Dear Artists, Activists and Advocates,
For those of us who are graduating without the privilege of goodbye, we all wish that time would bow at our feet and give us more of itself. If there is anyone who understands the delicacy of time, it is us. Let us seek closure in our transition and make space to grieve the loss of what was but also make space to celebrate what still is.
For those of you still doing good work on campus, I want you to know that there is a lot of love in this world for you and your work. It is important and valid and so very needed. If it changes the posture of just one person, you have done a great job. You are not in this fight alone. The community you have been praying for is on their way. There will be disagreements over the right avenue of activism but nevertheless, remember that justice depends on your unity.
By now, you have probably learned that change is never instant. On the rare occasions that you see what seems to be a radical change, know that you have actually just witnessed the fruition of work from campus leaders who have done that work during their time long before you. They have handed you the baton to cross the finish line, but it is not about the credit, the applause or the front page cover. It is about the community you serve and their pursuit of being fully recognized by the institution. Your job is to create space for others to be free to express their art in their language, to live fully in their bodies and to take up space in a room that was never built for the bass in their voice. I know the work is much bigger than you and that is why you need to build a strong coalition of loving, fighting, coffee-addicted, ridiculously-bad-at-dancing friends who will hold your hand.
That is called a community. Your community is your greatest asset. You cannot do the work that God has planned for you without the community that he has crafted to help you. Your community builds the dreams you have that are too big for your body. Your community shows up to the protest to echo your voice. Your community decorates your apartment for every occasion. Your community helps you pack up your apartment when the eviction notice is pending. Your community shows up front row to witness your art. Your community picks you up for dinner at your favorite hole in the wall after the breakup. Your community walks you to the altar in prayer and protest. You are only as strong as your community.
In this work, do not forget about you. Many make the mistake of trying to do it all. When you reflect on your time at The Capstone, you will remember your boldest moments. You will remember the marches to the Rose Administration or the time you called out injustice. Those are not the only bold moments you deserve to make. You also deserve to dance in the middle of Galettes with your friends until closing and scream expletives to Auburn on live television because hey, those are the lyrics. You deserve to tell your college crush how you feel in the middle of a drag show at Icon and to spend the whole night at bingo just to lose every round. You deserve to make a mess of your messy fries and to skip a meeting to show up for your friends. It is a bold move to love yourself in public. I challenge you to be bold in many ways that serve everyone, including yourself. It is not selfish.
Above all, remember that while those moments may pass as friends scatter across the country post-graduation, the lessons will not. As you learn in public and learn to love yourself in public, wake up every day with the intention to discover your place in the story of UA. You got this.
Alexus Cumbie is a recent UA graduate who studied business management and political science. She plans to study as an American Enterprise Institute Scholar in Washington, D.C.