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(Revised from a letter sent to Department of English graduate students)

July 21, 2020

Dear Students,

My thoughts of you have been too great to measure. I’ve wanted the opportunity to express my support, care and concern for your well-being for some time now. I’ve been cautious knowing we are all dealing with various degrees of shock, pain, grief, trauma and stress over the events of recent weeks and months of turmoil and changes evolving daily.

So to all of you, especially incoming students—and more importantly in this moment our Black and minority students, I care about you and I hope people are checking on you. I hope you are thriving and prevailing and are well even though I know you’re not okay. I’m not always okay but we will get through this together somehow.

Everything happens for a reason and this is your moment to seize and determine the shape of your future. I truly believe it’s this generation globally that will determine what we will be and what the world will be from now on.

This is your time to create the change and the narrative and the correct responses. Other generations of students and young people have come and gone. They had their time and made their choices. This is your time. Make wise and thoughtful and intentional choices. What you do and how you do it will impact us all.

There has been a “Greatest Generation,” the term for those young people who lived through the Great Depression and World War II. Among other names your generation will be given, I hope one day you are remembered as the “Ultimate Generation” or the “Ultimate Answer Generation” because you rose to find the answers and solutions to resolve the centuries-old condition other generations have not been able to resolve.

So a bit of wisdom as we go. Be the bigger and better person. We can’t control what has already happened but we can control how we go forward. You know this. Craft and be very definite about how you proceed. People will hold you accountable for your actions. Hold them accountable for theirs.

In this in-between time of so much urgent change, find and define your community. Find your common connections and stay connected to each other. Care about each other. No person should ever feel alone in the process of becoming more. You have each other. Now expand on those connections.

Next, HOLD ON and be encouraged. There truly are more people who care about you than who are against you or want to hurt you. Know who those people are and know the difference. Take the time to really “see people” for who they are through the good and the bad just as you want and need to be seen for who you are.

Also, know your limits. Everything that happens is not yours to carry. Know yourself and know how much you can offer, what you can do, and when to step away for a while. It will help you keep your balance.

Lastly, but most importantly, DON’T HATE. Get angry, YES, but don’t become what hate is. If you do, it wins. Be mindful not to become what so many who hate and oppress become. Those empty, dark, voided vessels of evil, corruption and death that are drunk on power and destruction. Push BACK, YES! Push back HARD, YES! Push FORWARD, YES! You PUSH and you PUSH and you FIGHT for LOVE. YES! Why? Because you love yourself AS YOU ARE. Because you love your family. Because you love your ancestors. Because you love those who are gone. Because you love your friends. Because you love your community. Because you love your life. Because you love your world. Because you love your future. You fight and you fight and you fight for the right to be EQUAL and to be RESPECTED and to be ACKNOWLEDGED and mostly for the RIGHT TO LOVE and BE LOVED and ACCEPTED and TO LIVE WITHOUT FEAR. You fight and you push back for the FREEDOM to do those things and so much more. It is exhausting and painful. It will be exhausting and sometimes excruciatingly painful but it is worth the fight and the exhaustion and the pain, because LOVE NEVER DIES. When you fight FOR LOVE it gets stronger. When you fight WITH LOVE on your side you never lose. Whatever comes, don’t lose love.

Until we struggle no more,

Colette E. Dabney

Central Office Administrator

Department of English, UVA

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