Statement in Support of the Movement for Black Lives
Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and too many more have been murdered as a result of a structurally racist society
We mourn and condemn the racist murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and so many others. We demand justice for the countless Black people who have faced violence at the hand of this nation’s chronic over-policing, mass incarceration, and all manifestations of structural racism and white supremacy.
This is a conversation that must continue around the country — including at our own institution. From Harvard University’s founding as an institution reliant on the exploitation of enslaved persons to its repeated decisions to invest in industries that disproportionately harm BlPOC communities, Harvard’s history and wealth are built on white supremacy. Most recently, the Harvard community witnessed the Harvard University Police Department’s presence among a line of police officers armed with batons and riot gear at a peaceful protest in Boston. As members of the Harvard community, it is essential that we seek to hold Harvard as an institution to account and demand transformation and reparations over empty words.
But it’s not just Harvard that needs to do better. In this moment, everyone must recommit themselves to the fight for Black liberation. As a climate justice organization fighting for a future in which all are treated with respect and dignity, we commit to showing up for other movements, especially those fighting directly for Black liberation on Harvard’s campus and beyond. We also commit to continuing to educate ourselves about the need for racial justice. In the context of environmentalism, this begins with an understanding that taking on climate change demands active anti-racist work. So long as a warming world disproportionately harms people of color, fighting for a more just future means critically examining and dismantling the structural racism that is the foundation of our current system. We must also recognize the many ways in which the environmental movement has historically failed to live up to this understanding. We commit to learning from the times in which the climate movement and our own campaign have failed to be true allies in the fight for Black liberation, and to working to repair those mistakes.
The protests of the past week would not have been possible without the tireless and resilient organizing of countless activists, both within and beyond the Movement for Black Lives. Although those in power do their best to delegitimize the voices of these activists, the only way our systems ever change is through the work of those who fight to change things — those who continue to put themselves into the public eye, reliving collective traumas and fighting uphill battles again and again in the name of justice. The energy of this moment shows us how sustained organizing can build into powerful collective momentum. The people who have spent years working towards this moment have taught us what resilience, moral courage, and perseverance look like in practice.
The Invest-Divest platform of the Movement for Black Lives demands investments “in the education, health and safety of Black people, instead of investments in the criminalizing, caging, and harming of Black people.” Yet our institutions still put their financial and social capital behind the prison-industrial complex, militarized police forces, and an economic system that treats human wellbeing as inconsequential and Black lives as disposable. We must now fight harder than ever for divestment from these forces and investment in community-centered, regenerative structures. As our group continues to call for divestment from the fossil fuel industry, we must adhere to the broader principles of divestment as a movement tactic — we must call loudly for divestment from all forces that sow violence, racism, and destruction. As part of the newly-formed Endowment Justice Coalition, we will fight to make sure that Harvard’s behemoth wealth no longer funds these forces.
For Harvard community members: support our allies at the Harvard Prison Divestment Campaign and the Harvard Ethnic Studies Coalition in their fight against the Harvard University Police Department’s record of racism and violence by joining the call to abolish HUPD here. If you are looking for ways to take action on a broader level, join the Movement for Black Lives’ Week of Action, read about their demands, and get involved in the movement here. If you are a white ally, get involved with Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), a collective of white folks working to undermine white supremacy and be strong allies in the fight for liberation. Sign up for their newsletter, register for weekly action hours every Wednesday from 12–1 pm EST, and find a longer list of calls to action here.