Grieving the Death of George Floyd

May 31, 2020

Aggie Family, 

As I write this, cities across the country, including here in Greensboro and around North Carolina, are ablaze in unrest and souls in anguish over George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police. It was a scene, unfortunately, like many we have seen before, in which the life of an African American man is extinguished in a confrontation that, at minimum, could have been deescalated; at best, avoided entirely. It leaves millions of us around our nation with a reasonable and just question: Why? In the absence of an acceptable answer – and to be clear, there is no acceptable answer – we are left with heavy hearts, sick with grief, inflamed with anger.   

I join the Aggie family in grieving the loss of George Floyd and in voicing a commitment that his death cannot be allowed to pass in vain. As the leader of the nation’s largest historically black university, an institution borne of the bigotry connected by a straight line of history to Floyd’s death, I appreciate the weight of this moment on the shoulders of our students, their families, our faculty and staff and our alumni. As we collectively bear witness to this injustice, we do so from the vantage point of our university, and the tools and knowledge we can bring to bear in this moment of pain and despair. What can our faculty and students do to bring understanding and context to this incident? What measures of change and solution can their scholarly work make clear? What light can they shed on intersecting dynamics of race, the criminal justice system, history, economics and the human psyche that will illuminate truth for a troubled nation? 

In the weeks and months ahead, I pray that the moral imperative of this moment will not fade, and that we will rise to the challenges that our leadership has prepared us to meet. If the aftermath of George Floyd’s death is, indeed, not to be mere protest but a predicate for change in which minds, hearts, policies and practices are forever altered, it will only do so if it is nourished by knowledge and truth. Let us commit ourselves collectively to surfacing those invaluable ingredients of change. 

For now, I encourage all of us to avail ourselves of the community and family ties that bind us at A&T. Lean on one another for comfort, and don’t be afraid to reach out if you are struggling. For our students, additional help is available through Counseling Services at 336-334-7727, Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. For faculty and staff, the university’s Employee Assistance Program services provider, ComPsych Guidance Resources, is here for you at 866-511-3373, password: NCAT. This service is confidential and free of charge to you as an employee.

In solidarity and in Aggie Pride,

Harold L. Martin Sr.