Like everyone else, I am deeply saddened by what we endured yesterday as we took part in a peaceful demonstration through the Town of Pembroke advocating Black Lives Matter. I, along with many of our university’s leaders, staff, faculty, alumni and members of the community who also participated were met with strong opposition. The University of North Carolina at Pembroke condemns what happened at the march in the strongest of terms.
Our students did not deserve to experience what occurred in the town they call home. From their first day on campus to the day they graduate, this is their home and our community appreciates, respects and seeks to welcome them along with us. This university completely supports our students. Without hesitation, UNCP administration fully supported the purpose of yesterday’s march because we know with certainty that our students’ intentions are to seek change in an unjust world. To seek equality and to stand up for what’s right.
In subsequent discussion with Town and community leadership, it is clear the vast majority, if not all, of those disrespecting the marchers, were individuals from outside the town, fueled, encouraged and organized by irresponsible and uninformed activity. Their words and actions are absolutely not representative of the citizens of Pembroke or of UNC Pembroke.
Yesterday evening, as heartbroken as we all were to witness racism and hatred first-hand, we were also filled with pride and hope. Pride because of how our students held their heads high. Hope because they kept walking and stayed focused on their goal and were supported by so many members of the Pembroke community who believe in justice and equality. Our students and the marchers honored the lives and sacrifice of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many more. Those who harassed them honored no one, least of all themselves.
What happened at this peaceful march, proved that we have a long way to go as a society, but we as a university are committed to making the change starting on our campus. We are committed to supporting our students and promoting the diversity and inclusion that has long made our campus special.
Let us not dwell on the misguided individual acts of some, but the collective message of our students and alumni. Let their message of peace, hope, justice and equality help us all seek growth from this experience and bring light to this divided country.
Our students are that light, they are the future. They are our doctors, lawyers, politicians, educators, nurses, and business people of tomorrow. We, as a university, will nurture and respect them and will help them grow and succeed in life. And we will stand by their right to peacefully express their views as work to create a better world.
Robin Gary Cummings, MD