On May 23, students of color from Class I and Class II gathered with their families and faculty to celebrate their accomplishments and a special sense of community. The annual Freeman Legacy Dinner honors former Nobles arts faculty member and champion for diversity Bob Freeman.
Co-Dean of Diversity Erica Pernell encouraged graduating students to garner hope from that legacy. "As people of color in a majority wealthy white space, you offer a perspective that would otherwise be completely absent and was completely absent for the first 100 years of this institution’s existence. The leadership you offer simply by being authentically you provides hope for younger students of color and allows students who are more familiar and comfortable with homogeneity the chance to see through a window into a different world. While a Nobles education offers opportunities that most can only dream of, your engagement with this community gives Nobles the opportunity to become more excellent. Your authentic perspective and your lived experience are the most important things you bring with you wherever you go."
Pernell thanked Head of School Bob Henderson for his support of diversity work, and teammates Janim Sayles, David Roane, Edgar De Leon, Cassie Velazquez and Jermetrius Troy. She recognized distinguished guests Bob and Bettye Freeman, as well as Bob Pinderhughes '67, Nobles' first graduate of color and last year's speaker.
Speaker Dr. Rick Pinderhughes '73, (Bob Pinderhughes' brother) shared his experiences at Nobles and other institutions—both positive and challenging—and insights. He is the Director of Programs and a multicultural consultant at Visions Inc., an organization dedicated to catalyzing a more equitable world where differences are valued and used for the benefit of all. With a background in adoption issues, particularly transracial adoption, Dr. Pinderhughes has practiced individual, group and family therapy for 25 years in greater Boston and is currently an adjunct faculty member at the Boston College School of Social Work.
He told students, "I cannot tell you how emotional it is for me to see this room populated this way; there is the visual – but there is also a visceral impact it has on me. To see all of the colors, faces, family, the numbers — in the same room here at Nobles — is very powerful to me. You see, when I first walked onto the campus, my brother Bob was the only person of color in the entire school. When I was here, upon graduation there were 13 Black students and I can only remember one Asian. So just the sight of you all is, indeed, very encouraging and to some degree, quite healing. There is a ‘both/and’ here; more than one truth can exist in the same event or experience." He went on to share that while heartening, that progress is not enough, and emphasized the urgency of having conversations about race, equity and other difficult issues.
"My hope for you is the ability to be yourselves, no matter where you are; to push yourselves; to grow into the kinds of conversations that expand your edges, that contribute further to your learning; to be able to have the conversations so that you can know when to have them or not; this is different than not knowing how, which might lead me, by default, to avoid these conversations.
I believe and trust that you have already begun this journey here and hope that you will continue it beyond Nobles. As people of color, it is difficult to be in this country and not have these conversations at some point – and, there are some contexts and many people (including people from your own group) who feel that having these conversations is in and of itself a divisive process, rather than one that promotes learning and understanding.
I am glad that you are in this position to move on in your lives in ways that will challenge you, excite you, please you and yes, frustrate you – that is all part of this; as a psychologist, if I don’t see you feeling all of the feelings I am going to think something is wrong. Our feelings are important messages to us about what we need moving forward and it is important to pay attention to them. I hope you are feeling powerful tonight, and joyful. I so want that for you. You deserve to be in that space. Enjoy this moment in your life."