Dear Morehouse Community,
The last two nights, I have watched as I am sure you have the frustrations over racism and distrust of our nation’s institutions spill out on the streets of our countries major cities, including Atlanta. My thoughts and prayers have been focused on our students who are not here on this hilltop and have not been since mid-march due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In this moment, I feel even more deeply how important our institution is to our students and the men we have produced over the years. This is a place where black men are valued for their humanity, expected to grow into and commit to excellence and lead and serve in this world.
The tragic circumstances of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd’s deaths makes it all the more clear that Morehouse is more than an ivory tour on the highest hill in Atlanta. It is a place where the racial gravity of our country that devalues lives based on the color of one’s skin is defied. A place where low aim and failure is the sin. We have been a candle in the dark for this nation for 153 years. This current moment of racial tension makes it even more clear that the world needs Morehouse now more than ever. It needs the leaders we produce steeped in a moral and ethical foundation and filled with confidence that defies others negative perceptions and expectations of them.
I watched the fires in Minneapolis on Thursday night. I felt my own anger and vulnerability as a black man with two sons Ahmaud Arbery’s age. I was reminded of what disillusionment and desperation can do when combined with anger and fear. It sets neighbor against neighbor and communities ablaze.
I wrote to the men of Morehouse earlier today to convey to them the need for us to resist the destructive impulses of this moment. Morehouse, her sons, and her entire community are called to be a candle in the dark in this century as we were in the last. It is not an accident that Morehouse produced Martin Luther King Jr. and so many of those who shaped the racial and human progress of the last century. That work is not done. The world needs Morehouse.
I reach out to you now to remind you that we are a community that matters when we pull together, call on our better angels and focus on our mission in changing the world to the betterment of all. It is no accident of the cosmos that two viruses call me to be even more mindful of this institution’s purpose and importance. One is the COVID-19 virus and the other is the racism virus, both of pandemic proportions and a crisis in America today.
COVID-19 has forced us to look at how we secure Morehouse’s long term strength and vitality. The virulence of racism reminds us how important it is that Morehouse continues to develop men with disciplined minds to lead lives of leadership and service. Both viruses also lay bare the deep inequalities of our society and the need for Morehouse to continue to produce those who Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. labeled in my favorite sermon “Drum Majors” for justice.
So in this moment we should not despair. We must turn to our faith. We must love and protect one another. We must recognize our anger and channel it into the non-violent social action that this College educated King and so many others to use to change the world. We must aim to be at the center of those who regardless of race, gender identity, nationality or class, want to build the beloved community.
To the parents of men of Morehouse, please know that your sons, our students, are at the center of our work and decisions. We are finding ways to reach out and support them even though they are not here. We look forward to their safe return to campus. We will only have them return when their health and safety can confidently be secured.
Faculty, staff and alumni of Morehouse College, I want to thank you in advance for keeping the faith and commitment to support our students, our mission and the aim to make a greater Morehouse.
David A. Thomas, President