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Thursday, September 12,2019

The Rev. Ruthanna Hooke, Ph.D., touched on the article in The Washington Post in the sermon in the Seminary Eucharist. During my class in Christian Ethics (how appropriate) yesterday, I received confirmation from the Director of Communication, Mr. Curtis Prather, that I had three interviews scheduled over lunch. At 5:50 p.m., I learned through the Associate Dean for Students, Bishop Jim Mathes, that there was a reporter on the campus -- and Ms. Valerie Mayo facilitated that interview. At the lovely cheese and wine, organized by the Rev. Barney Hawkins, Ph.D., in Oakwood, I joined the rest of the occupants of the dorms and watched local Fox 5 offer up a four-minute segment on Virginia Theological Seminary. Today our story appears on the website of The New York Times

We have made our decision to seek to recognize both the grace and the sin of our past as an institution. There is global interest in this decision, and many questions are the same. "Why now?"

And I reply, "Because you cannot mark two hundred years without telling the whole story."

"Why the amount?"

And I explain, "Because this is just a small step - a seed, a start - in trying to recognize that along with the apology, along with the promise the future will be different, we must take some form of action."

And finally, they ask "Who will benefit?"

And here I explain that I want VTS to know that the complete history of our past includes significant numbers of enslaved persons, who were never recognized, some of whom might have injured as they built buildings, and were oppressed and never compensated for their labor.

Reparations is a simple concept. When an institution does not pay for labor during a person's lifetime, then that payment goes to their estate. And as with every estate, the beneficiaries are the descendants. Hopefully, we will find some descendants. The Dean's Task force will do that work. And we will then have a name; we will be able to recognize that person; and yes we will be able to make a small contribution to that descendant in recognition of their oppressed and unpaid labor. Our history also includes complicity in the Jim Crow segregation that followed slavery, and we will therefore also use these funds to make amends to the local African American community with historical connections to this institution. 

The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
Dean and President

Dean's Commentary Archive

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