August 14, 2015

Dear Penn Students of the Black Diaspora:

My name is Leslie Jones, and I am the new president of the Black Graduate and Professional Student Assembly (BGAPSA) at Penn. I and the 2015-2016 Executive Board would like to share a message with you as the summer comes to a close.

We are writing this letter in mourning of the Black lives lost this summer to racially motivated police brutality. We understand that like us, many Black students at Penn are hurting and exhausted by the emotional labor of coping with these seemingly unending tragedies. No one should be expected to fight this battle alone.

With that in mind, the 2015 executive board of BGAPSA declares our renewed commitment to building a thriving, cohesive community of Black faculty and students. This year, we will celebrate radical Black love through a series of social, educational, and civic events that center the Black experience and affirm that Black Lives Matter.

The BGAPSA board, in partnership with the Black undergraduate leadership, will also take an active role in representing the needs of Penn’s Black community to university administrators. BGAPSA will hold general assembly on the third Tuesday of every month. While each meeting will have a specific agenda, graduate students are always invited to share any concerns about their university experience, such as institutional and systemic racism, cultural inclusion, and university diversity. The general assembly will take a democratic vote in times where direct collective action is desired.

BGAPSA general assembly meetings will also be a place where we can celebrate the achievements of those within our community, and our progress toward the goals of unity and liberty. We hope that this will be a space in which our members can practice self-care by building collective strength.

BGAPSA pledges to maintain a vigorous dialogue with President Amy Gutmann, the university deans, and the larger graduate community about issues particular to Black students at Penn as well as the various intersectional identities represented therein. We also pledge our accountability to you. We welcome feedback on how we can improve our service so that Penn is a place where graduate students from our community can thrive and succeed. Attached, please find a calendar of just a few of the events we have planned for the coming year. We invite new students to take the new member survey and join our mailing list located here: http://bit.ly/1KgPIj3

We wish all of our current and future members a restful and invigorating end to your summer, and we welcome you back to the family in fall.

Yours in Solidarity,

The BGAPSA 2015-2016 Executive Board

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