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Emory leaders speak out against racist violence; vigils planned

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As Emory leaders speak out against racist violence, the community will come together Friday, June 5, to unite for an anti-racist world.

A university-wide online solidarity vigil is set for 4 p.m. Friday. Earlier in the day, the Emory medicine community will hold “White Coats for Black Lives” events on the Emory Quadrangle and at six hospitals. Masks and social distancing will be mandatory.

“All of us are grappling with the violent deaths of Georgia resident Ahmaud Arbery, Minneapolis citizen George Floyd, Kentucky citizen Breonna Taylor, and too many other instances of racism and violence against people of color,” Emory President Claire E. Sterk said in a message sent to the Emory community May 30. “These senseless acts strike at the heart of Emory’s commitment to upholding equity, diversity and inclusion. Now, more than ever, we must stand together against intolerance and racism.” 

Sterk will speak at Friday’s online solidarity vigil, which is hosted by the Office of Spiritual and Religious Life along with Campus Life. Other speakers include Carol Henderson, vice provost for diversity and inclusion and chief diversity officer; LaNita Campbell, director of the Office for Racial and Cultural Engagement; the Rev. Greg McGonigle, university chaplain and dean of religious life; and Olivia Johnson, a student in the Laney Graduate School.

The event will also include a reading from Jericho Brown, Emory’s Winship Distinguished Research Professor in Creative Writing, who recently won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Attendees should register to attend and are encouraged to light a candle for those who have died.

 “The Emory community stands for justice in all aspects of our mission, and when confronted with hatred and prejudice, we must speak out,” Sterk emphasized in her message. “Emory respects the dignity and value of all human beings, and our community will continue to engage in conversations that matter, no matter how difficult the dialogue, so that together, we might seek a more just and equitable world for all.”

Emory President-elect Gregory L. Fenves, who takes the helm of the university Aug. 1, sent a message to the community June 2 reflecting on the tragedies of the past weeks and the protests in Atlanta and across the nation.

“The murder of George Floyd, under the knee of a police officer, horrified me as a human being and as an American,” Fenves said. “Mr. Floyd’s death, coming in the wake of so many other killings of African American citizens — including Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia — has unleashed anger and outrage about systemic racism that has not been addressed more than 60 years after the Civil Rights Movement started. We are still fighting the same battles and people have had enough — of racist violence, of organized hatred and of longstanding social inequities.” 

But amid the despair, the Emory community has the ability to lead change “through education, research, health care and creative expression, but also by leading with your hearts,” he continued, noting that he learned from his father that “it is our duty to speak up — to not be silent — so that injustice could be rooted out and overcome. 

“It is my hope, then, that the tragedy of George Floyd’s murder and those before him will awaken us all to our deepest flaws and help us heal, change and create a better future, together,” Fenves said.

Interim Provost Jan Love called on the Emory community to remember that “education is only one tool, but it is powerful” and to note that the university’s motto — “the wise heart seeks knowledge” — “deliberately combines head and heart.”

“Righteous rage is a healthy immediate emotion in response to the outrageous violence we are witnessing perpetrated against black people,” Love said in June 3 message to the Emory community. “If you want to be part of meaningful, productive and life-giving change, definitely get mad, but then get busy. We all have work to do. Let’s do it together.”

White Coats for Black Lives

The Emory School of Medicine community will gather in seven locations earlier on Friday for “White Coats for Black Lives” events. Participants will kneel for 8 minutes and 46 seconds in remembrance of George Floyd, as well as countless other victims of racist violence. 

“Our aspirations for a racism-free world seem so very, very far away. For that, we should all be sad, angry, and at the same time energized to do all that we can to serve as forces of change to support each other, regardless of race, and to confront both racism and the racists who would seek to divide and damage,” Emory Healthcare CEO Jonathan S. Lewin said in May 30 message

The events take place at 1 p.m. and all are welcome to attend; masks and social distancing will be mandatory. Locations include the following: 

  • School of Medicine and Clifton Campus (EUH): Emory Quadrangle
  • Emory University Hospital Midtown: Orr Building Courtyard
  • Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital: Meditation Garden
  • Emory Johns Creek Hospital: Classrooms A & B, Lower Level
  • Emory Decatur Hospital: Front Plaza by the flagpole
  • Emory Hillandale Hospital: Main Entrance
  • Grady Memorial Hospital: Main Entrance on the corner of Jesse Hill and Gilmer Street

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