” We feel that now more than ever. The underlying social inequities that brought us to this point of turmoil are not “out there”, they never were, but we see them more clearly than ever before. We must never allow our lack of proximity to injustice to serve as an excuse for inaction.
I like what Lori Patriacca ‘01 shared in an email to faculty and staff earlier today: “We can be vulnerable. We can be scared. We can be overwhelmed. We can be honest and humble. We know how to do all of those things really well. Most importantly, we must keep our community unified. Our core value of compassion or empathy is paramount here. There is no room for division. Don't let the violence distract from the core issues - people are in pain and they are scared and they want justice, safety and release. We need to listen, and affirm, and find the right pathways forward.”
This communication must not serve merely as a token acknowledgement of the injustice surrounding us, but as a call to action for the greater Proctor family. Matt Nathanson ‘91, this year’s commencement speaker, exhorted the Class of 2020 (and all of us) to work our inner dirt, to till that soil and bring forth the best of what we can be as individuals. That is the essential work of the life journey. Some will be artists, some engineers, some entrepreneurs, some community activists, and as we become our best, our best will radiate outward. We must do this same work as the Proctor community with our core values of honesty, compassion, respect, and responsibility at the forefront of all we do. We now see our work through a lens tempered and shaped by the events we are witnessing. We know we must do more as a school. We must continue to educate ourselves on the issues, be open minded and vulnerable, critically evaluate our institutional biases, and we must speak to those in power. We must write our legislators. We must vote. We must support those communities most deeply impacted by the events not only of this past week, but the past four hundred years. We must be a part of the promise that is this country, a promise that will remain unfulfilled if we remain silent.
Today we not only stand against the injustice we are witnessing around the country, but ask you to join us in taking action. Proctor graduates (including the Class of 2020) eagerly step out into the world and effect change. Now is a time for us, as a community, to do the same.
Below is an incomplete list of ways to take a step forward. We hope you take action alongside us.
Opportunities for Engagement:
- Volunteer as an Alumni Activist and help us organize action in your area
- Contact your local legislators
- Share your voice/story
Resources and Reading for Further Education:
- Anguish and Action Resources
- The Emmett Till Project Podcasts
- The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
- Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
- So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
- White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
- Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
- White Rage by Carol Anderson
Be well, stay safe, make a difference.
Mike Henriques P'11, P'15
Proctor Academy Head of School