Dear Campus Community,
A few days ago, a jury found former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty of second-degree murder and other charges in the May 25 killing of George Floyd. I needed some time to reflect on the outcome. I, along with you, followed the trial with worry and hope. This verdict does not make up for past wrongs or prevent future acts of violence or racism. But, we can all exhale and sigh with a bit of relief. This ruling is, more than anything, about accountability. Chancellor Joseph Castro expressed this beautifully in his statement.
This verdict is a step towards addressing systemic racism in our country. A step towards holding those accountable who exploit their power to harm others. We, at Sonoma State, stand together with those who are grieving, angered, or exhausted by the events of this past year. We want to acknowledge the profound emotional and psychological toll that many have felt, particularly our black students and other communities of color, and our alums, colleagues, and friends. These have been particularly trying times. We must remember that the impact of George Floyd’s life and murder does not end with this verdict. Its impact will reverberate and continue to be felt.
It is up to us together….to rise and move forward. To move forward with conviction to help change our campus, communities, state, country, and world. We still have so much work to do. I’m reminded of a quote from the great U.S. Representative and activist John Lewis from his book, Across That Bridge: Life Lessons and a Vision for Change.
"Take a long, hard look down the road you will have to travel once you have made a commitment to work for change. Know that this transformation will not happen right away. Change often takes time. It rarely happens all at once…."
But, importantly, change starts with us. We must learn from and respect one another. We must live by our core values of diversity and social justice and connectivity and community engagement. Through these values, which dictate that everyone — irrespective of their background or experience — is welcome and that every single one of us belongs here. We must each take responsibility and continue or work towards building an anti-racist society.
Student leaders recently had a meaningful virtual gathering with other students across campus to discuss the outcome of the trial. I invite each of you to connect and support one another by attending one of the upcoming virtual group discussions. For more information on the discussions, visit the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion website.
For students: Thursday, April 22, 5 - 6 p.m.
For faculty and staff and administrators: Friday, April 23, 12 - 1 p.m.
Traumatic events can affect us in different ways and at different times. These discussions are opportunities to share your experiences and deeply listen to how racism and discrimination have impacted a friend, a colleague, or a classmate. I also want to remind you of the support offered to students by Counseling and Psychological Services at (707)-664-2153 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. For faculty and staff, support is available through our Employee Assistance Program, LifeMatters by Empathia.
As a campus community and as individuals, we will continue to seek justice and accountability. Together, we will continue to help build a more just, more equitable, more compassionate, and more peaceful democracy. In these challenging times, remember that our Sonoma State community is a caring community….we are here for each other.
“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -
With care and gratitude,
Judy K. Sakaki