“I know how black it looks today for you. It looked black that day too. Yes, we were trembling. We have not stopped trembling yet, but if we had not loved each other, none of us would have survived, and now you must survive because we love you and for the sake of your children and your children’s children.”
These were just some of the heartrending words shared by Visiting Assistant Professor of English Thomas Devaney, read from James Baldwin’s A Letter to My Nephew on Wednesday night in the Haverford College Dining Center. As people across the United States continue to agitate and protest against police brutality and racial disparities in the wake of the recent killings of Michael Brown Jr. and Eric Garner by police officers, Tri-Co students and faculty gathered last evening on campus for a Teach-In on Policing and Protests.
As people began streaming in for the event, Devaney handed out one-page printouts of Claudia Rankine’s poem From “Citizen.” During the two-hour long session community members shared and discussed critical race issues highlighting recent events. Other faculty present included Debora Sherman, Gustavus Stadler, Maud McInerney, and Lindsay Reckson from the English department; Professor of Fine Arts William Williams; Writing Fellow Paul Farber; Director of Peace, Justice and Human Rights Jill Stauffer; and HCAH Mellon Post-Doc Fellow Andrew Cornell. Most of those present wore all-black attire in show of solidarity and vulnerability for black America.
It was a somber event, as participants expressed their grief, outrage, and disillusionment against the continued disenfranchisement of African American communities in the U.S. Students spoke about the power and necessity of public mourning through protests, the social pressure to conform and move on, and efforts by communities to protect local interests. Sherman read from Harryette Mullen’s poem We Are Not Responsible:
“It’s not our fault you were born wearing a gang color. It is not our obligation to inform you of your rights. Step aside, please, while our officer inspects your bad attitude. You have no rights that we are bound to respect. Please remain calm, or we can’t be held responsible for what happens to you.”
Faculty also read aloud from poignant personal letters and essays and pointed to the work of African American leaders and authors such as Huey P. Newton and James Baldwin. Farber expressed the pain of watching students mourn the death of fellow young people. He also praised the efforts of student leadership including that of the organizers of Bryn Mawr’s AllBlackLivesMatter: Die-In, March, and Vigil held on Monday night, and Haverford’s Black Student League, which recently held a “Blackout” silent demonstration, invited discussions via a Blackout Board in the DC, and hosted a community open forum on race relations.
-By Hina Fathima ’15
Photo by Neil Cooler