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Art Against Virulence
Daniel Frost
Dora Calva, ’22
Ashley Rodríguez Lantigua, ’23
Judy Powell

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Juan Andrés Ercoli
Fátima Oseida, ’20
Teresa Gervais, ’20
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Claudia Dávila, ’20
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Vanessa Attaya, ’22
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Spanish 406
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Hanna Benson ’20
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Daniel Frost, Spanish  
Eleven Days

In the span of eleven days I saw a baccalaureate celebration for nearly one hundred students of color Zoom-bombed by an anonymous white male spitting racist insults from off camera, unwilling to show his face. I’ve read about young Amaud Arbery shot by a white man and his son claiming justice while a third white man recorded it. I’ve heard how Christian Cooper, birding, was threatened by an entitled scofflaw whose complaint to police — “there’s an African American male threatening my life”— seems expressly calculated to prey on African American males’ all-too justifiable fear of police violence. And I’ve seen George Floyd die, knelt on for more than eight minutes by a policeman named Derek Chavin while his partners went about their business and bystanders collected the video. Eleven days. Not eleven decades, not eleven years — even eleven months would be too much. Eleven days. Eleven days that bear the suffering of centuries in America.

I have to admit I’ve been dumbstruck by the violence and lack of regard for one another. But I’ve also struggled with the awareness that dumbstruck is the last thing I can be. It can be deadly to be dumb. So I’m trying to comprehend the weight of the knee on George Floyd’s neck. I’m not officer Chauvin, but I have knees. How can I use them to lift the weight instead, even a little? Even if, in ways unapparent to me, I have lent my weight to the load? I have thought of that every day recently, in memory of George Floyd, Amaud Amery, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Stephon Clark, Trayvon Martin and countless others (including Amadou Diallo, whose death I remember not long after my own college graduation) who have been choked and pinned and killed by prejudice, fear and silence. I have also thought that in support of Colin Kaepernick and others — including police officers, in Colorado Springs, Ferguson, Washington DC and elsewhere—who have dared to take a knee in support of equality and justice.

When I think back to those students whose celebration was so despicably interrupted, I see young women and men who persevered despite their fears and were undeterred by obstacles put up by privilege, inequality, tradition or bias. They graduated. They struggled in their own ways to prepare themselves to better the world that we are leaving them. They are my hope as I try to resist the beasts that lurk among us, beasts whose poison I may carry without meaning to, but which I try as I can to overcome.

Needless to say, I have much more faith in the  graduates from eleven days ago than I have in our current leadership, a presidency that has threatened to unleash the United States military on the United States, pitting one American against another by force of fear and authority. I draw strength, though, in the belief that those hundred or so whose accomplishments we celebrated will write their names in history as ones who stood for, and with, others struggling to draw sweet breath despite our wounded knees.

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