It is the time of year when most of us are far too busy with end-of-semester grading to think much about blogging. And, often, it’s not easy or appropriate for us to share our students’ work with the broader public. But since I’ve been handed an exception, I want to pass it on.
This semester, I’ve been teaching (with history department colleague Dr. Jennifer Illuzzi) a colloquium called “Race, Marginality, and Theologies of Liberation.” All sophomores at Providence College must take a colloquium, with a range of topic choices before them. Some choose based on topic. Many just choose something that fits in their schedule. And so we get a lot of folks who say, at the end of the semester, that they never really even thought about race before this course. But also, we get more students of color than the average class at Providence College. So we have a lot of students for whom thinking about race has been a lifelong task. Those differences and the connections across them have been powerful for me to watch.
Two of my students (Nick Sailor and Sammy McSweeney) co-wrote a song, performed it, and worked together to produce a video expressing some of their learning this semester. They want to see it shared as widely as possible, so I am passing it on here. They (and people pictured in the video) are responding not only to the course, but to recent difficult events on our campus, including a pattern of racial profiling by campus security.
The video is embedded below. Note that you can see the lyrics on the site beneath the viewing window.
There is such power for me in hearing this young man ask the question,
If I die today, tell me would you get the bigger picture?
Would I be another body, criminal, or just a n****?
Would you care?
and going on to say “we just some strange fruit,” making that very powerful connection between the deaths of Black men in our streets today and on Southern trees not so long ago. I also deeply appreciate the call for solidarity in action to change the world. “I need you and you need me / And it won’t take one it’ll take the whole world to march to a new beat.” I love the talent, passion, and desire for justice that Nick and Sammy brought to this project.
Regular readers of this blog know that I and others here have committed ourselves to teaching and scholarship (among other things) at the service of racial justice. Teaching this course is part of that work for me, but it isn’t enough. Work to end the racial divisions of our nation, of our Church, of our institutions at every level, is an imperative of Catholic identity. What are the ways that theologians and Catholic institutions of higher education can help this generation of young people see the bigger picture, make the world a better place, and stop running from the issues of race? How can we help them channel their passion for racial justice in helpful ways? How can we help them invite the whole world to march to a new beat, a rhythm of dignity and justice for all?