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A Message Following the Unjust Killing of Tyre Nichols

Dear Members of the Emerson Community,

Tyre Nichols was a fellow creative like many of you. He had just returned from capturing a beautiful sunset through his camera lens when he was murdered in Memphis. Another magnificent Black life taken from the world too soon.

This past weekend, the Memphis Police released heart-wrenching photos and video images that show Tyre Nichols’ life being brutally taken.

He now joins a staggering long list of Black people who have been unjustly murdered as they went about their daily lives. Nichols was 29. He was a father. He was beaten during a routine traffic stop, unprovoked.

His killing recounts a painful truth that justice and equality in the United States remains a constant struggle to attain.

As an institution of higher education, we have an obligation to remember that structural inequality is not just about theory or parsing the right language to describe bias. Rather, our work must focus on addressing the material realities and cultural attitudes that determine whether or not a person can survive; self-actualize, or not.

As an institution of creative scholarship and artistic brilliance, we have an obligation to continue to make new investments in Black citizenship and dignity.

It is not lost on me that this is my second message in two weeks decrying the tragic loss of life. There is such a searing emotional weight to the anguish around us, that we feel deeply. 

We all deserve to be who we are, and to feel safe in our identities and our communities. For this to be true, we have work to do together as a community here at Emerson.

If you, or someone you know, is in need of assistance, there are several resources on campus available to students, staff, and faculty including the Healing & Advocacy Collective, the Office of Spiritual Life, the Employee Assistance Program, Emerson Counseling and Psychological Services, Intercultural Student Affairs and the Office of International Student Affairs. Students in Los Angeles can contact for local support. Students at Kasteel Well can contact

If you would like to learn more about the systemic nature of this tragedy, Professor Gregory Payne will be speaking with Emerson alum, Niko Emack-Bazelais ‘18 about “Problems in Policing: Achieving Public Safety in a Democracy on January 31, at noon EST, 9:00 am PST, and 6:00 pm GMT+1. Here is the Zoom link. 

In community,
Shaya Gregory Poku  
Vice President for Equity and Social Justice  
Social Justice Collaborative
Emerson College

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