Black History Month calls us to ponder shared humanity

Dear Faculty, Staff, and Students:

“My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.”

Those words of famed South African cleric and anti-apartheid and human rights activist Desmond Tutu seem particularly appropriate to ponder as we celebrate Black History Month throughout February.

For even as we recognize the enormous achievements and contributions of African Americans to culture, politics, and society at large this month, we must equally focus on the injustices that have hobbled and halted the path toward true freedom and equality. As Tutu suggests, embracing and equally valuing the dignity of all lives is the ultimate measure of our shared humanness.

In my time at WSU, I have seen a statewide university community committed to working together with compassion to better align the University’s core values about equality with our day-to-day business practices. We have made progress—particularly during the past two years—but much work remains to be done.

To continue that progress, we as a collective community must continue to revisit the lessons of the past so that we can better understand the present, while planning for the future. WSU’s Black History Month events are designed to do exactly that.

I encourage you to take advantage of these system-wide opportunities and virtually attend as many of the planned programs as possible. They will be joyful and thought-provoking. They will open your mind to different experiences and viewpoints. They will provide a close‑up reminder that it requires strength, endless hope, resiliency, and hard work by African Americans and their allies to move our country forward in the journey toward a more just and equal nation.

Among the don’t-miss activities:

February 9, 11 a.m.
Musician and scholar Ashley Killam will present the lecture “Fanfare for the Unheard: A Voice for Emerging Stars in Music,” part of the Music: A Mosaic of Experiences lecture series sponsored by the Center for Arts and Humanities and the School of Music.

February 10, 7 p.m.
Creative Writers Series presents Chigozie Obioma.” Obioma is the author of the novel The Fishermen (2015), which was a finalist for the Man Booker prize and a winner of four other awards, including an NAACP Image Award. The series is a collaboration between WSU Vancouver, WSU Tri‑Cities, and WSU Pullman.

February 16, 6 p.m.
The Difference Between Being Not Racist and Anti‑Racist.” Author and historian Ibram X. Kendi will discuss the transformative concept of antiracism and discuss how it can be applied to uproot injustice and inequality in the world.

February 17, 1 p.m.
Black History Month Fireside Chat.” This hour‑long dialogue sponsored by the WSU Tri‑Cities MOSAIC Center for Student Inclusion will focus on how injustice and advocacy is seen through the lens of different lived experiences. Residents will share stories about the adversity and triumphs of living and working in the Tri‑Cities region.

February 22, 6 p.m.
One Everett, One Book: Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi.” This Everett community event, cosponsored by WSU Everett, will engage attendees in a conversation about race and social justice based on the book coauthored by Reynolds and Kendi, Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You.

Check out the website of each campus as well as the African American Student Center website for more details about these events and other planned Black History Month activities. And don’t forget the rich array of ongoing activities focused on Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy, which will continue virtually through the end of April.

We are all well aware that the path leading to justice will not be easy or painless. But if we persist as a society in embracing what is right rather than what is wrong—emphasizing our shared humanity—the progression to a day in which all people are truly free to pursue their dreams will eventually arrive.

I want to close with another powerful thought from Tutu:

“We are made for goodness…We are made for togetherness…We are made to tell the world that there are no outsiders. All are welcome: black, white, red, yellow, rich, poor, educated, not educated, male, female, gay, straight, all, all, all. We all belong to this family, this human family…”

May we continue to strive to create a future in which our society—and our university—authentically reflect Tutu’s vision.

Best regards,