One of Tupac Shakur’s most famous poems begins, “Did you hear about the rose that grew / from a crack in the concrete?”
“For many, growth over time has been like a rosebush seedling trying to push its way through only a tiny crack within a long stretch of concrete,” Professor of Human Development Michelle Dunlap told an audience of students, faculty, staff and alumni during a special virtual Convocation event Oct. 1.
Dunlap compared the rose in Shakur’s poem, which the rapper wrote in 1991, to oppressed peoples who push through burdens, precarities and catastrophes “that other people may not seem to face as often or even notice.”
“Indigenous, Black and Brown bodies [are] huddled and buried under concrete slabs of White supremacy, incessant footsteps walking over us, inhibiting our ability to move freely and to breathe,” she said.
“I want my students to go out into the world with eyes wide open, trying to figure out how they can question, challenge, partner and collaborate in order to break up some concrete and restructure things so that everyone has an equitable chance in life.”
Dunlap served as the keynote speaker for the reimagined Convocation ceremony, which officially opened Connecticut College’s 106th academic year and also kicked off a virtual Fall Weekend celebration.
“This is a rare coming together of the whole Conn community across time and space,” President Katherine Bergeron said, noting that the word “convocation” comes from a Latin term meaning “to call together.”
“If there ever were a time when we needed to be called together, it is now. In a week when the U.S. saw the number of coronavirus cases climb beyond 7 million and the number of deaths surpass 200,000, the circumstances call us to reflect on our mission, our values, and our deep responsibility to each other and to the world,” she said.
Bergeron also took the opportunity to welcome Conn’s three new staff members, nine new faculty and 449 new students, “who are joining the College in a year like no other—an historic year that will no doubt shape our future in the profoundest ways.”
Board of Trustee Chair DeFred (Fritz) G. Folts III also welcomed the new students. Acknowledging that these are challenging times for the world, he said, “I urge each and every one of you to seek to find within yourselves the capacity to be optimistic about the way forward.”
The virtual event began with a land acknowledgment and invocation by Angela Nzegwu, director of religious and spiritual programs, and included a recitation of the matriculation pledge, led by Dean of the College Jefferson Singer and Samirah Jaigirdar ’22, a member of the executive committee of the Student Government Association. Members of the Class of 2024 participated in a socially distanced signing of the Honor Code pledge on Saturday.
Convocation concluded with the singing of Conn’s Victory Song and special 100th anniversary performance of Conn’s Alma Mater, featuring students, faculty, staff and alumni, which Bergeron called “a virtual choir representing the Conn community and the talent our College is known for.”