…To Build a More Just and Humane Society
The mission statement of Xavier University of Louisiana can be recited on cue by students, faculty, staff, and alumni alike; it is an aspirational ideal that calls us to toward the building of a more just and humane society by putting into service the education we are and have pursued, which has and is shaping the very being of every member of the Xavier community. Imbued with hope and sustained by faith—our mission, handed down by our Foundress St. Katharine Drexel, remains steadfast: The ultimate purpose of the University is to contribute to the promotion of a more just and humane society by preparing its students to assume roles of leadership and service in a global society. While the very being of a Xavierite is soaked through with the mission, very seldom have we collectively paused to consider what this means for each of us resting under the mantle of Xavier’s mission.
What does this mission require of us? As a Catholic institution of higher learning and the only Black and Catholic university in the nation, the metaphor I will use to describe our relation to Xavier is fitting. Being a Xavierite, like being a religious, is a vocation—a deliberate moment where purpose meets Providence. Each of us was called forth by the University to learn, to serve, to act on her behalf, and to make alive her mission in the world. It is by no mistake that each of us is a Xavierite and that each of us has been endowed with the gifts necessary to make real the mission of Xavier University of Louisiana.
The mission that we have accepted—to work toward building a more just and humane society—requires an interrogation of injustice, the courage to call it out, and the bravery to work toward justice. It mandates that we are people of hope; even more, it mandates that we are leaders with hopeful hearts. Hope is not a trite concept, as Cornel West reminds us, but hope is always the product of community grounded in love, healing from suffering, and seeking justice bound by a shared vision of the future. In the Black American tradition, we call this prophetic hope—the ability to imagine what the world, what our community, what our University is not, yet must become to fight back the forces of oppression in the world. In our current socio-political climate, prophetic hope and a healthy dose of radical strategic action is necessary to speak truth to power and dismantle any system which seeks to oppress the marginalized and the poor.
Our mission is to transform and be transformed. In practice, we must:
- recognize the yet unfolding systemic impacts of imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy on the poor and marginalized peoples of the world;
- work to fight systems of oppression that vilify individuals and communities based on social identities, economic status, or nationality;
- build and become bridges for communities that recognize the dignity and respect the personhood of all people, and welcome and affirm people to be their whole selves; and
- understand the intersections of gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, class, ability, age, culture, nationality, immigration status, and all social systems are always at work within systems.
Most importantly, we are required to interrogate our own biases, search our own hearts, and sweep around our own front doors before we ever endeavor to sweep around someone else’s.
To be Xavier educated- that is to say be educated at the nation’s only Black and Catholic HBCU- requires the institution and each of us to remain islands of hope in a sea of despair and vitriolic national dialogue, which welcome ALL––not as guests but as full members of the community in the dignity and fullness of their humanity.
The Center for Equity, Justice, and the Human Spirit at Xavier is a physical and intellectual space where our collective imaginations can coalesce to conceive of visions, to dream the world the way we hope it to be and begin to work toward the necessary transformations to make the dream a reality. The Center is a movement—an intellectual, community-based, action-oriented movement saturated in Catholic social teaching and guided by spirituality of the ancestors, and informed by the mission of Xavier, is tenaciously focused on dismantling oppressive systems, achieving equity, practicing justice for all, and uplifting the human spirit. To put it another way, the Center is the crystallization of nearly 95 years of our history of combatting and traversing oppressive systems, triumphing in the face of adversity, reclaiming our shared humanity, and educating and producing whole human beings who go out into the world prepared and ready to do justice no matter where they find themselves on the globe.
The fulfilment of the mission and our collective work begin with your individual commitment to live justly and humanely wherever you find yourself at the reading of this message. At the Center, we will begin our work concretizing a shared vision while working toward impacting policy, changing practice, and inspiring purpose within the areas of PK-16 education, criminal justice, and environmental sustainability. I look forward to working with each of you to collectively imagine and work toward the building of a more just and humane society.
Be of good courage,
David W. Robinson-Morris, Ph.D.
Founding Director, The Center for Equity, Justice, and the Human Spirit
Director, Corporate and Foundation Relations
Assistant Professor, Division of Education and Counseling
Xavier University of Louisiana