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The World Needs YOU Now More Than Ever

Open Letter to the Students of Johnson C. Smith University

The World Needs YOU Now More Than Ever 

In the midst of a pandemic that has affected nearly every continent on earth, that has exposed and laid bare the inequalities borne most heavily by the poor and underserved of our community; we now find this country in the midst of facing once again the harsh reality of the legacy of racism, the seeds of which were planted over 400 years ago on this continent. In the last several weeks we have witnessed Ahmaud Arbery’s senseless killing while jogging in Georgia; black delivery men in an Oklahoma gated community being held against their will for failing to answer the questions of two white men who questioned the delivery men’s right to have entered their enclave; a white female New York City investment banker call the police on a black man who merely asked that she follow the law and leash her dog while in Central Park; and most recently, the shocking death of George Floyd as a white police officer kneeled on his neck for over 8 minutes, literally two minutes after he had already gasped his last breath.

The cumulative effect of these events and similar events, which occurred in years past, has led to understandable frustrations that ask the question: When will this end? The insidious nature of racism suggests that it may not be soon, but it is my hope that you and your peers at institutions of higher education throughout this country, especially those attending HBCUs, will lead this country to a new understanding of its obligations to ensure that the inequality gap does not continue to expand and that we make certain all members of society have the opportunities to reach their full potential.

Two weeks ago, 70 HBCUs, including Johnson C. Smith University, participated in a nationwide commencement celebration. President Barack Obama was among the many people who offered words of wisdom to our graduates.  I am reminded of something he said in making an observation of the state of the world and the significance of the graduates being honored that day. To paraphrase, he said: “We need you now, more than ever!”  I wholeheartedly agree with President Obama.  It is critical that your voices are heard; your perspectives are seen; and your experiences are acknowledged in helping to examine, explore and resolve many of the stresses that are threatening to rip the fabric of our society apart.

I know the events of the last few days may have you confused and wondering where is your place in the world.  I would amplify President Obama’s call to you: We need you now, more than ever!  And we, the faculty, staff, administration and Trustees of JCSU stand ready, willing and able to prepare you to take on the issues of injustice and inequality facing this country and the world.

Stay safe! We are looking forward to the day when we can reconvene on campus as the unified, resilient and strong community that we are. 


Clarence D. Armbrister signature

Clarence D. Armbrister, J.D.


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