A Community Responds with Pain and Purpose

Protests, anger and resolve have rippled across Lorain County in response to the horrific death of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers on May 25.

Local Officials Respond

In a letter to the community, Oberlin Police Chief Ryan Warfield wrote that as “a black man, and a father of 3 black men, tragedies such as this always hit home. I want you to know the anger you may feel is justified, and I share it with you. It is hard to tell people how to react when they feel as though their voices are not being heard, but if you exercise your right to protest, I strongly encourage you to keep it peaceful.”

Lorain Police Chief Jim McCann and other law enforcement officers in the Lorain County have also expressed support for peaceful protests. A peaceful march attended by residents and police was held in Lorain on Sunday.

Oberlin College

Oberlin College President Carmen Twillie Ambar also wrote a letter to the community to express her grief and announce a new college initiative.

“The black community – my community – is in excruciating pain. We are contending with what appears to be an unending well of racism and bigotry.

My hope is with our students. Hoping that they will have the courage to face the world as it is, and to be unrelenting in their desire to see it change. To that end, this upcoming year I will establish a Presidential Initiative for faculty and students that seeks to address issues of violence, police-community relationships, and racial injustices. One could imagine courses, co-curricular initiatives, community engagements, and internships focused on the very issues that the death of George Floyd invokes. The primary goal of this initiative is not purely for learning, but for learning that demonstrably is applied to our world.

This small effort will not change what happened to George Floyd, but it is in keeping with who we are at Oberlin.”

Carmen Twillie Ambar

The Kendal Community Responds

Staff members stand in silence to express peace and unity.

Most public gatherings remain suspended at Kendal at Oberlin because of the pandemic. But today (June 4, 2020), about 125 residents and staff gathered together, standing six feet apart in reflective silence around the Heiser Circle for five minutes. More gathered near their workplaces. Some carried posters with phrases like “Racism Kills,” “Justice,”, and “Black and White: ONE United States.” They joined Kendal affiliates across the system, standing together in peace related to our shared values. As an organization, Kendal at Oberlin supports peace and unity for all.

The Kendal at Oberlin leadership also reached out in a daily update to residents, reflecting on Kendal’s Quaker values and practices.

“How do we respond to the pain and suffering so evident in these events? We could focus on many of our Values but particularly, Supporting the Spirit of Inclusion – Kendal strives to create and support an environment for community members, board, staff and volunteers that is welcoming to all cultures, backgrounds, and differences – an environment that promotes mutual respect, acceptance, cooperation, and teamwork.

May our troubled nation and our community resolve to listen intently and be resolved to action that digs deep to create systemic remedies to the injustices and prejudices that plague our land. What will each one of us do individually and collectively, is the question.”

Author Molly Kavanaugh

Read more stories by Molly Kavanaugh on the Kendal at Oberlin blog.

In the past, Molly Kavanaugh frequently wrote about Kendal at Oberlin for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, where she was a reporter for 16 years. Now we are happy to have her writing for the Kendal at Oberlin Community.