We are a nation of storytellers with a narrative quilt connecting our lives, our shared pain, and our struggles. As a nation, we are stronger together, but decades of racial injustice, social inequity, and systemic acts of violence against the Black and Brown community have separated us. Throughout history, there have been moments of awakening where we have taken up these broader questions and attempted to settle them; but, we have found that moments can only lead to movements when there is an infrastructure in place to support operationalizing the work. We are in the midst of one of those moments, and The Institute will be a place to house the research, train our students, and operationalize the movement for racial and social justice. Our goal is to tell the stories that led us to this moment and capture the stories that are currently being told. Some of these stories are not new; indeed, America has a long and complicated history of wrestling with the questions of racism and white supremacy. As an institution, Loyola has long been committed to addressing these difficult questions and providing opportunities to implement solutions.
Our nation is built upon a tradition of storytelling. From bedtime stories to scriptures and Facebook posts to Tweets, we have used our words to contribute our voice to a shared lived experience. At the same time, stories from the Holy Bible, the Torah, the Koran, our grandparents, and our activist elders, have been used to define, shape, and challenge our moral character and fiber. We are defined by but not limited to how we have responded (and will respond) during these moments of crisis. There are times when we have risen to the challenge and exemplified the true nature of who we hope to be as a nation—moments like the March on Washington, the 9/11 attack, the March for Our Lives, the Black Lives Matter Movement, and more recently the Justice for George Floyd protest movement—and there are times when we have fallen short. We failed to live up to the creed of this nation and use our privilege to ensure liberty and justice for all. It is the story of those moments, where we failed, that must be held up to the light of truth and examined. These are the stories that will be explored within The Institute and used to help facilitate conversations for how our campus and Baltimore can be reimagined and redesigned as inclusive spaces that actively promote and support social justice and equity.
We are aware that there are a multitude of issues facing our communities but by narrowly focusing our efforts on racial, social, and healing justice, The Institute ultimately seeks to counteract the type of “miseducation” that Carter G. Woodson discussed in his book, The Miseducation of the Negro. He argued that, “The same educational process which inspires and stimulates the oppressor with the thought that he is everything and has accomplished everything worthwhile, depresses and crushes at the same time the spark of genius in the Negro by making him feel that his race does not amount to much and never will measure up to the standards of other peoples. The Negro thus educated is a hopeless liability of the race.” Woodson was specifically talking about African American students, but it is important to note that when our stories do not include everybody’s contribution and perspective, then everyone is miseducated. Words are powerful, and according to Maya Angelou, they can “cause us to be well and hopeful and high energy and wondrous and funny and cheerful.” Words are also a powerful medium that effectively examines critical moments in American history. The Institute will provide a counter-narrative that actively reminds our students that our shared American history is not divided by our race or our gender or by our ethnic group; but, it is united by the core stories that make up our nation and define who and what we used to be and what we are becoming.