In this fraught moment in America, those of us with a platform must step back and listen to voices that too often go unheard.
In that spirit, this month’s Leader’s Edge features a powerful statement from the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) National Chair Jocelyn Jackson, a Ph.D. student at the University of Michigan.
We thank NSBE for its important mission “to increase the number of culturally responsible Black Engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally and positively impact the community.” Learn more about NSBE and its programs at www.nsbe.org, including their new partnership with INROADS to support professional skill and career development for underrepresented engineers.
– Melissa Mathews and Tia Over, The Engineering 100
A Call for Justice. A Call for Solidarity.
Dear NSBE Family.
The recent killings of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and now George Floyd are heartbreaking tragedies that further show the injustice and systemic racism the Black community faces every day. It’s been hard to find the right words for this message because I keep imagining the images and videos capturing these horrific acts and the Black community struggling to be heard when crying out for justice and peace. My heart goes out to the families, friends and those directly or indirectly impacted.
Blatant acts of racism, hatred and police brutality should not be normalized again. Unfortunately, we have been here before. Many of us remember the recent names … Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Atatiana Jefferson, Botham Jean, Philando Castile and now Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, all victims of a shameful legacy of hate. We must continue to say the names of those lost to senseless acts of violence and racism.
“I can’t breathe” were some of the last words from Mr. Floyd before his life was taken right before our eyes. They were also the last words of Eric Garner in 2014. It is suffocating to exist in a space where Black lives are considered disposable with little hope for real systematic change. I pose this question: “what are we going to do to advocate for equity for our communities and nation?”
As a Society within this society, we want to see justice. We want it in the cases dominating the news but also for the 99.9% of cases most of us will never hear about. We expect justice to be dispatched swiftly and equitably, according to the law, and not influenced by income, race, or connections. However, we would also like to see that equality extended to our educational institutions – at every level and to companies and industries solving our countries’ most complex problems. We should not be marginalized; as descendants of those who helped build this nation, we seek full participation in all aspects of society with a fair chance to help make America a more perfect union.
Of course, we recognize that radical change requires allies; Black people do not have the numbers or resources to bring about systemic change alone. So, we call on those who believe everyone deserves a chance to fulfill their potential to provide opportunities, to open doorways and create pathways for those who did not have access to the resources that produce advantages. Finally, we ask those who believe in the mission of the National Society of Black Engineers to invest in this cause so our members can thrive and continue to be agents of positive change.
Now is the time for the conversation. Now is the time for understanding. This is the perfect time in history for our country to embrace national ideals for all of its citizens. We implore righteous people to honor and protect our inalienable rights to liberty, opportunity, and equality.
We cannot remain silent at a time like this. We must call for political action to invoke social change, to end police brutality and dismantle systemic racism. We are not powerless. Nelson Mandela put it best when he said, “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” We encourage all NSBE members and allies to take action and let your voices be heard … mentor, vote, make calls, write, participate, post, march … be the example.
NSBE is compiling a list of health, grief, and wellness support resources to assist our members in coping with all of these troubling events; that information will be provided in another official communication. Moreover, we are developing a team of leaders to create ways for our organization to use its platform to speak out on social justice issues. Above all, I ask you to hold on to hope, to seek refuge in faith, and the knowledge that we will get to the other side of this bleak moment. Together, we will overcome this adversity, as we have in the past, and continue our march toward a more just society.
Continue to encourage one another, support one another, listen to one another and love one another.
In closing, NSBE loves you, and your life matters!
With NSBE Luv,
Jocelyn Jackson, 2019-2021 National Chair