The opening bars of the “Pomp and Circumstance March” are played on kazoo.
KATHRYN STOCKTON: Hey cool graduates: I’m Kathryn Stockton, Dean of the School for Cultural and Social Transformation. We’re just here to say: You’re done! You’ve done it! You’ve even made history! No other students at this University, let me assure you, have graduated under these conditions. That’s big. That’s righteous. That’s mighty fierce of you. Cyber-ferocity, cyber-fabulosity, is yours to claim. So do a little dance. Run your fingers through your hair. Pat your bald top. We celebrate you!
Actually, we’re amazed by you. We have watched you, over these years. What a privilege that’s been. Your words have come inside us. Your ideas are in our flesh. And you’ve fleshed out what a barrier is, by trusting us to hear all that you’ve confronted in the realms of racism, unequal finances, trans-and-homo-phobia; ableism, sexism, extreme xenophobia. I could go on. Abstract forces are laden with sensations when we think with you.
Now, you’ve heard me say how much we miss you. We so do. It’s been brutal without your physical presence. And now we’re really going to miss you, because you’re moving on. And I can’t believe that I’m not going to see you when I cross through the lounge to go to my office. I won’t be able to stop and hear what you’re learning and just connect to you, which has meant so much to me. That’s a hard thought to bear. But we do need you to emerge more fully into this world at this moment. And bring with you the thing you’ve gained: I’m going to call it barbed hope. (Not barbed wire, but barbed hope.) That is to say: Not sloppy hope. Not the hope of platitudes. Barbed hope. Informed hope.
This virus is a strange informant. It tells us what we know—what you know. That hope for a cure must contend with anti-blackness, or it’s no cure at all. That the deaths we’re seeing for black and brown folks and American Indians—I mean, look what’s happening to Navajo nation – the underrepresented are overrepresented in viral deaths— and this is not a matter of identity politics. You would call these structural inequalities. I know you would.
You would say: If there’s to be hope for global healing, we must battle income inequality, since it is literally making us sick. At each and every turn in the story of this virus, there is income inequality. Oh, how the virus has informed us of that—and you have words for it. You will have ideas that are spilling into actions.
I have such hope for your informed hope. Your barbed hope.
We celebrate you! So now, here are words from our Transform team….
ELIZABETH ARCHULETA: Hi, I’m Elizabeth Archuleta, the Associate Chair of Ethnic Studies, sending you a big congratulations! Right now, I want you to take your arms, and wrap them around yourself, and squeeze tight, because that’s what I’d be doing if this was taking place in person – I’d be giving you a hug. You’re living through unprecedented times, and science isn’t the only cure for what’s happening. You leave here with knowledge about the way already existing inequalities have been made more clear by the pandemic, because people of color are dying at higher rates. So, I know you’ll use this knowledge to go out and make the world a better place. Peace.
KIM HACKFORD-PEER: Hello everybody. I’m Kim Hackford-Peer and I’m the Associate Chair of Gender Studies. I want you to know that I am proud of you. And I’m looking forward to updates about what you’re doing and where you’re going, for years to come. More than anything though, I’m grateful to you, for all that you’ve taught me, for the laughter and joy you’ve brought to my classrooms, my office, my life, and for the trust you put into me as we’ve taken this journey together. Congratulations on all that you’ve accomplished so far – I’ll see you in December!
EDMUND FONG: Ethnic Studies Graduating Class of 2020: My name is Edmund Fong and as Chair of the Division of Ethnic Studies I salute each and every one of you! In these times, I am, too, deeply saddened I cannot directly bear witness to your truth nor feel the power of your presence. But I know – following the likes of Frederick Douglass and James Baldwin, Sojourner Truth and Audre Lorde – that the light of your intelligence will come from how you trouble the world around you, that the evidence of your being will shine forth as you sternly dispute the ground you occupy. I hope we have been able to enliven these for you in your time here and I look forward to the ways you will transform the world around you. We all will dearly miss you, all the more because we need you – more than ever before – to imagine otherwise. Congratulations, Ethnic Studies Graduating Class of 2020!
SUSIE PORTER: I’m Susie Porter, Chair of the Gender Studies Division. Hooray for you, graduates! Stay committed to your dreams, stay flexible in your approach. And as Dolores Huerta says: Si se puede!
ANGELA SMITH: I’m Angela Smith, associate professor in Gender Studies and director of Disability Studies. I’d like to send out a huge congratulations to all of our Transform graduates: your hard work, struggle, and perseverance has brought you to this moment and you genuinely deserve to celebrate and be celebrated. I’d also like to give a shout-out to our fabulous Disability Studies minors, some of whom come from within Transform, and some of whom come to us from other colleges. That move outside of the bounds of your majors and your home disciplines is a real act of curiosity, exploration, and courage, and for that, you, too, deserve to be congratulated and celebrated!
CLAUDIA GEIST: Hi, I’m Claudia Geist. I’m the Associate Dean for Research in Transform, and, again, congratulations! You are awesome, even on the days that you don’t feel awesome. And, we all hear about the intense need for research, but don’t forget, what we really need is also the expertise from Ethnic Studies, Gender Studies, and Disability Studies, because without the insights from research that is informed by these approaches, we don’t have a way forward for a better future and to find better responses to future crises. So, you are our hope! Even if you personally may not feel hopeful right now. You are the one who will lead us forward, and we trust you, we believe you, and just keep doing what you’re doing. Thank you for all that you’ve already done and will do in the future.
ESTELA HERNANDEZ: My name is Estela Hernandez and I’m Assistant Dean for the School. Class of 2020: We are SO proud of you! Look for something in the mail from us in the next couple of weeks. We will also be in touch very soon about your December convocation so that we may properly celebrate you. Congratulations!
JEN WOZAB: My name is Jen Wozab, the Transform academic advisor, and I want to say, “YOU DID IT!” You have worked so incredibly hard to get to this moment! And I have worked with many of you for the past two, three, four years, and I’m so incredibly proud of you. And every semester that I worked with you, you felt like it was so hard, to get to the end, and this semester has been incredibly challenging, but you did it! You can get through hard things, you can face the challenges ahead of you, and I know that our Class of 2020 is going to change the world. We look forward to seeing you in December when we can dance, high five, hug, and cheer you on in person as you cross that stage. Congrats, Class of 2020!! KATHRYN STOCKTON: Okay, team, at the count of three: one, two, three! [Cue throwing of confetti and celebratory noises.]