9 June 2020
Honoring Black Lives: A Statement by Chicago Jesuit Academy in support of our Black Students, Alumni, Families, Colleagues, Benefactors, Friends and Neighbors
Black lives matter, and we stand with you.
We believe systemic racism and racist structures created and sustain many of the inequities that confront our Black students, alumni, families and colleagues each day.
We believe those of us who walk around each day safer and more respected because of the white color of our skin must acknowledge and account for that unearned and absurd privilege.
Right now, communities around our city are hurting in different ways and engaging in various forms of protests. These protests are not just for George Floyd or the other Black people who have been unjustly killed by police, but are also a direct response to 400 years of systemic oppression of Black people in the United States.
When we started Chicago Jesuit Academy in 2005, we understood less than we should have about the students we aspired to serve and the communities that make up the West Side of Chicago. We made mistakes.
We allowed more than two weeks to pass between the murder of George Floyd and the issuance of this statement, and we apologize for the anger and confusion that this silence has caused.
We have struggled to diversify our Board of Directors. Among our twenty-two current and incoming Directors, only two are Black women, one is a Black man and one is a Latino man. Prior to the selection of the incoming chairperson of our Board in April 2020, a Black person has never chaired the Board.
We have struggled to diversify our Faculty and Staff – which was only 11% Black and 3% Latinx in 2014-2015. Today, our Faculty and Staff is 20% Black and 3% Latinx.
As a faith-based institution, we believe every human being is made in the image and likeness of God. As a Catholic school sponsored by the Jesuits, we believe in God’s redemptive love. We believe each of us is made of both the dust of the earth and the inspired breath of God. We also must acknowledge that the history of the Catholic Church and the Jesuits in the United States includes many failures and mortal sins, specifically Georgetown University enslaving Black people and selling 272 enslaved Black men, women and children in 1838.
We try to model our grad-at-grad ideals in all that we do. We aspire to be loving, religious, open to growth, intellectually competent and committed to doing justice in the service of others.
In that pursuit, we try to listen. We try to learn. When we come up short, we try again.
We are mindful that Black families throughout Chicago and within our CJA family have lost loved ones to anti-Black violence in many forms. We stand with the many Black leaders who have done courageous, difficult and critically important work their whole lives – especially throughout the past two weeks. They have been joined by thousands of volunteers throughout Chicago who have stepped up to help others by raising funds for meals, distributing food to families in need and organizing street cleanups – all in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has disproportionately impacted Black families on the West Side.
These stories rarely get covered by the media. We see them every day.
In the days, weeks, months and years ahead, Chicago Jesuit Academy is committed to doing more and better in the service of our Black students, alumni, families, colleagues, benefactors, friends and neighbors. We have created affinity groups to elevate and empower Black voices, and we are committed to prioritizing and enacting a list of institutional changes that came out of those groups’ first meetings last week. We also know that we don’t have all of the answers. We must be guided by and listen to our Black students, alumni, families and the larger community. We commit to publishing an update about our new commitments by 15 October 2020. We also promise to publish an assessment of our progress toward these new commitments one year from today. We are committed to actively collaborating with all of our students, alumni, families, colleagues, benefactors, friends and neighbors to build a just and equitable society in which white supremacy and all systems of oppression have been dismantled.
Chairperson, CJA Board of Directors
Lauren Smith, MD
Chairperson-elect, CJA Board of Directors
President, Chicago Jesuit Academy