The Forum on Racial Justice in America, a University-wide initiative to address structural racism in our nation and explore how Boston College can work to build an anti-racist community, was publicly launched on October 7 with a Service of Hope and Reconciliation, the first of five events slated for this month.
“Our nation is at a critical juncture in our history,” said Boston College Law School Dean Vincent Rougeau, the forum director, who opened the service at the School of Theology and Ministry Chapel in Simboli Hall. “The violent killing of George Floyd and other Black men and women during this past year—and sadly, countless years before—has resulted in protests, anguish, shock, and social division that has reminded us of the unfinished business of racial justice in the United States.
“As a Jesuit, Catholic university, and one of this country’s great institutions, BC must be a leader in the fight for racial justice, and must never waver in its commitment to the God-given dignity of all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, color, or creed. We will do this through respectful dialogue, honest conversations, contrition, forgiveness, and reconciliation, followed by a renewed, shared commitment to solidarity, mutual respect, and the common good.”
Forum events continue October 15 at 4:30 p.m. with Rougeau moderating a panel discussion, “BLM at BC: Formation and Justice in Higher Education,” which features Associate Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures Régine Jean-Charles, Professor of History Martin Summers, and African and African Diaspora Studies Program Director Shawn McGuffey. The event is available via Zoom conferencing; registration is required.
At the Service of Hope and Reconciliation, University President William P. Leahy, S.J., welcomed those in attendance and watching via livestream, and noted that “it’s so appropriate that we begin this forum with a prayer service for hope and reconciliation, asking in particular that God grant us the strength to live lives marked by faith, trust, and conviction, so that in all we do, we may continue living out our mission….May we especially challenge racism and always strive to build up those around us by living lives that are true to our values and beliefs.”
Rougeau then invited representatives of the BC community to express a commitment to action for the coming year, beginning with Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences Dean Gregory Kalscheur, S.J., who stated, “I will work to help our academic departments, programs, and faculty members make anti-racism and commitment to racial justice more integral parts of a BC formative education, oriented toward building up the common good.
“I will strive to make anti-racism a more regular theme in my homilies when presiding at Mass, and I will continue to pray for an ongoing conversion of hearts and minds so that the damage caused by the sin of racism might be healed.”
Another speaker was BC Dining Services Employee Relations Officer Marcela Norton, who offered a prayer that God would “keep me faithful and to continue treating everyone with respect and kindness each and every day throughout my career at Boston College and outside of BC; to open my heart; to have the courage to be vulnerable in my interactions with others; and to use humble inquiry to learn and grow from each conversation and exchange with members of my department and the BC community.”
School of Theology and Ministry Associate Professor of the Practice Félix Palazzi said, “As a faculty, we recognize that racism is a personal and structural evil and sin. We want to be committed to creating and promoting a pedagogical environment that cultivates anti-racist actions, speech and thoughts.”
Final pledges were offered by AHANA Leadership Council Director Chinenye Ugocha ’21 and Christian Guma ’21, president of the Undergraduate Government of Boston College.
The forum’s third event of the month, sponsored by the Connell School of Nursing and titled “Tools for Becoming a Racial Justice Warrior: A Conversation with Dr. Camara Phyllis Jones,” takes place at 5:30 p.m. on October 20 via Zoom conferencing. A physician, epidemiologist, past president of the American Public Health Association, and fellow at Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Jones will address structural racism, health care, and how students can serve as anti-racism change agents. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Jones has drawn attention to why racism, not race, is a serious risk factor.
To close out the month, the forum will collaborate with the Courageous Conversations series to present “Racial Justice and Democratic Citizenship: A Pre-Election Conversation” on October 22 at 7 p.m. via Zoom conferencing. In addition, the Division of Student Affairs will host an event titled Solidarity for Racial Justice on October 27 from noon - 8 p.m. on Maloney Lawn.
Details for all events will be posted on the Forum for Racial Justice website, bc.edu/forum.
Phil Gloudemans | University Communications | October 2020