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AAVC Corner

Dear Alumnae/i,

Reunion weekend, June 5 and 6, came a mere two weeks after the videotaped killing of George Floyd by police. It came in the midst of worldwide protests of racial injustice, as well as a pandemic. Pain, fury, and sadness permeated our public and private lives. We had to ask, should we cancel Reunion? In the end, we decided to proceed, hoping that the weekend would provide a respite from and opportunity for community during a time of crisis.

Mr. Floyd’s videotaped killing shocked many of us. For others, there was a profound sense of exhaustion and frustration, if not outright PTSD. Black parents spoke about fears for their children. The few-bad-police-actors explanation was no longer worth even a second of consideration. Not with the pervasive evidence of deep-seated structural inequities and pervasive racial bias culminating in dramatic disparities in COVID-19 infections and death. Not after the last decade of black men and women killed at hands of law enforcement or armed vigilantes; they include Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, Philando Castile, Terrence Crutcher, Botham Jaw, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd.

The AAVC board scrapped its original agenda and instead held a listening session with board members and staff that Friday. Our black friends and colleagues spoke—one after the other—about their lack of surprise at the murder of George Floyd. After all, his was one of the many names we’ve said over the years, and the names keep coming. As horrific as his death is, one staff member said we should not ignore the ongoing stress that dealing with racism on a daily basis places on black bodies. “Murder isn’t the only thing killing us,” she said. And there was a palpable frustration that it took such a brutal act to call attention to these issues.

Listening seems like a good idea right now for many of us. But then action—and sustained action, by all—certainly must follow. Sherrilyn Ifill ’84 was interviewed on 60 Minutes on June 7, the Sunday Reunion was closing. She stated succinctly there: “What we have seen is how fragile a democracy is. It requires work. It requires people to be vigilant. It requires people saying no … So, for anyone who’s lamenting what we’ve been seeing over the last two weeks, ask them how much they have worked to improve this country?”


Steve Hankins '85, P'13, '17

AAVC President