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President Gilmour: Make voices heard against racial injustice, inequality

Fifty-five years after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called for all Americans to stand up to injustice, Pennsylvania College of Technology’s leader – reflecting on a beloved nation again riven by social unrest – urged a renewed embrace of that civic responsibility. “Now is not the time for silence or inaction,” President Davie Jane Gilmour said in a campuswide email to students and employees. “Now, more than five decades later, it is again time for action. We must call out racial injustice and inequality, whenever we encounter it, in clear and unequivocal terms.”

The following message was shared Wednesday morning with the Penn College community:

As someone who has lived long enough to recall the often turbulent efforts to achieve racial equality in the 1960s, I am deeply dismayed by recent events – beginning with the tragic killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd – that signal insufficient progress in the struggle to end structural and systemic racism in America.

Watching news coverage of nationwide protests, and of the violence that has erupted once again in a deeply divided country, leaves many of us reeling and wondering how to summon hope in the face of helplessness. But now is not the time for silence or inaction.

“A man dies when he refuses to stand up for that which is right. A man dies when he refuses to stand up for justice. A man dies when he refuses to take a stand for that which is true.”

Those words, spoken in a sermon by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on March 8, 1965, the day after scores of peaceful protesters, including U.S. Rep. John Lewis, then with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, were brutally beaten in the “Bloody Sunday” civil rights march in Selma, Alabama, served as a clarion call.

Now, more than five decades later, it is again time for action. We must call out racial injustice and inequality, whenever we encounter it, in clear and unequivocal terms.

At Penn College, one of the Core Values we wholeheartedly espouse is a “Community of Respect: We celebrate our diversity and are committed to inclusiveness, recognizing that mutual respect for individual differences is the foundation of our learning community.”

A fellow college leader confided in me how recent events have made her fear for her own son’s life. Her anguish – like that of most people of color right now – was palpable.

I implore everyone in the Penn College community to fully embrace a Community of Respect, so that no one ever has to suffer from prejudice or intolerance or has reason to fear others on our campus as they pursue their dreams of a better life.

I am reminded of another quote, this one from impromptu remarks offered by Sen. Robert F. Kennedy in another particularly turbulent year, 1968, when he delivered news of Dr. King’s assassination on April 4 to a predominantly African American audience in Indianapolis.

“We can do well in this country. We will have difficult times; we’ve had difficult times in the past; we will have difficult times in the future. It is not the end of violence; it is not the end of lawlessness; it is not the end of disorder. But the vast majority of white people and the vast majority of black people in this country want to live together, want to improve the quality of our life, and want justice for all human beings who abide in our land.”

Please heed the call for justice for all, and do what is right. Make your voice heard when you witness hate, racism, intolerance or oppression of any kind. Make a stand for the truth, and know that I will have your back, as I firmly believe that you will have mine.

Thank you.

Davie Jane Gilmour

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