May 31, 2020

My Spelman family,

I know that you join me in extending our deepest sympathies to the family, friends and loved ones of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery. We know that their families must be experiencing pain and heartbreak difficult to endure. What is most shameful about recent events is that the murders of these three American citizens lengthen an already long list of victims of racial hatred. That long list only seems to grow by the day. I know that the Spelman community shares with me a sense of outrage and grief and that you stand with me in solidarity with the families as they seek justice.

To Spelman students, let me now speak to you. You have already been experiencing unexpected loss and grief. Living with the injustice of these deaths and the disruption of COVID-19, you must be asking yourself, "What does my Spelman education mean right now? What does it mean when we sing the Spelman anthem (as opposed to the Spelman Hymn) that invites you to "Make a choice to change the world?" How do we change the world, sheltering in place? What changing does the world need most at this moment in time? President Barack Obama rightly counsels us not to try to come out of these times thinking that everything should return to normal. Normal is the status quo and the status quo has not always served us well.  

What would serve us well? What role should you and Spelman and the rest of the Atlanta University Center play in the weeks and months ahead? Spelman’s very existence as a place for the education of fearless Black women to become global leaders for the past 139 years is a radical act, in and of itself. What should be our charge as a community in the years to come? Is it, as Stacey Abrams has urged us to do, to mobilize, register and get out the vote? Is it as Marian Wright Edelman counsels, to educate Spelman students to change the lives of others? Is it to change the face of medicine so that we are better prepared to defend ourselves from health assaults on our community? Is it to change the structure of the criminal justice system to thwart its insatiable appetite for devouring Black lives? Is it to rebuild an educational system that fails our children more frequently and with more dire consequences than any other community? Is it to be in the room when technological advances take place that could alter the way we live in the world?

Faculty and staff, we have always known that, as citizens of Spelman, we work at a college with a mission informed by deeply held values and principles. Like you, I was called to Spelman to participate in the ongoing work of the College and that is building a community of educational excellence and equity for our students. You have demonstrated with brilliance and tenacity, during these trying times, your devotion to this mission. 

Parents, this season of troubles is taxing all of us. We all feel as though the times are testing our resolve and our resilience. As the College sorts through one or another educational option for the coming fall semester, one that ensures the safety and health of our students and our workforce, I know that the uncertainty frays our nerves.

We have been managing the menace of infectious disease. Now, once again, we are managing, as well, the menace of an unjust society. Understandably, we are grieving and angry. I challenge us now to let our grief and anger turn into determination. I challenge us to remember that in choosing Spelman, we have chosen a special place with a singular history. Our alumnae demonstrate to us, over and over, that the College is a community not only of excellence and equity, but of faith, love and extraordinary generosity. 

As we make our way through these crises, we know we have miles to go before we cross this bridge over these troubled waters into our future. But as I think about the meaning of Spelman, I think about a community that will cross that bridge with an unbending moral compass, one that points unerringly and with clarity in the direction of justice.

Be well. Keep the faith.

Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D.
President, Spelman College


Office of the President
Phone: 404-270-5001

Fax: 404-270-5010

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