Several days ago. I wrote to you to try to provide some comfort regarding the pandemic we are all experiencing. Many students, their families, faculty, and staff have contacted me to express their fears and questions regarding a return to campus and the fall semester. There are many unknowns, but the university is working with dedication to plan the safest return possible and information will be shared as it is confirmed.
At the end of that message, I wanted to open the door to communication with you regarding the deep unrest, racism, and hatred being expressed across our country. Since that time, I have heard from a number of you in personal messages and in group meetings. What is clear throughout is that we cannot continue this way as a society. Our hearts are touched by the cries of people of color and especially the black community, known and unknown to us. The sentiments they express have come down through generations, and we all must do all we can as individuals and as a country to see that they do not travel to future generations. Future generations must be the inheritors of love and peace rather than hatred and fear and that is our responsibility.
I believe it to be the responsibility of every one of us because we can be powerful when united in determining to change the future by every thought and action, no matter its size, every minute of every day. As artists, we become instruments of the expression of the human spirit every time we practice our art, and it certainly matters not at all what color skin that spirit is wrapped in. It's the spirit and the expression that matter to us personally, to our community and to the world. Clearly, hatred and racism have no place in the arts nor have they a place in our College of Fine Arts.
As artists we are vulnerable, and we are called upon be sensitive to supporting each other. Racism is huge: comments with no negative intent on the part of the speaker can wound the listener. The result is more important than the intent. Many leaps of faith are required of us if we are to effect real change. As a white woman, I didn't feel the same worries sending my son off to school that a black mother describes seeing her child leave for school. My breath catches when I think of it, but I don't know it because I haven't lived it and that limits my understanding immeasurably.
There is, no doubt, a great deal to learn but we can make decisions as we learn. We can decide to use our voice. We can decide to search our heart and head and improve the quality of that spirit that guides our art and our relationships with people of every color. We can decide to be "part of the solution rather than part of the problem" no matter how difficult that might be because we are surely one or the other.
A quote from Dr. George Henderson appeared in my last message because I have known him and his family over 40 years and he is a personal hero of mine and countless others. We can decide and dedicate ourselves to the goal that the "only race is the human race" and, as simple and as complex as that is, I believe it's really our only choice.
Let's Make It Happen,
Professor Mary Margaret Holt
Dean, Weitzenhoffer Family College of Fine Arts
Nichols' Chair, Regents' Professor, and
University of Oklahoma
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A Special Note from Alyssa Carrasco
Fine Arts Student Liaison for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
I have had a hard time bringing myself to put into words my feelings about the injustices that we are witnessing. The disgust and shame I feel is directly due to the lack of respect that some people have for black and people of color. But right now, my heart aches for the black community. There is no way to sugar-coat it, this past week we have witnessed atrocious acts of racism and corruption in the United States. This racism has been going on for years now it just has a platform to be exposed.
Stereotyping, racial slurs, blackface, or any other form of racism is not accepted here in the College of Fine Arts. Let it also be known that silence is also discouraged. We are a family of growing artists that need to stand in support of our fellow black friends. Black students are fighting for equality as they grieve and reach for justice. I hope that educators can recognize the platform they have as being a huge influence on students of all backgrounds. I hope that students recognize that change must come within them, as they are not their parents’ or grandparents’ future, but they are their own future.
I hope that as artists we continue to tell stories that are giving the right messages of justice, equality and love. The College of Fine Arts is a home where black and people of color should always feel at home.
Suggestions and changes are being implemented to better the inclusion in the College of Fine Arts. Until then I am here if you need to talk or vent, I will listen and take your comments seriously. I wish you all safe during these times and encourage you to speak up against the injustices of the world.
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