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Dear alumni/ae and friends,

To paraphrase a song from my youth by Bob Dylan, “the times they are a-roiling.” From natural disasters in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean, Mexico and beyond to human-made carnage in Nevada and Tennessee, it seems as though we have no relief from the constant barrage of violence that we have been living with in our times. I find myself sipping despair and hopelessness with my morning coffee until I remember that I was not raised that way; I was not raised to live in such a desolate place.

It takes more than a “don’t worry, be happy” faith or sense of resilience to begin to stand up and resist this despair. It takes more than prayer and fasting—though these meditative practices help us center and ready ourselves for the challenges that we face. It takes a deep, fierce, robust and at times ornery faith that refuses to believe that the world as it is now is the world that we will have to live in for our futures. This kind of faith takes a village of folks—a community—that understands that amidst tragedy and horror we must turn to a warp-speed spirituality and soul-deep commitment to justice that absolutely refuses to bow down to injustice or surrender to the wastelands of hopelessness.

As we all turn to face the ways in which we must continue to build communities that face the tragedies and disasters that come in our personal lives and neighborhoods, as well as those far beyond the circle of people we know, we must gather together to build bridges, rather than fortresses of fear. This takes more than hurling rhetoric, tweets or paper towels in the face of human suffering, fear and tragedy. We must find ways to reach out to each other, with our differences as gifts to offer one another, and begin to see each other as flesh and blood rather than as stereotypes and innuendos.

Let’s build communities that seek to gather us all in, rather than build silos of lonely isolation masquerading as joy and fulfillment. Our lives can be richer and fuller as we build these communities. They will help us to bring genuine comfort to those who are afflicted, to live into the best of the rich diversity that is our human family, and to give us guideposts for hope.


Emilie Townes

Emilie M. Townes

E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Chair
Professor of Womanist Ethics and Society


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