A Statement from Pres. Roelofs on the Verdict in the Derek Chauvin Trial

Students gathered in the Carter G. Woodson Center to watch George Floyd murder trial verdict

Students gathered in the Carter G. Woodson Center with Kristina Gamble, Director of the Black Cultural Center, to watch the live verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin, who was found guilty in the death of George Floyd.
(Photo: Gaston Jarju ’23)

Dear Bereans,

During the past year, the Berea College community has held a number of peaceful demonstrations focused on racial justice in the wake of the police-involved deaths of Breonna Taylor in Louisville and George Floyd in Minneapolis. Today, a jury found former police officer Derek Chauvin guilty on all three counts in the death of Mr. Floyd. For many members of our community, this verdict brings a sigh of relief. It shows that the legal system worked as it is designed to work, and that there can—and should—be accountability when members of law enforcement break the law.

In the preamble to our Great Commitments, Bereans call for peace with justice. In my view, today’s verdict represents a measure of justice for the family of Mr. Floyd and for those communities that have been denied justice for so long.

Even though we are still far from the ideal of full justice from which true peace can follow, it seems right to honor peace as we respond to this outcome.  It is the Berea way to be peaceful in our interactions with others. Justice prevailed today, and let us resolve to continue the struggle to ensure that everyone—regardless of their race, gender identity, faith or political perspective—is treated fairly and justly.  Let us show impartial love and a real commitment to peace at this important moment.

Lyle Roelofs, President
Berea College

Remembering Our Brother, Congressman John R. Lewis

Congressman John R. Lewis addresses the graduates, Commencement 2017

With the passing of Congressman John Lewis, our world has lost an extraordinary leader who dedicated his life to freedom, justice and equality for all. He is one of the last great soldiers of the Civil Rights Movement that helped change the lives of Black Americans. For Berea College, we have lost a dear friend and brother who embraced us as kin.

Congressman Lewis visited Berea several times. When Berea College in 2016 was invited by a U.S. House Ways and Means subcommittee to testify on the use of its endowment to support Berea’s no-tuition promise to students, Congressman Lewis was at that hearing and spoke to the Berea delegation afterward, suggesting that it had been some years—1990, in fact—since he had been to Berea College. “I would love to come back. Invite me,” he said.

Congressman John Lewis

Congressman John Lewis, Representative of Georgia’s Fifth District

So invite him the College did, to receive an honorary degree the following year at the 2017 Commencement. In his speech, he imparted his deep wisdom to our graduates about the world that lie before them and their duty to change it for the better. He encouraged all of us to continue to “make good trouble,” for it is the only way to fight for justice, equality and equity. John Lewis was just 25 years old when he marched from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in 1965. He was among the protesters beaten by police, but he was undeterred in his fight for civil rights. He dedicated his life to that fight, making good trouble until his final days.

The Berea College community is deeply saddened by the passing of our brother and honorary alumnus—indeed, our teacher and mentor, Congressman John Lewis. His affection for Berea and its mission and his enduring legacy are stamped on our hearts for all time.

READ AN EXCERPT of Lewis’ interview with Berea College Media Relations Manager Tim Jordan, published in the Summer 2017 edition of the Berea College Magazine.

Statement on Supreme Court Ruling Protecting LGBTQ+ Members in the Workplace

Drone photo over campus with a rainbow in the background

We are heartened by the recent Supreme Court ruling that the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects members of the LGBTQ+ community from discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation and gender identity. At Berea College, we are guided by the motto, “God has made of one blood all peoples of the earth.” That all-encompassing scripture from Acts 17:26 implies that we are all equal, giving no consideration to race, gender, ethnicity, economic status, religion or sexual orientation. The Court’s ruling affirms our commitment to employees and provides another level of security in the workplace. June is Pride Month, and yesterday, June 28, was the 50th anniversary of the first Pride march, held on the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising. We, indeed, are of one blood.

Black Lives Matter

March on Selma

Berea College stands in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and those peacefully demonstrating against police brutality across the country and around the world. Our founding in 1855 by radical abolitionists, the Reverend John G. and Matilda Fee, as the first interracial and coeducational college in the slaveholding South underscores our unwavering commitment to equality and equity. Black lives mattered to Rev. Fee and the early founders of Berea. When the Kentucky legislature passed the Day Law in 1904, prohibiting integration in schools, Berea College took the fight all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court because Black people would have had few educational opportunities in Kentucky without Berea College. The Court ruled against Berea College, and it was forcibly segregated in 1908. The College’s trustees raised money and redirected funds to establish Lincoln Institute in 1912 for Black students displaced from the College.

Carter G. Woodson

Carter G. Woodson

Stripped of its founding mission for over four decades, the College struggled throughout the Jim Crow era to reclaim an interracial heritage that includes such notable African American graduates as Carter G. Woodson – known as the father of Black history; Julia Britton Hooks, a teacher, suffragist in the fight for women’s rights, and the grandmother of former NAACP executive director Benjamin Hooks; and James Bond, the grandfather of civil rights activist Julian Bond. Grounded in a history of activism, Berea College demonstrated its commitment to human rights through its participation in the monumental March on Frankfort, Ky., in 1964 and the Selma to Montgomery March in 1965. Our involvement in that phase of the Black Freedom Struggle contributed to African American students founding the Black Student Union and the Black Ensemble (now called the Black Music Ensemble) in the late 1960s, and the institution establishing Black Studies in the early 1970s. In the post Civil Rights era, Berea continued its commitment to Black lives, opening the Black Cultural Center in the early 1980s and the Carter G. Woodson Center in 2012.

Throughout the past 40 years, dedicated efforts to recruit, enroll and retain a diverse student population, combined with increased hiring of African Americans in faculty and staff positions, have resulted in a campus community where nearly half of the students identify as people of color.

Still… we can and must do more. This moment calls for our support. Our history demands it.

Black Lives Matter Demonstration in Berea, KY

Protesters gather for Black Lives Matter Demonstration in Berea, KY in front of Boone Tavern on May 31, 2020.

In the era of Black Lives Matter, we’re working to ensure Berea College continues to fulfill its mission to educate blacks and whites together, living up to its motto: God has made of one blood all peoples of the earth (Acts 17:26). We reaffirm our commitment to interracial education, diversity, equity and inclusion, and dismantling white supremacy and systemic racism. Berea College commits to the following:

  1. Increase our efforts in recruitment, enrollment and retention of African American students from Appalachia and urban areas within our enrollment territory.
  2. Create an endowment to support the Carter G. Woodson Center for Interracial Education and the programs it offers.
  3. Establish an endowed professorship in interracial education responsible for creating a curriculum in interracial education that has a particular emphasis on understanding and equality among all peoples.
  4. Continue to support dialogue on race and education in a bi-annual symposium. The Carter G. Woodson Center for Interracial Education would collaborate with the Black Cultural Center, Student Life and the African and African Studies department to host the event, which will feature discussions on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion in America and what the College and the community can do to dismantle white supremacy and systemic racism.
  5. Endow the Civil Rights Tour, hosted by the Carter G. Woodson Center, as an educational program that explores important locations involved in the Civil Rights movement in the American South.
  6. Introduce courses in Native American Studies into the Berea College curriculum to educate students about the history of indigenous people in Kentucky and throughout Appalachia.
  7. Continue to support educational initiatives through the office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. In one such initiative, the College will explore ways to formally recognize, celebrate and educate Bereans about the Juneteenth commemoration.

Berea College is guided by eight Great Commitments, among them one that asserts the kinship of all people. Standing in solidarity with Black Lives Matter, the College strives to uphold its commitment to creating an equitable educational community that welcomes, supports and values all members. We invite institutions of higher learning throughout the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the South to join us in our support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

A Statement on Recent Events in Minneapolis

Beloved Bereans,

This week, our nation has been roiled yet again by the videotaped killing on an unarmed African American man: George Floyd. In our own beloved Kentucky, protestors are marching for justice for Breonna Taylor, an African American woman shot in her own home by the police. Even in the midst of a pandemic, people of color remain targets, often with little recourse. Christian Cooper was bird watching in Central Park this past weekend, and asked a young woman to put her dog on a leash, which was required in that park. Instead, she told him that she was going to “call the police and tell them that an African American man was threatening her and her dog.” The message was clear—Mr. Cooper would be perceived by the police as a threat to her, and would, subsequently, be punished.

In 1857, the United States Supreme Court made a decision that, it seems, follows to this day. After an enslaved man, Dred Scott, sued for his freedom after being taken by his “owner” into what was then a “free” territory, the court wrote that “They had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order…: and so far inferior, that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect:…” (Dred Scott, 60 U.S.at 407). Today, we stand as a nation at a moment when we must decide if the language of the Dred Scott Decision will guide our future, or the language of The Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all (men) peoples are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness…”  Here at Berea College, we have long stood on the side of justice, and today, we remain steadfast, holding to the motto of our Founder, the great Abolitionist Reverend John G. Fee, taken from Acts: 17:26, “God has made of One Blood All Peoples of the Earth.” Berea College remains steadfast in its support of all marginalized communities and peoples, and we ask that all Bereans remember these individuals—that we remember their names and their stories. That we never forget that we are, indeed, one blood.

Signed,

Officers of the College: Lyle Roelofs, Linda Strong-Leek, Channell Barbour, Sylvia Asante, Jeff Amburgey, Chad Berry, Phillip Logsdon, Matt Saderholm, Derrick Singleton, Teri Thompson, Judge Wilson

Trustees of the College: Robert Yahng (Chair), Vance Blade (Vice Chair), Vicki Allums, Celeste Armstrong, Charlotte Beason, Anne Bonnyman, David H. Chow, Charles Crow, Libby Culbreth, Samantha Earp, John Fleming, Mike Flowers, Nana Lampton, Betty Olinger, Miriam Pride, Dennis Roop, David Sloan, Rocky Tuan, Diane Wallace, Stephanie Ziegler, Elton White (honorary)

Faculty of the College: Rebecca Bates, Mike Berheide, A.J. Bodnar (spouse), Jill Bouma, Richard Cahill, Mark Calkins, Beth Crachiolo, Jean Cupidon, Leonard Curry, Liza DiSavino, Ashley Elston, Robert Foster, Nancy Gift, Nicholas Hartlep, Richard Hale, Megan Hoffman, Connie Lamb, Shannon Phelps, Ed McCormack, Cindy McGaha, Meta Mendel-Reyes, Ian Norris, Amanda Peach, Loretta Reynolds, Mary Robert-Garrett, Ron Rosen, Tyler Sergent, Rob Smith, Bobby Starnes, Teri Thesing, Julian Viera, Penelope Wong, Stephanie Woodie,  Andrea Woodward

Staff of the College: Kishore Acharya, Dan Adams, Elaine Adams, Jenny Akins, T.J. Akins (spouse) Ray Arnold, Candis Arthur, Aaron Beale, Lisa Berry, Sarah Broomfield, Kim Brown, Susan Buckmaster, Charlie Campbell, Sarah Campbell, Nathaniel Clements, Ashley Cochrane, Jackie Collier, Abbie Darst, Richard Dodd, Gena Edwards, Mary Galloway, Judy Ginter, Andy Glenn, Amy Harmon, Ryan Hess, Mike Hogg, Alice Hooker, Terry Hosler, Leslie Kaylor, Tennant Kirk, Brittany Lakes, Julie LeBrun, Martina Leforce, Kelly Linville, Sheila Lyons, Laura Magner, Jason Miller, Sam Milligan, Dorothy Morgan, Judy Mott, Candace Mullins, Mark Nigro, Julianna O’Brien, Joan Pauly, Jessica Pena, Frank Polion, Laurie Roelofs, Sarah Rohrer, Lois Scott, Joanne Singh, Shawnna Southerland, Melissa Strobel, Sherry Thiele, Zack Thompson, Wendy Warren, Judith Weckman, Joe Wilkie, Crystal Wylie, Jenna Zimmerman

Students of the College: Cora Allison, Josiah Creech, Rachel Dodd, Amber Follin, Sean Mack, Eli Prater, Phoebe Weber

Retirees of the College: Kathryn Akural, Lothar Baumann, Carla Baumann, John Bolin, Sandra Bolin, Sandy Bolster, Steve Bolster, Jean Boyce, Robert Boyce, Peggy Burgio, Dorothy Chao (spouse), Eugene Chao, Debra Duerson-Swinford, Betty Hibler, Libby Jones, Roger Jones (spouse), Bill Laramee, Monica Laramee (spouse), Melissa Osborne, Harry Rice, Nancy Ryan, William Turner, Barbara Wade, Joan Weston

Alumni of the College: Dale Barlow, Donna Dean, Daniel Dennert, Carol Gilliam, Theresa Scherf

Members of the Berea community: Alice Zollicoffer