Students, trainees, healthcare professionals and others from the Baylor community joined with peers from UTHealth, UTMB and other Texas Medical Center institutions for White Coats for Black Lives, Tuesday, June 2, at the Hermann Park Reflection Pool.
The event was organized in response to the death of Houston native George Floyd and to the issues of racism, inequality and injustice that are challenging the country. Carrying hand-made signs, the demonstrators observed silence for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the length of time that George Floyd was restrained by Minneapolis police.
A second event, Scientists and Health Professionals for Black Lives, was held June 9 at the TMC Commons. Speakers from Baylor and other institutions talked about the importance of addressing disparities in healthcare that impact African-Americans, and honored George Floyd on the day of his funeral in Houston.
Many from the Baylor community also participated in the march and demonstration in downtown Houston.
Read the full text of Baylor President and CEO Dr. Paul Klotman’s note to the community:
Dear Members of the Baylor College of Medicine Community,
Over the last seven days there has been a multitude of emotions from deep sadness to tremendous rage following the senseless death of George Floyd and the reminder of too many others who have suffered the same fate. I know that those emotions have been felt in the Baylor community and the Houston community. I know that many of you are feeling frightened, stressed, sad and angry. I have felt many of these emotions as well and it is what we do to deal with those feelings that is of the utmost importance. On Friday I provided a list of mental health resources for all members of the Baylor community needing support or someone to talk to. I am sure that after the events this weekend in our city and around the country that many more people are needing support. I hope you feel comfortable asking for help. It is a sign of strength to recognize when you need help. I encourage each and every person in the Baylor community to also help each other. Be aware of when a colleague is struggling and reach out to them.
At Baylor, we work and live by our values of respect, integrity, innovation, teamwork and excellence. We have been part of the Houston community since 1943 and as leaders in this community, we are called to heal, to educate and to find solutions to both medical disease and to societal issues. This has never been more important than it is today. No one person or organization can heal the wounds of racism and prevent the recurrence of racism. But as unique individuals and organizations, we can work together with our community, our state and our country to address this issue and other issues of exclusion.
Over the coming days, our Office of Institutional Diversity, Inclusion and Equity, along with our Inclusion and Excellence Council, will be developing ways for people in the Baylor community to come together for compassionate conversations on racism and violence. It is important for us to make time for these conversations whether in organized groups or taking it to your home communities. Houston will be on the public stage in the coming days when George Floyd is brought back to Houston for his funeral and we all continue to feel anxious and stressed. Turning to each other for support will be extremely important and know that Baylor College of Medicine supports each of you.
Racism is never acceptable. I learned that first hand from my mother, Dr. Phyllis Klotman, one of the first professors of African American studies. She was the Dean of Women’s Affairs and the first Director of Affirmative Action at Indiana University, and was an expert in African American literature and film. She taught me valuable life lessons about respecting the richness of experiences from people from all walks of life. She also introduced me to a number of African American writers, including Langston Hughes. His were simple poems with incredibly deep meanings, informed by his own struggles. I thought of his poem, Dreams, that reminds us to hold fast to an optimistic view of life. Now is not the time to focus on the negative, the barren field, the broken-winged bird. It is the time to find optimism, a path to healing and to creating a community of justice for all.
Paul Klotman, M.D.
President & CEO