At its best, education offers not just knowledge and opportunity but a set of values. We teach our students to prize truth. We teach our students to strive for honesty and justice. We teach our students to be brave in service to others. Those are hard values to live out, even in the best of times.
But those are the values I see shining through in this hard moment for the City of Elizabeth City. The pain and frustration in our community run deep. The family of Andrew Brown lost a loved one. Our community lost a citizen in a tragic incident. Our entire region now bears the weight of national scrutiny, of shared mourning, of fear at what comes next. After a year of so much heartache and loss, it feels like too much. It is too much.
I am a wife, a mother, an educator, and the leader of a storied university founded on the promise of advancement for Black Americans. I can’t help but feel grief at what we’re going through right now. But I have never been more proud of this community, or our community. The peaceful raising of voices, the firm call for justice, the insistence that the institutions of society must work on behalf of all citizens — those are the actions of a great city, a great people. Those are the values Elizabeth City should be known for, the images that will endure beyond this moment.
The days ahead will be difficult. I wish we didn’t have to go through them; I wish that none of this had happened; and I desperately wish for a world where progress doesn’t seem to come only in the wake of tragedy. But I believe justice will prevail in Elizabeth City. I believe our demands for transparency and accountability will ultimatelybe met. And I believe we’ll be stronger and wiser as we live through this.