On Tuesday, Marymount University hosted virtual events with students, staff, faculty and community members to encourage honest conversations and opportunities to build trust in commemoration of the National Day of Racial Healing.
“On this day, we gather together with our diverse religious and spiritual traditions to condemn racism in all its forms,” explained Shannon Boley, Assistant Director of the Office of Ministry and Spiritual Life at Marymount. “We seek for ourselves and for one another — liberation, healing and community.”
The National Day of Racial Healing is observed annually on the Tuesday following Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and is hosted by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The annual observance was created to further the mission of the Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation effort, which seeks to help communities broaden the understanding of diverse experiences among people and enact sustainable change towards a more just and unprejudiced world.
“In recent years, Marymount has made it abundantly clear that our community stands against racial injustice and inequity,” said Dr. Irma Becerra, President of Marymount. “In 2021, Marymount was selected to host a Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation Campus Center, which will prepare our Saints to become next-generation leaders who are ready to tear down racialized practices and inspire equitable change.”
Marymount’s Office of Ministry and Spiritual Life and the You Belong Here Inclusion Network hosted ‘Unmasking the Truth: An Interfaith Prayer Service,’ the first University event on the National Day of Racial Healing. The online event featured poignant reflections from Rev. Gabriel Muteru, Marymount’s Chaplain, Rev. James Simmons, Pastor at First Good Samaritan Baptist Church and Saif Abdul-Rahman, Director of Public and Governmental Affairs for the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center.
“In this reflection, I would like us to think about love and its opposite, which is hate,” Rev. Muteru said. “These are two forces that either build or destroy the human community. Both are emotions and feelings, but unlike other feelings, love and hate belong not to a physical level but on the spiritual. While feeling cold or pain is beyond our control, love and hate are choices that we make. They are intentional and deliberate.”
Students, staff and faculty engaged with each other during the prayer service through the reading of passages from both religious and other significant works that spoke to a higher meaning of unity.
“All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab,” said Sulakha Abdi, a student and Marymount Interfaith Ambassador, as she read from the Prophet Mohammed’s Last Sermon.
“Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within,” read Charlie McCall from James Baldwin’s book, ‘The Fire Next Time.’ “I use the word ‘love’ not merely in the personal sense but as a state of being, or a state not in the infantile American sense of being happy but in the tough and universal sense of quest and daring and growth.”
The event came to a close with a final prayer by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., titled ‘Shake Us from Our Slumber,’ read by Delario Lindsey, Interim Director of the Center for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Marymount.
“When our eyes do not see the gravity of racial justice, shake us from our slumber and open our eyes, O Lord,” Lindsey recited. “When out of fear we are frozen into inaction, give us a spirit of bravery, O Lord.”
The Interfaith Prayer Service was followed by a virtual support space, in which community members were given the opportunity to speak openly, reflect and listen to one another. This event was co-led by Dr. Sara Hallisey, Lecturer of Literature and Languages, and Dr. Camille Buckner, Professor of Psychology at Marymount and Co-Chair of the University’s committee on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
“There is power in coming together in community to affirm the importance of doing racial equity work and to recommit to this challenging work,” Buckner stated. “We stand to make the best progress in the work when we join forces and support each other.”
”These types of events are essential for promoting a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion here at Marymount,” Lindsey added. “And, I hope that this particular event will become an annual tradition that the community can look forward to, year after year.”