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Message from President Bill Pink: GRCC will help our community heal, learn - and transform

The following is a message from Grand Rapids Community College President Bill Pink: 

June 8, 2020 GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- I’ve been thinking about whether I would make a public statement addressing the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. Not because of disrespect for the horrible acts behind their deaths, nor the importance of calling out injustice to men who look like me. I see many other leaders releasing statements and I fully respect those sentiments. Yet, I’ve struggled with writing a statement, for two reasons.

First, while I see the value in declaring our commitment through a written statement, I am more concerned with what we are going to do about it. Action! We can make statements denouncing the horrific actions of these deaths, but if we do not follow those statements with sustainable, long-term transformation, our statements are irrelevant. They would not honor those who have not only lost their lives, but also our communities who are experiencing disparities and struggle in finding hope.

If you wonder who they are, take some time to look at some of the people who are protesting. We must think in terms of transformation.

Second, I’m tired -- physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I’m tired. I’m tired of looking at the news and finding out that another black life has been taken because of a senseless act of individuals who decided to treat them as something other than a human being. I’m tired of having my black friends who have black sons telling me their fears about whether their son is safe whenever he walks out their door.

And I am tired of hearing statements such as, “Why are they still protesting?” and “When are we going to stop talking about racism?” As Dr. King put it so eloquently decades ago, this, too, is not a season where the African-American needs to “simply blow off some steam” and get over it. If that is where we are, then I will remain very tired.

That said, do not mistake my fatigue for complacency or giving up.

Quite the contrary. I am blessed to be president of an amazing institution. I firmly believe our institution, GRCC, can and will play an important role in helping our community not only heal, but also learn and grow from the place we are right now…whether it be the pandemic of a coronavirus, or the pandemic of addressing inequities associated with the diverse populations of our community.

Our college has been here for more than 100 years. It has been here through horrible days in our country and in our community. The walls of our college witnessed world wars, recessions, depressions and many other issues.

And we are still here.

I have no doubt GRCC will continue to be a pillar in this community for growth and transformation.

Our diversity and equity initiatives are second to none. We are laser-focused on filling equity gaps across our campus community and the community of Grand Rapids.

I am proud that our Police Academy has instilled, “The Fair and Impartial Policing” implicit bias training for our cadets who will soon take to the streets of our communities in this city and region with a stronger skill set for handling situations with wisdom and care.

I am proud that GRCC is an integral partner with the Grand Rapids Promise Zone initiative to remove cost as a barrier to education. Every student within the zone will have access to opportunities to transform their life and break generational cycles of poverty.

I remain convinced this community’s college will be responsive to this present situation. I commit as its president to doing so. This college stands with this community to look this monster of racial injustice square in the face and declare that it will never win.

If we, alongside our community, will unite around the cause, with dedicated focus and sincere commitment to action, we will see transformation throughout West Michigan.

If not, we will continue to deal with being repeatedly tired…

…I choose action!


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