Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter

A Message from President Ravi Rajan to CalArts Faculty, Staff, Students, Alumni, Trustees, Trustees Emeriti on Black Lives Matter.

Dear CalArts Community:

Last night, I couldn't sleep. Hearing the helicopters and the emergency alerts on the mobile phone, I had to explain to my two boys what was going on, why people are angry, and why I'm angry too. My 10-year-old said he heard that the President said, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” I tried to explain.

After they fell asleep, I couldn’t stop crying. I couldn’t go to sleep all night. I needed to understand. So I looked up Black Wall Street.

Ninety-nine years ago today, an entire Black community was massacred in the Greenwood section of Tulsa, Oklahoma. The violence stretched over two days. The people who lived there, and their entire way of life, were obliterated.

I looked this up because in the 23 years I grew up in Oklahoma, I went to public elementary, middle, high school, and college, and in all that time, I was never taught about the Tulsa Massacre. It was never mentioned because the Black experience was to be ignored. It wasn't to be seen.

Even today, the U.S. is two countries: one for a white majority, and another for those outside it.

Over 100,000 people in the U.S. have died because of COVID-19. A disproportionate number of those dead are Black. They are Black Americans who have less access to health insurance.  Black Americans who are losing their jobs at a faster rate. And Black Americans forced to come to work in “essential services” while so many others stayed safer at home.

The anger that many showed this month about wearing a mask seems pathetic compared to our witness of the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd – where we all saw structural racism at work. For those of us who are not Black, we must recognize that for Black Americans, simply living is a daily threat.

Black Lives Matter. If we genuinely believe this, as a country, we certainly have a hard time living it. Even those whose fragility distorts this into “all lives matter” would have a hard time justifying that we live that either.

I’m heartbroken that not enough has changed, but in this moment, heartbreak cannot manifest as defeat. For those of us who aren’t Black, when we see injustice towards Black Americans, or are brought into seeing it, we must call it out. Silence is complicity.

Our community of artists proclaims values of agency, diversity, empathy, equity, inclusivity, persistence, and social justice. CalArts stands in solidarity against police brutality and white supremacy and will use our collective voice as an ally in this fight.

In all of this please stay safe –