A Message for Black History Month

February 8, 2021

Dear Tulane Community:

As you know, February is Black History Month, a time for us to focus on the unique and lasting contributions the Black community has made at Tulane, in New Orleans and across our state and country. Jazz, Mardi Gras and our world-famous cuisine are just a few of the areas that attest to the fact that New Orleans would not be the city it is absent the creativity, innovation and improvisation of Black artists, musicians and chefs. But Black history does not end there. Homer Plessy, Ruby Bridges and countless other New Orleanians helped awaken a nation to the scourge of racial injustice, inequality and intolerance. Others who have made Black history include those recognized through Trailblazers, an initiative that celebrates the achievements of Tulanians from diverse backgrounds such as Lisa Jackson, former head of the Environmental Protection Agency and currently Apple's vice president of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives, and Dr. Regina Benjamin, former Surgeon General of the United States. Black leaders such as these, as well as Black entrepreneurs, researchers, clergy and elected officials continue to drive much of our country’s commerce and culture.  

I encourage you to join me in recognizing and celebrating these achievements and more through the many Black History Month events on campus and in our broader community. But while we should all value the opportunity to participate in these wonderful events, I am reminded of the tremendous amount of work that we have yet to do to address racial injustice. Last year was a time that will not be forgotten for many reasons—but chief among them was the sense that we had arrived at a critical junction on our journey toward a more diverse, equitable and inclusive society. To marshal the strength, energy and passion of the Tulane community toward the goal of creating such a society, we enacted A Plan for Now. This comprehensive, university-wide plan identifies actions we can take to have an immediate and positive impact on becoming a better Tulane. In the coming weeks, we will announce additional, bolder steps in this effort.

Black History Month is certainly a cause for celebration, but it is also a call to deliberately, proactively and collaboratively build a community that welcomes all and embraces diversity as fundamental to a great university. Beyond the 28 days of February, we must engage across our differences, learn more about each other and from each other while working to build a Tulane where all are welcome and all belong.

Mike Fitts