June 4, 2020
Dear PacBay students, families, faculty, staff, and alumni,
“I always see my Bowdoin College sweatshirt as my armor,” said my grown son last Saturday. “When I go outside, I feel an extra sense of security if people visually associate me with a well-known educational institution.” As a young black man, he is accustomed to the constant specter of unprovoked, racially motivated violence and lives in a state of underlying vigilance. While jarring for him, the recent racial injustices were nothing new – in fact, these are the same stories with new names. This is just not right.
Later that day in Pacifica, I was honored to send the Class of 2020 into the world with deep love, hope, and pride. Yet, amidst the celebration, I wondered about the deep hurt and trauma that many of our students – particularly our black and brown students – were holding at the same time in light of the recent events.
As a nation, we have watched in recent weeks the horrific and deadly treatment of Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd. These names—which represent individuals created in the image of God and worthy of love, respect, and dignity (Genesis 1), and for whom Christ died (John 3:16)—are the most recent. But these recent events are nothing new – the black community has been gasping for air throughout our country’s 400-year history of racially motivated violence and injustice—from slavery to Jim Crow, zoning laws to stop and frisk and mass incarceration, and unemployment and inequitable compensation.
So, how should we, as a Christ-centered community respond?
As a Christ-centered school, we affirm that while the good news of the Gospel is for all, it also places its emphasis on the marginalized and oppressed (Matthews 5); and, as we recently celebrated Pentecost Sunday, God birthed the Christian church on the foundation of linguistic and cultural diversity (Acts 2). Where our actions and commitments have deviated from what we have believed and preached, we collectively ask forgiveness from God and, as importantly (Matthew 5:24), from our brothers and sisters of color.
For the sake of the flourishing of all of our students, we must call out the sin of racism prophetically, minister humbly as a community to all those who are hurting, and act meaningfully as a collective witness of God’s justice (Amos 5).
A friend once said, “compassion without action is only an observation.” Personally, I have been collaboratively leading a national effort to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in Christian schools (see https://christiandiversity.school/). In responding to the current events, this Tuesday I spoke on a panel discussion reaching over 400 Christian school leaders nationally to amplify the voices of pain, frustration, and lament for those who are deeply hurt by racial injustice. During this time, it is important that we listen to our brothers and sisters in Christ who feel this pain daily, and as a first step, I strongly urge you to take some time to watch the recording here. https://youtu.be/YNNpki7FCZA
As I spoke on the panel, I drew strength from PacBay’s loving community and from its beautiful mosaic of students and families. We are strong because of our diversity, and we are committed to make our school a place where Christ-centered justice, equity, and reconciliation reign (2 Corinthians 5:11).
As a school, I ask that we all go to our Father in heaven and seek His face. As the scripture has taught us, “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicle 7:14).
Let us collectively lament for the grievous losses of life, reflect on how we can individually and collectively pursue justice and mercy to undo racism and systemic oppression, and ask God to help us to engage authentically and effectively to transform brokenness into beautiful wholeness.
Several years ago Dr. Chen and Erik Ellefsen (PacBay School Board Member) became leaders and partners with the Christian Educators Diversity Alliance. Their important work over the last several years has obviously taken on new significance and urgency. The Pacific Bay Christian School Board is thankful to have Dr. Chen’s leadership and guidance for PacBay in this time of personal, organizational and national introspection. We look forward to walking alongside him and our community in the days to come.
Alan T. Aimi
On behalf of the Pacific Bay Christian School Board