Vigil Remarks: Honoring Black Lives

Say Their Names: Honoring Black Lives Vigil Remarks
President Carol L. Folt

June 9, 2020

We are gathered today to honor George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and the many other Black lives, taken by those who had sworn to protect them.  And I am honored to introduce this gathering.

I see the gross injustice. Our great nation was built from the labor and strength of enslaved Black people. And that terrible legacy is preserved, in harmful, racist systems that produce and sustain to this day, large disparities in health, wealth, education, opportunity, and police brutality. We acknowledge this and are ashamed.

We see the pain, the anger, the frustration and the exhaustion of all Black people, Black families, Black communities, and must ask—How can we let this continue?

People are in the streets. The movement is growing. The Black citizens of America, and our Black students, are on the front lines, as they have always been. And now they are joined by America’s youth, by people of all ages and races, from around the world.

Let us, as Trojans, honor the Black lives lost, the protesters fighting for justice, the centuries of sacrifice and pain, with an enduring commitment to dismantling forever structural racism.

This means not just saying good things, but really opening our eyes to see that at USC, in spite of all our strengths, dismissal and denial are deeply embedded in our culture.

It means listening to our Black students, faculty, staff, and neighbors, and admitting that we have been blind to and actively ignored what is happening to them, right in front of us—that we, even those with the best of intentions, have been complicit.

Let us, as Trojans, be in the forefront of this wave, and work together now, on two fronts.

The first is listening to our Black community, on and off-campus, figuring out more and better ways to add our strength to theirs.

The second is finding the courage to see ourselves, our culture, and our nation—and our own USC community—more clearly, and to take responsibility for anti-Black racism. We can then take actions with sustained energy and commitment, actions that really count.

Black lives matter. To honor black lives, out of respect for Black lives, and for our self-respect, we need to seize this moment of self-awareness, to work together until we put an end to 400 years of tragic injustice.