April 16, 2021
TO: Mills College Faculty and Staff
FROM: Beth Hillman
SUBJECT: Mills: Inside and Out
After yet more days of devastating coverage of anti-Black police violence, I want to share what I learned by listening to the members of the Black Action Forum (BAF), and from participating in the Phenomenal Women of Color celebration this week at Mills. I first want to name those lost to this violence whose stories have been in the news this week: George Floyd, Adam Toledo, and Daunte Wright, all taken from the world too soon.
The harm caused by this violence resonates far beyond their communities in Minneapolis, Chicago, and Brooklyn Center. It resides right here on the Mills campus. For those most affected by this harm, I offer a suggestion from Ife Tayo Walker of Mills’ BAF: Try to limit exposure to constant news cycles in order to carve out space in which to heal. Dr. Wendi Williams, dean of the Mills College School of Education, shared two resources in her acknowledgement of Daunte Wright’s life earlier this week: “The first is a podcast from a friend and colleague, Dr. Thema Bryant-Davis, on Racial Battle Fatigue. We are likely to feel a range of feelings and tired is one of them. The second is an Instagram Live conversation between her and our friend Dr. Erlanger Turner on Coping with Racial Trauma. Both are gifted clinicians and thought leaders whose psychological knowledge may help us to understand our own experience with racial trauma as well as support others who are feeling particularly vulnerable in this time.”
For those who want to better understand how this violence affects Mills’ Black community, I offer a few examples from the members of the BAF, several of whom said they were as affected by the senseless police violence against Cesar Nazario, a second lieutenant in the Virginia National Guard, as by the fatal shooting in Brooklyn Center this week: Distress and pain at being constantly reminded anew of every loss that they and their communities have suffered because of police action; heightened fear and anxiety at every encounter with uniformed authorities, including while waiting in line at vaccination clinics this week; repeated calls from loved ones to check in (grandmothers in particular were named as most likely to reach out, sometimes many times each day); distraction in class and frustration at being unable to find space to process and heal.
The inspiring Phenomenal Women of Color event on Wednesday evening showcased the resilience and strength of Mills’ Black community. The event was organized by the Alumnae of Color Committee (AOCC), with the support of Mills’ Office of Institutional Advancement, and it honored Dr. Yvonne Daniel, MA '75 and former Mills College trustee, with the 2021 Phenomenal Woman of Color award as well as Provost and Dean of the Faculty Dr. Chinyere Oparah, former associate provost Dr. Maggie Hunter, and Mills College student leaders Tsion McYates, Abigail Major-Murphy, and Dylyn Turner-Keener.
Dr. Christie Chung, associate provost, joined many others at another event last night, A Discussion of Anti-Asian Racism with Helen Zia, funded by the ASMC and organized by a planning committee of Mills College students, faculty, and staff and the Ethnic Studies Program, including representatives from student organizations such as KAPWA, Muslim Student Alliance (MSA), Liberty in North Korea x Mills (LiNKmills), and the Asian Pacific Islander Student Alliance (APISA). Dr. Chung noted: “Helen Zia’s event was absolutely powerful and inspirational. Her discussion of the invisibility of Asian American people and their history serves as a stark reminder that there is much more work to be done to achieve the equitable society that everyone deserves. In Helen’s words: The idea of solidarity—standing up together, fighting together, has been part and parcel to the Asian American identity. So many people of conscience have stood up [for Asian Americans] and solidarity across racial lines is absolutely necessary to end anti-Asian hate.”
I’ll close by sharing that the BAF also offered ideas about how Mills College can take action to address anti-Black police violence through a future Mills Institute. Mills is committed to carrying its antiracism work forward into its transition and beyond.