My Dearest UVM: I write to you to share what is on my heart. I am bursting with so many emotions, I need to share. As I wipe away tears that keep forming in the corners of my eyes, know I am thinking of all of you, my UVM family. I really appreciate the calls and texts from so many of you who wanted to make sure I was okay. I am also grateful for the calls where you shared your ideas, anger, and grief with me. Like many of you, I watched in horror the video showing the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers. I sobbed for George as if he was my own son or brother lying on the cold, hard concrete. I then wept for Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and Tony McDade, and soon I was crying for the many who have tragically lost their lives over the years because of racism and inequality. 


Unfortunately, the killing of black men or women by police is not new; it is so common that initially many turned to the usual responses: hashtags, T-shirts, flags, and national leaders condemning this horrific act. Still, George Floyd’s homicide seems different to me and so many Blacks or African Americans. Was it the cold, hard concrete he died on, the cry for his mama as he took his last breaths, the plea from so many to help him that was ignored, or was this just the final straw? I continue to reflect on why this tragedy has become a global call for change and action. Regardless, this hurts me to the core. I am exhausted. My Black and African American family and friends are exhausted. We are sick and tired of being sick and tired.

As an African American woman who is also the University’s Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, I am yearning for justice, looking for accountability, praying for solutions, and wishing we could be together to comfort one another. This crime against humanity, coupled with the impact of COVID-19 on us as a society has forever changed us. Exactly how we let these events change us, is up to us. For me, I am choosing to remain hopeful and draw upon my faith as I push away my tears, so I can see a better future. 

Despite the challenges we face and the fear we may feel, let us redouble our efforts and insist on systemic reform. I know we cannot take on everything, but we can have an impact at UVM, and in the communities where we serve that will branch out to advance critical social and cultural efforts everywhere. We must use our educational platform to share and enhance knowledge, understanding, ideas and solutions that not only address issues of prejudice and discrimination, but also transform lives for generations to come. We must endeavor to inspire professionals who will be more just, equitable, compassionate, and anti-racist.

As we grieve and search for answers together, I ask that you look after one another, in particular for those of us that are Black or African American. I ask that you condemn any behavior that diminishes the humanity of others. This vicious cycle must be broken because if not now when? The world around us seems to be exploding right now, and we all deserve better. I know I could say so much more. This will not be the last time you hear from me. This work of racial equity has been my life’s work, and I need help now more than ever. I need partners. Let us collectively work together and steadfastly to confront and address generations of institutionalized racism. 

I am going to start by hosting a Teach-In to help catalyze action. In addition, I intend to create digital “Brave Spaces,” to support and lift up voices from within our University that are committed to this work. I am asking you to join me, plan with me, lead with me, and when I reach out for your help, please answer my call in both your words and your actions.

This is my single story, so please listen to others who have stories they are willing to share. Your voice matters, and no one can take that away from you unless you give it to them.

In Solidarity for Change and Peace,

Wanda

                                 
Wanda Heading-Grant
Vice President
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

PUBLISHED

06-03-2020
Wanda Heading-Grant, VP Diversity, Equity and Incl