The presidents of Spelman and Morehouse colleges joined a group of current and former leaders of historically black colleges and universities around the country in calling for a national response to reducing gun violence.
The group of 33 public and private HBCU leaders called for for a national HBCU symposium on gun violence and asked for a commitment to “raising awareness of the debilitating impact of trauma” on the lives of people who have been affected by gun violence.
The requests came in an open letter released Wednesday and first published by HBCU Digest. Spelman president Mary Schmidt Campbell and Morehouse president John Silvanus Wilson signed the letter. Students from both those colleges — and several others around the state — have participated in recent protests in Atlanta, including Morehouse senior Avery Jackson, who has been a vocal leader of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Prior to this letter, Wilson penned an editorial for the Huffington Post last week on race and policing. In that post, titled, “What Should We Teach Them Now?,” Wilson details how early teachings by his parents helped he and his brother “survive” an interaction with police in 1984. He goes on to discuss the message that should be occurring now with black and minority boys and men.
The letter by the HBCU leaders is the first and largest coordinated action taken by higher education leaders since the recent shootings committed by and against police in Baton Rouge, Minnesota and Dallas, HBCU Digest reported.
The full text of the letter:
We, the undersigned Presidents of America’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (“HBCUs”) remain brokenhearted over the recent events that have taken place in Baton Rouge, LA, St. Paul, MN, and Dallas, TX. Our thoughts and prayers are with the impacted communities at large and the families who have lost their loved ones. These incidents have shaken our nation to its core and caused many people to question our country’s direction.
HBCUs, by virtue of their special place in this nation, have always understood the hard work and sacrifices that must be made in order for America to live up to its ideals. From the moment that our doors first opened in 1842, the roles that our institutions have played were never narrowly confined to educating the men and women who sat in our classes and walked our campuses. Instead, ours was a much broader and more vital mission. We were charged with providing a light in the darkness for a people who had been constitutionally bound to the dark. Our very creation, existence, and persistence were, and always have been a duality of collaboration and protest. In this respect, America’s HBCUs were the birthplace of the idea that Black lives matter to our country.
Expressing our support for the idea that Black lives matter is in no way a declaration that other lives do not matter as well. As leaders of some of the most diverse colleges and universities in the country, we are well steeped in the value of open and inclusive communities. It is because of our experience with building strong and diverse communities that we unite, and invite all Americans to join us in the following series of actions that are intended to help propel our country forward to become a more perfect union:
1. The first-ever HBCU National Symposium on Gun Violence.
2. A commitment to raising the awareness of the debilitating impact of trauma on the lives of those who have been exposed to loss as a result of gun violence.
We know that none of these activities will bring back the lives that have been lost. Our hope, however, is that these efforts will foster dialogues that help to accelerate the creation of an environment where all human lives are valued equally and 2 discrimination based on one’s skin color, gender, and economic standing will become a relic of the past.
As we move forward in our endeavors, we will forever remember the lives of those slain and the loss their families have experienced. While we pray that their hearts and minds will one day know peace, we pledge to aggressively continue our efforts so that these types of prayers will one day become unnecessary.
The letter is signed “with love and in solidarity,” and lists the 33 college leaders.