Heller Forward Responds to Recent Violences

Dear Heller Community,

In recent weeks, people of marginalized identities here in the United States and around the world have experienced violence and trauma as a result of racism, transphobia, Islamophobia, xenophobia, and other forms of hate and oppression. We want to take a moment to recognize and honor the lives that have been lost and the ongoing struggle for social and racial justice.

We remind the Heller community that we are not separate from this violence. Heller is home to students, faculty, and staff of different races, ethnicities, religious beliefs, and gender identities. We must recognize the privileges that some people hold and the necessity of standing beside those who suffer at the hands of oppression here at Heller, as well as domestically and abroad.

We must continue to better understand our role in the movement towards racial justice and how our education here at Heller can be used to advance this work.

In response to the ongoing violence against Black people at the hands of state police, we want to affirm that Black lives matter. We honor the lives of Tyre King, killed by police officers at the age of 13, and Terence Crutcher, a father of four, killed by a police officer after his car broke down in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

We also acknowledge that Black women and trans and queer people of color continue to experience violence at alarming rates both at the hands of police and as a consequence of a dominant societal culture rooted in white supremacy, transphobia, homophobia, classism, sexism, ableism and other systems of oppression. With that said, we honor the life of Crystal Edmonds, a Black transgender woman who was murdered on Friday, 9/16, in Baltimore at the age of 32.

We also bear witness to violence carried out against Muslim Americans. As political rhetoric in the United States continues to breed and justify Islamophobia, the murder of innocent Muslim Americans continues to rise. We acknowledge the role of United States foreign policy in the destruction of Muslim communities around the world. We stand with our Muslim community members in denouncing this violence, and we commit ourselves to understanding our role in ending the murder of innocent people domestically and internationally.

We also acknowledge that the fight for social and racial justice must be led by those marginalized by oppressive systems as they carry the experiential knowledge needed to build a more just society.

Historically, social justice is advanced because of grassroots efforts that work to raise awareness, build community, increase accountability, and demand reform.

We lift up the work being done currently by the Standing Rock Sioux and other native tribes in North Dakota to halt the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline in protection of sacred land. We acknowledge the historic and perpetual violence against First Nation people in the United States and against indigenous peoples around the world. Although the fight to prevent the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline is being led by the Standing Rock Sioux, we understand that the fight to protect our environment from the greed inherent in our current economic system is a fight for all people. We thank the Standing Rock Sioux and we stand with them in solidarity.

Further, we know that environmental justice and racial justice are closely linked. In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, residents are suffering due to extreme flooding that has displaced large portions of Black residents, families, and communities. Media coverage has been minimal and relief efforts from across the country have been slow in coming. We denounce the idea that Black tragedy deserves less attention and less urgency, and we recognize the role that climate change has in further disparaging communities already most marginalized and oppressed.

As Heller students concerned about the above injustices and more, our hearts are extremely heavy. We are in constant dialogue about how we, as future leaders of the world, can be agents of change to combat the world’s greatest injustices and we know that this process begins at Heller.

In the coming weeks, Heller Forward is intending to offer opportunities to support Black Lives Matter, the Standing Rock Sioux, and other groups fighting for social justice. We hope that you will stand with us.

In solidarity,
Heller Forward

Please contact us at hellerforward@gmail.com if you would like to be involved in our work.