Walk Into The Sun With Us: A Love Letter to Black Students

Though the classes have changed, the mission has not.
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Dear Black Students:

Previously, we informed you of the revolutionary potential we had as the Black Liberation Collective. After successfully denouncing Tim Wolfe, then University of Missouri president, Black students united to continue the legacy of SNCC, Black Student Leadership Network, and other influential college organizations crucial to the civil rights movement. We became a much­needed support system when our schools didn’t take our concerns seriously. Then, with summer, we went our separate ways.

As fall approaches, we can already feel the overwhelming pain of being on campuses insensitive to our multifaceted experiences. We thought summer offered time to rest, refuel, and replenish ourselves. We accomplished aspects of those goals; redressing our pained bodies by doing intensive self­-care, collective healing, and immersing ourselves in beautiful communities with loved ones. However, the utter disregard for Black humanity demonstrated through the deaths of Korryn Gaines, Alton Sterling, Philando Castille, Skye Mockabee, and countless others ­left us feeling spiritually numb. We handle the numbness differently, but the guilt of being alive coupled with the gratuitous violence against Black bodies left us asking daunting questions.

Where do we go from here? How do we collectively and individually sustain revolutionary hope, love, and joy when the world is burning? And to complicate matters even further, how can we practice accountability within ourselves and each other so when academic pressure ­ juggling papers, loneliness, financial dilemmas, anxiety, deadlines, endless projects, mental illnesses, and no sleep­ returns?

“How do we collectively sustain revolutionary hope, love, and joy when the world is burning?”

Though the classes have changed, the mission has not. We must balance academics, responsibilities, and our sanity. Our campuses are microcosms of a larger, white supremacist society, with little regard for Black livelihood.

And so we ask, because no one else will: How much of the faculty at your school are Black? How much of the student body is Black? Are the Black students taking time off at higher rates? What resources are there to ensure the success of Black students? Are the faculty culturally and racially competent? Does the school have cultural competency courses in place for faculty to take? Are students required to take any classes on marginalized folks? What resources are available to the students in the case that they experience racism at the hands of their faculty, staff, and student body?

We remember when Black students brought up these issues to administrators, students and staff urged us to be silent. They fought tooth and nail to deny any validity regarding manifestations of white supremacy on our campus and they will do the same on yours. They will tell you the aforementioned issues are irrelevant or petty. They will tell you that what’s happening to Black lives outside of your school has nothing to do with your own livelihood; that the deaths of people who look like you have no bearing on your own soul.

Protect your temple and carve out time during the school year for yourself. Give and receive Black hugs. Get off Twitter sometimes. Engage with nature. Read poems from our ancestors who whisper to us right now. Tell someone you love them. Ask an elder for a hug. Compliment someone’s natural hair. Oil your scalp with coconut oil. Laugh at something completely inappropriate. Color. Kiss someone on the cheek. Kick it with kids. Drink water. Go for a run. Sing to yourself. Burn sage. Take a relaxing shower. Write. Paint your nails. Wear that shade of lipstick on the first day of school. Or call upon this community when you forget how to move.

When someone tries to silence you, scream louder! We must continue to speak truth to power. When we look at how Black students have protested on their campuses, largely to reach the same goals, we are reminded of our power. Collectively, we must continue to speak the truth when the world wants us to believe there is no truth to speak. We do it because there are Black students sitting next to you and will follow you. They shouldn’t have to endure the same struggle we, as well as our predecessors, have endured.

May you find encouragement in the words shared on this thread. Remember, even on your worst days, you’re loved, whether active “in the movement” or not. Never hesitate to seek out therapy or support. Your strength doesn’t have to come from only you. Be the sun one day ­ shine bright and lead us all with your light. Be the moon another and relax in solitude. There’s an army that has your back. Always! We ain’t leaving you. We’re with you. We’re family. I am because we are. We are, therefore we can. Trust.

A student has no method but to learn and transcend because the only thing we cannot transcend is our Blackness; but have no fear, for it is, itself, transcendent. Yet, it is vital that every one of us tap into our ancestors energy for wings to (re)learn the long tradition of resilience, expression, dance, jubilee, healing, and (re)invention. There are going to be days when you forget about your wings, but remember: We are close to our liberation, together.

We won’t lie to you and tell you that you won’t struggle. The struggle is global... and so is the movement for Black lives. Know that you’re part of a global village that transcends language, borders, and politics, a village in which we co­-create a more balanced vision of freedom in which freedom from transforms into freedom to. Together we’re building a new world filled with alternative ecologies. We’re growing our own food, resisting gentrification, organizing in favelas, and not only dreaming but seeking out transient zones of freedom throughout the world. Our very existence is revolutionary, a testament to the fact that our resilience, our joy, our light is undeniable. You’re undeniable and the embodiment of Black gold on your campus.

In love and Blackness,

Ayaan Natala, Storm Ervin, Millecia Lacy, A.D. Carson, Dua Saleh, Faduma Ali, Asanni York, Kaara Vasquez, Marie Johnson, Bethel Gessesse, Charie Payne, Senah Yeboah­Sampong, Malikia Kayinyemi, Muna Mohamed, Johnathan Pulphus, Niara Williams, and the Black Liberation Collective

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