Racial Justice Response

June 10, 2020

“Remaining Awake During a Revolution”

The brutal killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and countless others against the backdrop of the disparate impact of the coronavirus on Black communities across the United States has awakened this country. In October 1967, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke on Grinnell College’s campus about “Remaining Awake During a Revolution.” It should not have taken a revolution to wake us up. We must continually recommit ourselves to challenge systemic racism, anti-Blackness, and white supremacy by interrogating our history and changing the future. This is our work now and always.

Over the past week, President Raynard Kington, Dean Anne Harris, and many others shared messages with our community. We acknowledge that Grinnell College has a lot of work to do around racial justice and that these messages came too late for too many. In our commitment to sustain the anti-racist work of our community, the College has developed a plan of action, which we are eager to share:

  • The College will make a contribution of $50,000 to Black Lives Matter to support the fight for freedom, liberation, and justice. Many Grinnellians have been inspired by Opal Tometi, co-founder of Black Lives Matter and executive director at the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, who participated in Grinnell College programming in spring 2017, including her incredible presentation of the Scholars' Convocation lecture. President Kington is making this allocation from the president’s discretionary fund as his last allocation from this fund.
  • In collaboration with community partners, the College will be setting up a fund to match donations that support communities of color and the fight for racial justice locally. Grinnell College will donate $25,000 and the Claude W. and Dolly Ahrens Foundation will donate $5,000 to establish a fund at the Greater Poweshiek Community Foundation to help local organizations advance the work of racial equity here in our own community. Together, the two organizations will match gifts dollar for dollar up to $30,000 for this work. Gifts can be directed to the Racial Equity Fund at the Greater Poweshiek Community Foundation.
  • Through the Iowa Council of Foundations, we also are co-sponsoring a two-day Building Racial Equity workshop for funders across Iowa who want to learn how to use philanthropy to advance racial equity across the state and in their own communities. 

Our commitment to this work must focus both externally and internally. We know we must take community and personal responsibility to address systemic racism, anti-Blackness, and white supremacy, and Grinnell College is dedicated to the hard work of creating lasting change.

Black Grinnellians (students, staff, faculty, and alumni) had the opportunity to hold space with each other yesterday, hosted by Intercultural Affairs and co-facilitated by Ombudsperson Chinyere Ukabiala and Director of Education Professions Career Community Leslie Bleichner ’07.

Faculty and staff are invited to a panel discussion Beyond Empathy: Sharing Anti-Racist Resources. Colleagues will share and briefly discuss anti-racist resources for challenging white supremacy at 11 a.m. on Monday, June 15. The panel will be moderated by Professor of Sociology Karla Erickson.

In addition, Intercultural Affairs, the Dean’s Office, and Diversity and Inclusion staff will continue to offer audits and training to campus departments to advance inclusion practices, and to recommend opportunities for learning about anti-Blackness, racism, and white supremacy in all aspects of our community.

Grinnell College will form two new coalitions to engage our community in its work from pedagogy to practice, from curriculum to programming, and beyond.

  • Coalition on Confronting Whiteness: This Coalition is being formed to focus on training, development, and education for white people by white people about white supremacy, systemic racism, and understanding privilege. More information to come. If you are interested in taking action or learning more, please contact Intercultural Affairs at ica@grinnell.edu, including the name of the coalition in the subject line. We encourage you to engage as individuals and as members of the many communities to which you contribute.
  • Coalition on Racial Justice: This Coalition is being developed to focus on acknowledging resilience, developing racial empowerment strategies, and addressing ways in which white supremacist and anti-Blackness ideologies exist around the globe for Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC). BIPOC staff and faculty are encouraged to engage to their level of comfort. More information to come. If you are interested in taking action or learning more, please contact Intercultural Affairs at ica@grinnell.edu, including the name of the coalition in the subject line.

Much of the work we need to do is known to us, practiced, and pushed forward by the College’s Diversity and Inclusion Plan, which provides a roadmap for diversity and inclusion efforts and exists as a living document that is revised and tracked annually. We are deeply grateful for the work of our Chief Diversity Officer Lakesia Johnson, Intercultural Affairs, the Council on Diversity and Inclusion, and all the embedded diversity professionals across campus for their ongoing efforts.

We are deeply grateful for the work of all who have helped us take these actions, but know that we are only just beginning.


Raynard S. Kington, President
Anne F. Harris, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College

Resource Contacts
Ombuds Chinyere Ukabiala, 641/269-9399
Employee & Family Resources, 800/327-4692

Intercultural Affairs, 641/269-3700
Diversity and Inclusion, 641/269-3100

Related Messages

A Message from President Kington

The growing civil unrest following the death of George Floyd has added another layer of complexity to this tragedy. I hope that each of us can reflect on what we can do to improve the lives of those who are most vulnerable and then act in ways that are true to ourselves and to all that we value as Grinnellians.

A Message to Faculty and Staff Colleagues

I reach out to you to recognize with you the pain, grief, and violence of racial injustice that has gripped our nation over the past several days — and for much too long before that.
Various hands of color

MUSE in Focus: Confronting Structural Racism

The Grinnell College Libraries has been given temporary access to a selection of free scholarship from Project Muse publishers on the history of structural racism in the United States and how the country can realize anti-racist reform.

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