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Black Lives Matter

Statement from the NSF-Simons Center for Quantitative Biology Leadership

Friday, June 5, 2020

Dear Members of the CQuB Community,

Historical events have occurred since Memorial Day, and no doubt you have been sharing your thoughts and feelings with your friends and family. But you are also members of Northwestern University and more specifically, the NSF-Simons Center for Quantitative Biology. We want to share with you a message on behalf of the Center.

We support you in these troubled times, wanting to help you to cope with the senseless racial violence, the wanton acts of police brutality, and our collective fears for the future.

Yet there is much to be hopeful for: the universal expression of democratic freedom by protesting, so fundamental to democracy — as President Barack Obama recently reminded us — that the first U.S. protests in history are known to us as the American Revolution; the widespread participation of Americans of all races, ethnicities, ages, and backgrounds in these protests in every state in the country; the bravery and heroism of many peaceful protesters in dealing with both the police brutality and those few committing violence and looting; the perseverance and tenacity of protestors to go out there day after day, even in the midst of a pandemic; the solidarity we have witnessed with sympathetic people from around the world.

We want to assure our members who have recently come to America and have never seen street protests in their home countries. Such protests are a necessary and fundamental pillar of a democratic society. They may appear scary given thousands of people chanting and shouting in the streets. But they are the opposite of scary – they are reassuring. Many of the faculty have participated in protests, often bringing their children so that they might learn firsthand about freedom of speech. The responses by the police and keepers of the law have too frequently been heavy handed and confrontational. This too will be subject to criticism and reform in the coming months and years.

Congressman John Lewis, a civil rights leader and the youngest person to speak at the famous 1963 March on Washington, said of the current protests in an interview on June 4, 2020, This feels and looks so different. It is so much more massive and all-inclusive. To see people from all over the world  taking to the streets, to the roadways, to stand up, to speak up, to speak out, to do what I call “getting in trouble.” And with a sense of determination and commitment and dedication, there will be no turning back. People now understand what the struggle was all about. It’s another step down the very, very long road toward freedom, justice for all humankind.”

We want to assure our members who are Black, Indigenous, and/or a Person of Color (BIPOC) that our Center stands in solidarity with you.

We condemn organized racism in all institutions, including academia. We condemn the racism of white supremacy either casually expressed by the individual or collectively organized. We condemn the bigotry of xenophobia – the anti-immigrant hatred and fear that is pervasive and condoned by portions of federal government at this time.

This statement of solidarity requires us to do intentional work in our little part of the world, in our corner of science and research, to break down the old ways of academia and create a safe place for BIPOC to thrive, learn and research. As Angela Y. Davis said, “In a racist society it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.”

To those of us who have white privilege, we need to make certain that our learning of and practicing anti-racism does not become another emotional burden for our BIPOC colleagues. If you need resources, seek out and pay authors, teachers, speakers, activists, leaders, coaches, consultants, and facilitators who have already created a life-time of resources for us to read and do.

We understand that on occasion deeply-rooted unconscious racism will make an appearance in our words or actions. If it does, we need to find ways to graciously accept others holding us accountable for those moments. We are all fallible and we have blind spots. To heal we need to be vulnerable and humble and to act with grace.

In the upcoming months, we want to work together to generate some tangible steps that we can take as an organization. One such step would be renewing our relationship and work with Science Club, our partner organization that works directly with BIPOC and underprivileged children.

 Please send us your ideas for short-term and long-term activities that will enable us to practice anti-racism and create an equitable research and learning environment.


Know that we as a Center, a part of your lives, support these values.

Black Lives Matter.

Rich and Bill and Tiffany


In the meantime, if you’re looking for something to do now here are some ideas, partially sourced from @mireillecharper,

  1. Check in with your black friends, family, partners and loved ones. They are not alright, they are tired and experiencing a range of emotions all at once. Listen to them and sit in their pain.
  2. Buy one book on racism written by a BIPOC – read it cover to cover, then read all the sources they cited.
  3. Pay and credit BIPOC for their time, resources, emotional labor.
  4. Send money to BIPOC organizations and initiatives (examples: The Action Pac, Grassroots Law Project).
  5. Keep supporting after your outrage, and after the media stops covering.
  6. Avoid sharing content on social media that is traumatic.
  7. If you have white privilege, start a private conversation about race with 5 non-BIPOC people you know personally.
  8. If you have white privilege, do not center the narrative around yourself.
  9. If you haven’t already, add BIPOC authors, teachers, speakers, activists, leaders, coaches, consultants, and facilitators to your social media feeds. There are many lists circulating right now. Here are a few on Instagram @nowhitesaviors @laylafsaad @rachel.cargle@ckyourpriviledge @iamrachelricketts @thegreatunlearn@renieddolodge @mireillecharper @shaunking @ibramxk
  10. Develop a personal long-term strategy to affect change. Actions that take sustained effort over a long-term period.

A resource list from the Northwestern Women’s Center. We hope something in here finds you where you are and supports your mourning/healing/uprising/solidarity.

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