On June 3, 2020, I celebrated my first year anniversary as President of New York Theological Seminary. I would have liked to celebrate with high emotions of singing and dancing or with cake and ice cream. Instead, the day was filled with deep feelings of frustration, anger, sadness and a longing for justice over the senseless deaths of unarmed Black people in these United States of America.
The murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Ahmaud Arbery are just recent examples of America at its worst. Yet again, we have found ourselves chanting, marching, protesting and writing about this country’s refusal to admit that in 2020, we continue to have a systemic problem with race. This problem is pervasive and will only begin to change when our national and local leaders implement policy that provides accountability in our justice system. While we may not be able to immediately change the hearts and minds of those committed to brutality on the basis of race, we can work to ensure that there is a justice system that respects and honors the humanity of every American.
Nevertheless, in the midst of these tragedies, hope has emerged. Not only are there protests happening in every state in our nation, but the global community has responded to our cries for justice by protesting in solidarity with us. My prayer is that as we continue to fight for justice for Black people, we will see our America transform to become the best it can be for all people. America at its best will recognize the humanity of every heart that beats, and respond to those beating hearts as the ‘neighbor’ that Jesus calls us to be — especially to those who are hurting the most.
As we continue to seek justice and healing as a Nation, we recognize that this fight will not be easily won. As James Baldwin reminds us, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed unless it is faced.” As we face our truth together, we have the capacity to change our nation and our world. NYTS has committed to facing this daunting task by preparing faith and thought leaders to engage in relevant, restorative and revolutionary ministry. Let us continue to work together to build a world that honors justice for all. God bless you.
The Reverend Dr. LaKeesha Walrond