A nation was teetering on the brink. Americans were distraught, protesting in cities around the country—with both anger and sadness—to put an end to systemic racism once and for all. And one month after a Black man, George Floyd, died under the knee of a white police officer, the BU community came together for a watershed moment in the University’s history. In late June, BU’s Diversity & Inclusion office, led by Crystal Williams, vice president and associate provost for community and inclusion, hosted a series of virtual conversations, inviting faculty, staff, and students to come, to listen, to share, to be heard. The “BU Day of Collective Engagement: Racism and Antiracism, Our Realities and Our Roles,” carried a sense of urgency, and determination, for the 5,000 members of the community who participated.
“This country is really good at forgetting,” Louis Chude-Sokei, the chairman of BU’s African American Studies Program, said during the day. “Knowledge of the past is not fun in America. It’s not a thing Americans enjoy.” When it was over, one message was clear to those who took part: This was not the end—this was the beginning, a time for the University to look in the mirror and ask what it could do, what it must do, to bring about real change, both at home and in society. Williams said she was deeply moved by the turnout and BU’s efforts to start confronting racism in America. “This is an extraordinary moment,” she said.