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Vital voices speak out about racial injustice

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Listening to vital voices who visited the NYS Writers Institute speak out about racial injustice

Across our local communities and the nation, we are enveloped by grief, rage, and confusion as we mourn the killing of George Floyd and recall with pain and sadness countless other horrifying deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of white police officers.

We join with University at Albany President Havidán Rodríguez who reminds us that we are a diverse campus community standing in solidarity with those demanding justice. In today's letter to UAlbany students, faculty, and staff today, he said:

“As a community that deeply values diversity, equity, and inclusion, UAlbany stands strong in rejecting racism, hate, and violence, which are diametrically opposed to our core beliefs and values.”

Mahogany Browne in Albany in February. (photo by Paul Grondahl)
Mahogany Browne in Albany. (photo by Paul Grondahl)

We have a long tradition at the NYS Writers Institute of inviting writers of color who speak eloquently and powerfully about the long struggle against racial injustice. Their essays, poetry, fiction and creative work gives voice and hope to oppressed people and helps us all better understand and provide context for our nation’s long history of discrimination and racism.

These are difficult conversations to have and they make some uncomfortable, but they are necessary discussions and we have a responsibility at the NYS Writers Institute to provide a forum especially to writers who stand up for the disenfranchised, who give voice to the voiceless, and who afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.

We share excerpts and social media posts from recent guests of our Visiting Writers Series: Ijeoma Oluo, author of the acclaimed non-fiction book So You Want to Talk About Race, and poet-educator-activist Mahogany Browne, author of Black Girl Magic, Smudge, and other award-winning poetry collections.

June 1, 2020

Dear UAlbany Community:

Today, we are a nation in mourning—a nation that is experiencing hate, fear, and an unacceptable sense of loss. Our communities of color have endured unequal treatment for far too long. We can vividly see this in the grief and anger over the tragic death of George Floyd, as well as the disproportionate impacts of COVID-19 on minority communities. Today, we grieve and are saddened by the devastating loss of life, the violence, and the destruction that is impacting communities across our country.

As a community that deeply values diversity, equity, and inclusion, UAlbany stands strong in rejecting racism, hate, and violence, which are diametrically opposed to our core beliefs and values.

However, we are also hopeful and inspired by the acts of kindness that we have seen in these very difficult times. The peaceful protests clamoring for justice; community organizations coming out to provide nourishment to those who suffer food insecurity; people helping local businesses pick up the pieces as a result of so much violence and destruction; the ongoing calls for unity—to address issues of racial, social, and economic disparities. Yes, there is a sense of hope and optimism in the midst of so much tragedy; and there are many opportunities for us all, collectively, to make a positive difference in our communities.

Our UAlbany community must stand as a beacon of hope, and unequivocally demonstrate our longstanding commitment to social and economic justice through our work to address and eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in our communities.

During these extraordinarily challenging times, it is more important than ever that we support one another and stand strong as a UAlbany family. I am very proud of our strong commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. I am also grateful for our response to COVID-19, which has been generous, innovative, and compassionate. And, I am moved by the way Great Danes are speaking out to end racial injustice.

UAlbany will continue to contribute our research and expertise to fight COVID-19, including the racial disparities that have been laid bare by this global pandemic. We will continue reaching out to help people in need in our communities. We will also keep standing up for what is right.

Most of all, I want you to know that I support you and care deeply about your well-being and your success. While we remain physically apart for now, let us join hands in spirit, knowing that together, we will not only get through this—we will create a better world.


Havidán Rodríguez

President, University at Albany


Ijeoma Oluo talking about race and racism

University at Albany, October 2, 2019


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