Dear Berea Alumni and Friends,
The year 2020 is definitely one for the history books. As the world was still reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic, our nation collided with injustice as deaths of Black men and women at the hands of law enforcement in Louisville, Ky.; Brunswick, Ga.; Minneapolis and Atlanta sparked outrage and protests coast to coast and throughout the world. And as I continue to work from my home, living out my dual role as full-time editor and stay-at-home mom, I went from fielding questions about math and science to navigating conversations about race, police and fairness.
Prior to working for the College, I spent 13 years working in the communications office at Kentucky’s primary law enforcement training academy in Richmond. Before filling that role, I had mixed feelings about law enforcement officers after my brother was arrested while simply walking with a friend in our neighborhood. Though doing nothing suspicious, he was stopped, questioned, handcuffed, searched and taken to jail, only to be released several hours later with no charges pressed. This incident left a bad taste in our mouths toward law enforcement, to say the least. But after spending 13 years learning about law enforcement training, interviewing hundreds of officers and watching officers respond in the aftermath of the 2014 officer-involved killings of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, among others, I learned that most police officers are brave, caring men and women who truly have a heart for helping people and doing what is right.
Nowhere and in no context can one lump a group of people together because of their race, background, career or anything else and decide they are all good or all bad.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that,” Martin Luther King Jr. said. “Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”
Berea College, founded on light and love in a world that tried to cripple its efforts with darkness and hate, decided in June to publicly stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. As the first interracial and coeducational college in the South in 1855, the College believed this moment called for its support and that its history and commitments demanded it. You can read about the steps Berea is making to reaffirm its commitment to interracial education, diversity, equity and inclusion, and dismantling white supremacy and systemic racism.
Berea College, like any entity or organization, has not always gotten everything right. But through its belief that God has made of one blood all peoples of the earth, it strives to be an example of doing what is right even when it’s not popular, of serving others who can’t offer anything in return. The stories in this issue reflect Berea’s commitments to sustainable living and service to Appalachia. But the beauty is in the heart of the people involved who go above and beyond, living a life of sacrifice for the betterment of another. Beyond the stories captured here, we are proud and grateful that thousands of alumni who have learned and grown in our rich soil are planting seeds of love, equity and justice all over the world.
Abbie Tanyhill Darst ’03