Open letter to the KU Community

On behalf of the Project on the History of Black Writing (3114 Wescoe), let me welcome newcomers and returning students to KU for the 2017-2018 school year.  You know by now we at KU are in the midst of heated debates, but you should also know that this is the reality of academia.

That said, I would like to commend those students for their brave outspokenness at the recent meeting to discuss concerns about concealed carry.  The expiration of the three-year exemption and the subsequent passing of the gun law was not what we had hoped for, but it is our reality for now.  I repeat – FOR NOW.  Rest assured that we will continue to fight against what we believe to be an irresponsible, if not dangerous legislation, just as we will fight to keep everyone safe.  You will see HBW’s posted signs that ask those who are carrying concealed weapons not to enter.  We at HBW are no strangers to controversy and remain committed to seeing that everyone has a voice and feels welcomed.

The threat of violence that the presence of guns easily invites affects all of us deeply, no matter what side you are on. We know that too many of you may be approaching your first week of classes with great fear and trepidation.  It is my hope that there are no “test” situations or pranks that derail your considerable efforts to be the best teachers and students that you can be. And we pray that you will confront no active or accidental shooter incidents now or ever.

What I can promise you is my colleagues and I will continue to fight for the repeal of this law.  We also know that we must also work with our administration not only to increase awareness and understanding, but also to be proactive in our joint efforts to ensure a safe teaching/learning environment for everyone. Yes, we won’t stop, we can’t stop, and we believe we will prevail.

“We know struggle and are not easily intimidated.”

HBW turns 35 this year. We haven’t lasted this long without experiencing momentous changes, some of them we have had the pleasure of leading. We have had some success in transforming for whom higher education exists and what it can and must do. Because we spend much of our time as a research unit challenging traditional views about what we study and value as current and future scholars, teachers and artists, we know struggle and are not easily intimidated.  Consider us your partners as you begin or continue this phase of your lives in higher education in preparation for your futures.

KU has many traditions, and we like to think that one of them is facing the challenges of each generation. Indeed, we demonstrated that recently with the very large turnout at the newly established Multicultural Student Government “We Out Here” welcome event on Saturday, August 19. A willingness to embrace these new traditions can make us stronger as a community who seeks to meet the needs of all of its students.

A new year has begun. It may well be one when administrators become learners, and students  become our teachers. And that may be a very good thing.

Please feel free to drop by our HBW offices, Monday – Thursday between 10am-4pm. We look forward to seeing you throughout the year in a range of sponsored events. If you need a place to meet where you do feel safe, let me know. And I mean that seriously.


Maryemma Graham
University Distinguished Professor
Department of English
Founder/Director, Project on the History of Black Writing