Dear Marist School Community,
During the past month, we have watched two Black men, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, and a Black woman, Breonna Taylor, die needlessly, with one begging for his life. Unfortunately, these are only the latest examples of a long, painful, and shameful history of violence and injustice perpetrated against Black people in our country. Understandably, these latest injustices have sparked an outpouring of grief and rage throughout our nation and here in Atlanta. I want our Black students and their parents, for whom this whole series of events are of particular pain and anguish, to know that Marist School stands with them.
On the feast of Pentecost, Archbishop Gregory Hartmeyer asked priests and deacons to preach on the institutional and personal sins of racism, as well as the violence that has been inflicted, in particular, on Black people in our communities. “Now is the time not just to get the conversation started,” he said, “but to spark a call to action, a call to personal conversion, a call to changing the narrative, and to truly living out our call to love one another.” These injustices have led Archbishop Hartmeyer, “…to call on all those in positions of authority, police, elected officials and yes, even pastors, to struggle with this issue—to seek the conversion we need to do the hard work of pursuing true justice in our world.”
The Marists of the United States Province also has made its voice heard. “The Society of Mary (Marists in the U.S.) is deeply saddened and strongly condemns the violation of human dignity that we, along with millions of others, witnessed in the video of George Floyd’s last minutes, another African American man being killed before our eyes. We stand in solidarity with all people of color who are at risk of violence in our country. Indifference is not an option.”
With the Church’s call to action in mind, what we are witnessing on a national scale is a reminder of the importance of our continued efforts to establish a school culture that is unambiguously opposed to any expressions of racism and bigotry on our campus. We are working to change policy and practice, curriculum (including our upcoming summer reading), faculty and staff development, and student programming. Our anti-racist stance, which remains aligned with our faith, will be clearly seen and felt in the months and years to come.
Let me conclude by referencing St. Paul who, in his First Letter to the Corinthians, referred to the Church as the Body of Christ. “But God has so constructed the body as to give greater honor to a part that is without it, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the parts may have the same concern for one another. If [one] part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy.”
The pain and anguish that the Black community is experiencing is not only theirs; nor should they suffer alone. The Marist School community stands united with the Black community during this time of need. Let us promise each other and rededicate our commitment to bringing about that day when, together, we shall overcome.
Deep in my heart, I do believe.
In the name of Mary,
Fr. Bill Rowland, S.M.