‘I am determined Oakwood will continue to be a center of empowerment and witness.’ – Adventist Review

Posted: June 3, 2020 at 12:44 pm


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June 3, 2020

By: Leslie Pollard, Oakwood University

On May 31, 2020, Oakwood University president Leslie Pollard wrote the following letter to the schools community following the death of George Floyd. Oakwood University is an historically Black Seventh-day Adventist school in Huntsville, Alabama, United States.Editors

Since I first shared my feelings about recent eventsin our nationon last Thursday morning [May 28, 2020] during the InsideOakwood radio segment,Ihavecontinued toreflect on the tragic circumstances that led to the death of Mr. George Floyd.The only words and emotions that come to mindareanger, outrage, andexhaustion.Exhaustion because we can only wonder how longwe will asBlackpeople have to grapple with the incessant devaluation ofBlack lives.

Anger, because on a personal note I am angry at the relentless psychological and physical assaults upon people of color. Yes, I am angry the one emotion that is usedby society to stereotypically dismiss the voices of angry black men and angry black women.I am angry about Mr. Floyds murder.And Im outraged when Ifeelforever doomed to wonder whether black young men will survive a routine traffic stop.Im outraged,wondering whetheryoung Blackwomen willbe safe in their own homes or strolling through Central Park.It is almost impossibletobean African -American andnothave, or to not know someone who has had negative encounters involving race everything from being followed in stores, tobeing pulled over while driving a luxury car, or driving in a certain area, tobeingignored indepartmentstoresbecause you dont fit thewealthprofile of otherpatrons...and the list goes on.

But in the wake of Mr. Floyds unnecessary andsenselessdeath, I am also determined.I am determined that the Oakwood community will continue to be a center of empowerment and witness to the lives and work of a generation of student standard bearers. Students who will, in the words of Jesus love theleast of these (Mat. 25:40). I am determined that the faith that has guided OakwoodUniversitysince 1896, and the cultural legacy handed to us as a Historically Black College and University, will continueto produce generations of Black attorneys,physicians,social workers,dentists,teachers, mediaand business professionals thatcombatthe ills ofour people perpetuatedby systems of oppression.Amidgreatturmoilwe must remainfocusedonour continued intellectual and moral development. I am determined that the least of these will be able to financially accessan Oakwoodeducation, so that from the blood-soaked sod of this former slave plantation, a new generation of moral activists will be launched.Greatthinkers will leaveOakwoodssacred groundstonot simply make a dollar,but to make a difference. Mr. Floyd, and all of the Mr. Floyds of the past 400 years, deserve this commitment from our institution. Moral passivityis notan option!

The Oakwood University community extendsour sympathiesto the family of Mr. George Floyd, and all of the other families who have been touched by the tragedy of unexpected and unnecessary death.We further call upon the thousands of devoted law-enforcement officers, who everyday serve and protect communities, to decry andjoin efforts toroot out this violence perpetrated by bad actors in blue from the police forces across our land.And to the parents who entrust their treasure to Oakwood University, be assured that our impactful work with your young people has only just begun. To the administrators, faculty, staff, and alumni of Oakwood University, we commend you for standing strong on behalf of the ministry of justice on our campusevery day.

Finally, to the students of Oakwood University, be it resolved, that youare thegeneration who will pick up the torch handed to you by the pioneers of civil justice, and we who lead and serve at Oakwood will facilitate your indispensable work and witness. This is your moment!Let no one tell you that the work of standing for the right, though the heavens fall is incompatible with the life of faith! Those voices, however sincere, are misguided, because He has [already] shown you, O man, what is good.And what does the Lord require of thee,but to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?(Mic. 6:6-8). May God bless you, and may God bless the transformative work and mission of Oakwood University!

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'I am determined Oakwood will continue to be a center of empowerment and witness.' - Adventist Review

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June 3rd, 2020 at 12:44 pm