Black students and professors, Beaumont Tower, Michigan State University, December 6, 2014. photo by Darryl Quinton Evans

An Open Letter of Love to Black Students: #BlackLivesMatter

Black students and professors, Beaumont Tower, Michigan State University, December 6, 2014. photo by Darryl Quinton Evans

Black students and professors, Beaumont Tower, Michigan State University, December 6, 2014. photo by Darryl Quinton Evans

I’m sharing this Open Letter via Black Space in Solidarity.  I’ve been having a really difficult time with processing things these past few weeks. Even in class it’s been difficult.

I couldn’t write much of anything, but I was glad to see that there were others who could.

The message here was definitely one that resonated with me, so it was an honor to be able to lend my support to an initiative that lets black students know that they are loved and they that their lives matter in a world that seems hell-bent on showing them (and us, the writers and signers) otherwise.

We Love You, We See You.

An Open Letter of Love to Black Students: #BlackLivesMatter

“We are Black professors.

We are daughters, sons, brothers, sisters, cousins, nieces, nephews, godchildren, grandfathers, grandmothers, fathers, and mothers.

We’re writing to tell you we see you and hear you.

We know the stories of dolls hanging by nooses, nigger written on dry erase boards and walls, stories of nigger said casually at parties by White students too drunk to know their own names but who know their place well enough to know nothing will happen if they call you out your name, stories of nigger said stone sober, stories of them calling you nigger using every other word except what they really mean to call you, stories of you having to explain your experience in classrooms—your language, your dress, your hair, your music, your skin—yourself, of you having to fight for all of us in classrooms where you are often the only one or one of a few, stories of you choosing silence as a matter of survival.

Sometimes we’re in those classrooms with you.

We know there is always more that people don’t see or hear or want to know, but we see you. We hear you.

In our mostly White classrooms we work with some of you, you who tell us other professors don’t see, don’t hear you. You, who come to our offices with stories of erasure that make you break down. They don’t see me, you say. They don’t hear me. We know and don’t know how to hold your tears.

How do we hold your tears, and your anger?

You are our sons and daughters, our brothers and sisters, our mothers, our fathers, our godchildren. You, with your stories of erasure break our hearts because you are family, because your stories of erasure ultimately are stories of violence, because your stories mirror our experiences, past and present.

Right now. This is all happening now. Every day. We know this.

We want you to hear.

You tell us your stories and sometimes we tell you our own stories of cops who stop us on the way to work, of grandparents born in Jim Crow, of parents born during segregation into an economic reality that made them encourage us to get solid jobs, of parents born outside the United States who came face-to-face with the harsh reality of U.S. anti-Blackness, how we chose institutions where we often feel alone. We tell you stories of almost dropping out of school, stories of working harder than anyone else even when it felt like it was killing us, even when it is killing us. We tell you we know historically and predominantly White universities might let you/us in, but they don’t care much about retaining us no matter how many times they misuse pretty words like diversity, or insult us with the hard slap of minority.

We tell you about the underground network of folks who helped us, the people who wrote us letters, the offices we cried in, the times we were silent, the times we spoke up, the times we thought we wouldn’t make it, the people who told us to hold on. We tell you over and over about the railroad of Black professors and other professors of color who we call when we know one of us is in need. We remind you skinfolk isn’t always kinfolk. We tell you to be careful. We tell you to take risks. We tell you, guard your heart. We tell you, keep your heart open. We tell you to hold on. Hold on, we say, to you, to us, because holding on to each other is everything, often the only thing.

Hold on.

We want a future for you, for us right now.

We write this is in solidarity with the families of Tamir Rice, Mike Brown, Renisha McBride, Trayvon Martin, Rekia Boyd, Aiyana Stanley Jones, and so many others who they are killing, so many others who should have had the chance to be in our classrooms, who should have had the chance to simply be.

We write this in solidarity with Harriet Tubman, Ida B. Wells, Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and too many others stolen and gone, too many others who fought for us to be in this privileged place where we still have to fight for justice.

We write this in solidarity with The Combahee River Collective and #BlackLivesMatter who knew and know we have to fight for and love all of us if any one of us is going to survive.

We write this in solidarity with you, Black students, here and elsewhere, and with those on the ground for over 100 days, four and a half hours, two seconds.

The living and the dead. We hear you. We see you.

In our classes we’ll continue to do what we’ve always done: teach about race, anti-blackness, and White Supremacy. This has and will continue to put us in positions we have to defend. This has and will continue to compromise our jobs, our health, our relationships with other people who profess to be our colleagues. This has and will compromise relationships with partners who tell us with love we need to set better boundaries.

We’re trying.

We study ourselves. We study, we live Black lives. We organize. We strategize. We march. We teach to nurture and resist. We don’t always talk about the letters we write to administrators, the angry emails we send, the committees and task forces we serve on, the department meetings where we question and push for more, the colleagues who question our research, our presence, our skin, our manner of being. We don’t always talk about the weight of pushing for more, more being basic equity, more being the right to exist without explanation or apology, more being the right to love and be loved.

What we do is not enough. It’s never enough, but we’ll keep on. We’ll keep finding ways to do more. For all of us.

We’re supposed to say views expressed herein are ours alone, but we believe that truth to be self-evident.

Some people who share our views will not sign this but they’re still with us. The living and the dead.

We’ve never been alone.

You already know your life matters. Know we’re fighting with you and for you. With all of us. For all of us.

We got you.

We see you. We hear you. We love you.”

Rae Paris, Michigan State University

Django Paris, Michigan State University

Jessica Marie Johnson, Michigan State University

Brian G. Gilmore, Michigan State University

Michael J. Dumas, New York University

Terry Flennaugh, Michigan State University

Tama Hamilton-Wray, Michigan State University

Jeff Wray, Michigan State University

Yomaira Figueroa, Michigan State University

Tacuma Peters, Michigan State University

Michelle A. Purdy, Washington University in St. Louis

Adrienne Dixson, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Maisha T. Winn, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Dorinda J. Carter Andrews, Michigan State University

Terrion Williamson, Michigan State University

Karla FC Holloway, Duke University

Kiese Laymon, Vassar College

Chezare A. Warren, Michigan State University

Shaun R. Harper, University of Pennsylvania

Adam J. Banks, University of Kentucky

Metta Samá, Salem College

Tamara Butler, Michigan State University

Lisa Ze Winters, Wayne State University

Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, University of Pennsylvania

Valerie Kinloch, The Ohio State University

Ibram X Kendi, University at Albany-SUNY

NiCole T. Buchanan, Michigan State University

Geneva Smitherman, Michigan State University

Keisha L. Green, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Terah Venzant Chambers, Michigan State University

Glenn Chambers, Michigan State University

David E. Kirkland, New York University

Brittney Cooper, Rutgers University

Mark Anthony Neal, Duke University

Tamura Lomax, Virginia Commonwealth University

Treva Lindsey, The Ohio State University

April Baker-Bell, Michigan State University

Risée Chaderton, Barbados Community College

Mary Frances Berry, University of Pennsylvania

Derrais Carter, Portland State University

LaShawn Harris, Michigan State University

Andre E. Johnson, Memphis Theological Seminary

Yaba Blay, Drexel University

Chanequa Walker-Barnes, McAfee School of Theology

Koritha Mitchell, The Ohio State University

Kaila Adia Story, University of Louisville

Charles W. McKinney, Rhodes College

Amrita Chakrabarti Myers, Indiana University

Shannon Gibney, Minneapolis Community & Technical College (MCTC)

Aliyyah I. Abdur-Rahman, Brandeis University

Brian Ragsdale, Walden University

LaGarrett J. King, Clemson University

Jeffrey Q. McCune, Jr., Washington University in St. Louis

Kristal Moore Clemons, Florida A&M University

Tamara Bertrand Jones, Florida State University

Angelyn Mitchell, Georgetown University

Professor Carla A. Jones, Lancaster Bible College at the Center for Urban Theological Studies

Allen J. Green, Sarah Lawrence College

Bianca I Laureano, College of Mount Saint Vincent

Nina A. Nabors, Walden University

Oscar Holmes IV, Rutgers University School of Business

Marisa Parham, Amherst College

Pamela R. Lightsey, Boston University

Erica K. Dotson, Clayton State University

Tamika L. Carey – University at Albany, SUNY

April Langley, University of Missouri-Columbia

Eric Darnell Pritchard, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Crystal Feimster, Yale University

Eve Dunbar, Vassar College

Latish Reed, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Caridad Souza, Colorado State University

Tracie Q. Gilbert, Widener University

Kai M. Green, Northwestern University

Stephanie Troutman, Appalachian State University

Anthony D. Greene, College of Charleston

Leslie Alexander, Ohio State University

Richard Pierce, University of Notre Dame

Ernest Morrell, Teachers College, Columbia University

Barnor Hesse, Northwestern University

Jasmine Johnson, Brandeis University

Valerie Bridgeman, Methodist Theological School in Ohio

Lisa Woolfork, University of Virginia

Donnie Johnson Sackey, Wayne State University

Frances B. Henderson, Maryville College

Carla Shedd, Columbia University

Fadeke Castor, Texas A&M University

Layli Maparyan, Wellesley College

Courtney D. Marshall, University of New Hampshire

Chad Williams, Brandeis University

Uri McMillan, University of California-Los Angeles

Daryl Michael Scott, Howard University

Robin M. Boylorn, University of Alabama

JeffriAnne Wilder, University of North Florida

Tommie Shelby, Harvard University

Reid Gómez, Kalamazoo College

Crystal M. Hayes, North Carolina State University

Joel Wade, Bucknell University

Thadious Davis, University of Pennsylvania

Shirletta J. Kinchen, University of Louisville

Noelle Trent, University of Maryland University College

Martha S. Jones, University of Michigan

Filomina C. Steady, Wellesley College

Valorie Thomas, Pomona College

Christa J. Porter, Michigan State University

Tabitha Chester, Denison University

H. Samy Alim, Stanford University

Gloria Ladson-Billings, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Brian Bantum, Seattle Pacific University

Ana Lucia Araujo, Professor of History, Howard University

Marlon Rachquel Moore, UNC Wilmington

Michelle Barrett Ferrier, Ohio University

Ferentz Lafargue, Williams College

Barbara Krauthamer, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

JoAnne Marie Terrell, Chicago Theological Seminary

Teri McMurtry-Chubb, Mercer University

Shannon J. Miller, Minnesota State University, Mankato

Gail Arthurs Krahenbuhl, Triton College

Elaine Richardson, Ohio State University

Ashante Reese, Rhodes College

Larry Lee Rowley, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Teresa Fry Brown, Candler School of Theology, Emory University

Celeste Walley-Jean, Clayton State University

Deirdre Cooper Owens, Queens College, CUNY

Phia S. Salter, Texas A&M University

Deborah E. McDowell, University of Virginia

Tiffany M. Gill, University of Delaware

Wil Gafney, Texas Christian University

Utz McKnight, University of Alabama

Robin J Hayes, The New School

Robyn Spencer, Lehman College

Sonja Lanehart, University of Texas at San Antonio

Chris Johnson, University of Memphis

Natanya Duncan, Morgan State University

Stephanie Y. Evans, Clark Atlanta University

Hilton Kelly, Davidson College

Ernest L. Gibson III, Rhodes College

LaTasha Levy, University of Virginia

LaTasha Levy, Carter G. Woodson Institute, University of Virginia

April Warren-Grice, Kansas State University

Erin M. Kerrison, University of Pennsylvania

Elaine Salo, University of Delaware

Relando Thompkins, Oakland University, University of Michigan

James M Jones, University of Delaware

Judith Weisenfeld, Princeton University

Alicia D. Bonaparte, Pitzer College

Candice M. Jenkins, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Barrett Berry, Valparaiso University

Cecilia D. Shelton, Saint Augustine’s University

Leah Gunning Francis, Eden Theological Seminary

Michelle R. Scott, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Saru M. Matambanadzo, Tulane University

Bryana H. French, University of St. Thomas

Kyra D. Gaunt, Baruch College-CUNY

Peggy Jones, University of Nebraska at Omaha

Ethan Johnson, Portland State University

Kidada E. Williams, Wayne State University​

Regina N. Bradley, Kennesaw State University

Kelvin C. Black, Hunter College

Tara Betts, Binghamton University

Shawn M. Bediako, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Siobhan Carter-David, Southern Connecticut State University

Walidah Imarisha, Portland State University

Samaa Abdurraqib, University of Southern Maine

Dr. Krystal D. Frazier, West Virginia University

Jonterri Gadson, Bloomfield College

Kimberly R. Moffitt, University of Maryland Baltimore County

Sybol Anderson, St. Mary’s College of Maryland

Stephanie Baker White, University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Khalilah L. Brown-Dean, Quinnipiac University

Araya Debessay, University of Delaware

Anne H. Charity Hudley, The College of William and Mary

Carmen Kynard, John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY

Lisa Green, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Reena Goldthree, Dartmouth College

Trina J. Wright-Dixon, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Lisa K. Bates, Portland State University

Ginny M. Jones, Michigan State University

Jacinda Townsend, Indiana University

Simone Browne, The University of Texas at Austin

André Carrington, Drexel University

If you are a Black professor and would like to add your name, please email with your name as you would like it to appear, along with your institution.

(If you do not identify as Black and/or a professor you can support by sharing widely. Thank you for being with us.)

(Also, adding names as fast as I can. Going to take some time. I can’t respond to every email message, but thank you. Y’all are bringing the love right now.)


From Aspiring Humanitarian, Relando Thompkins, MSW, LLMSW



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Written by

I'm a Social Justice Educator and Aspiring Humanitarian who is interested in conflict resolution, improving intergroup relations, and building more equitable and inclusive communities. "Notes from an Aspiring Humanitarian" is my blog, where I write about issues of diversity, inclusion, equity, and social justice. By exploring social identities through written word, film & video, and other forms of media, I hope to continue to expand and enrich conversations about social issues that face our society, and to find ways to take social action while encouraging others to do so as well in their own ways.

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