A note from Dr. Leonard Kupersmith, Head of School
Our CCES community grieves in response to the recent killings of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery. We lament that violence and destruction of property have usurped what were originally peaceful protests. We stand by the victims of violence everywhere in our country. We embrace the proposition offered by The Reverend Mariann Edgar Budde, the Episcopal Bishop of Washington, D.C., yesterday that our world needs to be “held in check by a higher authority.”
We pray for the families of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, African American men who died as victims of excessive force by local law enforcement and vigilante behavior respectively. Charlottesville is again in our rear view mirror; we lament the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Eric Garner in New York City, Freddie Gray in Baltimore, and 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland, all African American males who were victims of police violence. These men who were victims of racial profiling and brutal treatment by officers of the law sworn to protect and serve all members of their communities are familiar names. Countless black and brown brothers and sisters who have not attracted media attention have endured racial bigotry, physical mistreatment, and marginalization. George Floyd’s death at the hands of the Minneapolis police perpetuates this shameful chronicle. When asked to speak to the role of the church, Bishop Budde, who came to Washington after eighteen years as rector of St. John’s church in Minneapolis, asserted that “the church stands in solidarity with those who are making peaceful protests.”
We cannot proclaim our devotion to the Baptismal Covenant and ignore graphic instances of indignities toward others. The recent events in Minneapolis and Glynn County, Georgia remind us that we have not slayed the beast of racial bigotry. We should not overlook the insidious effects of the pandemic on our temperaments and tolerance. Our current economic woes aggravate these biases and weaken our social immune system. The good news is that the scientific community and pharmaceutical industry have mobilized minds and money to produce a vaccine designed to neutralize Covid-19 by the end of the calendar year. However, after nearly 160 years since the Emancipation Proclamation, we have not cured the virus of racial injustice. This strain has proven resistant to beneficent legal remedies.
Fifty-seven years ago, in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. memorably affirmed that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Wanton brutality against anyone certifies a threat to us all. This blight is very much political but not partisan. The well being of our polity rests on purging bigotry once and for all from our social organism.
As we look outward at the spasms of suppressed anger and frustration, we need to look within and put our minds to moving from initiatives to intentional action. We must leverage our Episcopal identity and “bring the kingdom of God into the human experience,” as Bishop Budde proclaims. Let us emulate the “God [who] stands with those who are suffering” and “walks with those who feel oppressed.”
Writing from his jail cell in Birmingham in 1963, Dr. King famously found solace in the ultimate transcendence of justice: “the arc of moral history is long but bends toward justice.” I subscribe to that conviction. However, I am equally persuaded by Dr. King’s argument that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.” We need to repudiate violence, whether overreach by vested authority or indiscriminate destruction in the streets of our cities.
As a community committed to equity and inclusion, CCES will tend to its own household, continue our intentional soul searching, strengthen the channels of honest discourse to foster understanding, and deliberately confront our blind spots. In this deliberate process we are justified by the message of our institutional faith. We rely on faith to provide “words of consolation for those who are suffering” and “words of encouragement for those striving for justice.” Micah 6:8 provides us with a clear and concise charge for living in this moment in particular:
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
May God help us to respect the dignity of every person in our daily habits.
Dr. Leonard Kupersmith
Head of SchoolA note from Melanie Gordon, Director of Diversity & Inclusion
Last week the world stood witness as George Floyd took his last breath, and we saw ourselves under the boot of oppression. As the Director of Diversity and Inclusion at CCES and as black woman, I, like others who do this work on sister Episcopal campuses, needed time to catch my breath. In the midst of my own anguish, I heard the voices of friends, family, students, faculty, staff, and others connected with our community cry in utter disbelief as I sat with my own pain. I am a black woman in a predominantly white community, responsible for diversity, equity, and inclusion, and all I had the energy to do for three days was cry and hear the cries of those around me -- the walking wounded.
Covid-19 has offered an opportunity for everyone to see how systemic and systematic racism costs people their lives. The death of Mr. Floyd in less than nine minutes has offered yet another painful realization of systemic racism and our desperate call to action. We live in a time of so many viruses -- Covid-19, Racism, Xenophobia, Sexism, Classism, and so many other ills of the world. Because of the work we began this year, we at CCES are in a unique position to be the example of what it means to live into our Episcopal Identity.
In my year in this role our students led the way in helping others understand why we must continue to welcome everyone to the table as a space for voices to be heard, leaving the table to faithfully serve the community. Members of our Ubuntu groups are already thinking of and working on ways to respond to senseless brutality and death. These young people have grown in their understanding of the connection of all human beings.
Because we value ALL of our students, faculty, staff, and families, we must offer a space of support and care for ALL of our community. We achieve this through actions that offer radical hospitality, radical compassion, and radical listening!
There is hope. We, as an Episcopal community
, place our hope in God. We can realize that hope by being open to learning about the lives of others, speaking out for justice, offering compassion, and showing loyalty through loving others. We, as an educational community
, can realize this hope by creating solutions to the ills of this world through civic responsibility, the sciences, the arts, and the humanities. We, as a human community
, can realize this hope by acting on the right of liberty for every human being.
Grace and Peace,
Melanie C. Gordon
Director of Diversity & InclusionA prayer from Rev. Wallace Adams-Riley, Senior ChaplainLoving God, our hearts are full, and we lift them to you: We grieve with the family of George Floyd. We grieve with America. We grieve our long history of bigotry and violence. We grieve that we too often do not live up to the high and holy calling you have given us, as your beloved sons and daughters: the call to love one another. Are we our brother’s keeper, our sister’s keeper? Yes, Lord, we know the answer in our heart of hearts. Help us, we pray, to remember. Remind us each day and every moment. May the better angels of our nature have their way with us. May there be justice in America, may there be peace on earth. May we remember the dignity of every human being. We pray, trusting always in the Prince of Peace, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.