McGovern College Faculty, staff, and students:
We are witnessing senseless racial violence further tear apart an already fragmented nation. We have watched and listened as many in leadership positions have fueled the fires of discord. Like many of you, it gives me great pain and anxiety to see this happening.
The death of George Floyd in Minneapolis hits home for us in part because Mr. Floyd called Houston home, and because his history, like ours, is tied to Houston's Third Ward.
As artists, we must continue to engage productively in finding solutions that can dismantle the systemic oppression that largely explains the unrest and violence happening around us. As artists, we and our art can drive these conversations, and we can be the source of change.
This is a time in which the need to advocate for the value of the arts and higher education becomes even clearer. The great Maya Angelou said it best when she wrote, in words that still resonate today, that our country is “sickened with the pollution of pollution,” that it is “riddled with burgeoning racism, rife with growing huddles of homeless,” and that therefore “we need art and we need art in all forms. We need all methods of art to be present, everywhere present, and all the time present.”
Thus we must continue to focus, through our art, on understanding and action. These are complex problems that require complex solutions. Join me as we continue to determine what we as artists can do, and what change we as an arts college can effect. Again the words of those who have come before us are instructive—this time James Baldwin, who wrote that “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” We must face the problem if we are to have any hope of changing it.
In that spirit, I am announcing today two immediate commitments on the part of the McGovern College of the Arts:
- An annual internal competitive grant for McGovern College of the Arts faculty, awarded for work that will facilitate and advance the conversation on social justice and systemic inequity.
- A scholarship, in memory of George Floyd, awarded to a resident of his native Third Ward to enroll in an undergraduate program in the McGovern College of the Arts.
I want to conclude by telling you that my own pain is the same pain shared by many of you. The fact is that I understand that I may not have the personal experience or perspective to truly know that pain. I appreciate every day the diverse points of view that are brought to our college, to its leadership, and to its faculty, staff, and students by all the citizens of our community, on and off campus. Those views bring us closer to an understanding of one another, which will in turn lead us closer to that aspirational ideal of “one nation” articulated in our country’s founding principles and executed so imperfectly and inadequately over so many years.
I believe we can negotiate the pain, while at the same time we as artists and citizens raise up the ideals, including access, equity, and justice, to which I know we are all committed.