Matilda's Commencement Invocation on May 30, 2021
Good morning and welcome. Before we begin this morning, I invite us to take a moment of quiet, acknowledging and cherishing all those we have loved and lost this past year, from Covid or otherwise. May their memories be a blessing, may broken hearts among us let in the light of the world. We ask in this moment for an end to violence, dispossession and xenophobia. In a time when breath has not been, and for some has never been, guaranteed, and has been extinguished by forces of hate or inequality, I invite us all to breathe deeply in the name of justice and truth.
I now offer Smith College’s Land Acknowledgment.
We acknowledge that this campus is built within the ancestral homelands of the Nonotuck peoples. We also recognize our present-day neighboring Indigenous nations: The Nipmuc and the Wampanoag to the East, the Mohegan and Pequot to the South, the Mohican to the West, and the Abenaki to the North. We acknowledge too the presence of Native people among and all around us.
Welcome to parents, grandparents, siblings, family and chosen family, faculty and staff who have completed one herculean task after another, with grit and grace, culminating in today. Welcome to all of you watching from all over the world. Welcome everyone.
This was not the senior year that you pictured. This is not the graduation ceremony that you pictured. There is distance between those of us here, and those joining us remotely from miles away. As with the past 14 months, we are socially distanced. As we look around; we see the space between the chairs.
But let us take a moment to consider these spaces. Writers and musicians talk about the white space, or the space between the words or the notes—this is where we read the real meaning, hear the real music.
Let us consider how the spaces have opened up in which the disparities in the health system, an even deeper understanding of the environmental crisis and the urgency which it must be addressed, state sanctioned violence against people of color and black and brown bodies; have all been more fully revealed. In the words of Adrienne Marie Brown Things are not getting worse, they are getting uncovered. We must hold each other tight and continue to pull back the veil.
So, let us pull back the veil. Let us consider the spaces which have opened new visions of connection, understanding, and liberation. For this past year you have shifted, pivoted, adapted, in ways many of us never could have imagined. And
you will resist an easy return to a familiar that would not sustain this fragile and precious earth.
Amidst your majors and your clubs and your internships and all the amazing things you have done here at Smith--this too is your learning and your legacy.
This morning, let’s get ready to move into these spaces and all they have to offer us.
As you listen to our speakers, glean inspiration from our honorees. I invite you to notice how they reveal the gaps wherein truth elides alternative reality; as Smith has always done for you. Find the white spaces where the real meaning lives, hang out in between the notes of the music of your hopes.
Settle into the spaces where you will find the new normal, build the new world...
Let us begin.
Matilda is CRSL's Director of Religious and Spiritual Life and College Chaplain.