A Message on Black History Month

TO: Students, Families, Faculty, Staff, Alumni and Friends
FROM: Robin Kelley, Ph.D., Chief Diversity Officer
SUBJ: Black History Month Message
DATE: February 3, 2022
I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality. ...I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.
Rev. Martin Luther King

February is Black History Month, formally established in 1976 by President Gerald Ford to “honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” While we appreciate that this opportunity was created to center ourselves on Black history as our nation continues to grapple with its past, we also know that Black history is American history. Although we celebrate Black history this month, we acknowledge and celebrate Black history every month, and all year long.

The words of U.S. Rep. Yvette Clarke resonate for us at Gonzaga: “We must never forget that Black History is American History. The achievements of African Americans have contributed to our nation’s greatness.”

In that spirit, we encourage the Gonzaga community to embrace opportunities, both spontaneous and planned, to bolster our collective sense of our rich history and inclusiveness this month. Several events are planned specifically to mark this occasion, from art exhibits to a musical performance to conversations about justice in America. To learn more, please visit our summary of events.

As a community that prides itself on cultivating a welcoming spirit and embracing a mature commitment to the dignity of the human person, social justice, diversity, and intercultural competence, Gonzaga has had its share of both challenges and advances with respect to integrating diversity, equity, and inclusion into the fabric of all aspects of the University. I am so grateful to students, families, alumni and colleagues who have and continue to push us toward greater diversity, respect for every individual and recognition of the contributions of all members of our community. Let’s together honor this Black History Month by having more conversations, learning from one another, and taking actions to move our community forward in solidarity toward transformational change.

We can grow our spirit from the words of Howard Thurman. A prolific author, Thurman wrote at least 20 books; perhaps the most famous is “Jesus and the Disinherited” (1949), which deeply influenced Martin Luther King Jr. and other leaders of the civil rights movement. Thurman was the first Black person to become a tenured dean at a predominantly White institution, Boston University.

Lord, Lord, Open Unto Me

Open unto me, light for my darkness
Open unto me, courage for my fear
Open unto me, hope for my despair
Open unto me, peace for my turmoil
Open unto me, joy for my sorrow
Open unto me, strength for my weakness
Open unto me, wisdom for my confusion
Open unto me, forgiveness for my sins
Open unto me, tenderness for my toughness
Open unto me, love for my hates
Open unto me, Thy Self for myself
Lord, Lord, open unto me!

– Howard Thurman, from "Meditations of the Heart"

While watching the Winter Olympics that start this weekend, we can also nurture our spirit by being mindful of the words of Wilma Rudolph, the first American woman to win three gold medals at a single Olympic Games: "Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit. We are all the same in this notion: The potential for greatness lives within each of us."

Interested in joining Gonzaga in observance of Black History Month?