The following is a speech made by Kathy Williams on Saturday, September 12, 2020 at The Great Women’s March. She was invited to speak at the event by organizer Ruby Hyde, a fellow Ursuline Associate and longtime civil rights advocate. Kathy is also Director of Communications and Public Relations for the Ursuline Sisters of Louisville.
Good Afternoon. I am honored and humbled to be here with you today, and in the presence of such esteemed leaders in our community. I met Ruby Hyde a few years ago in my role as Communications director for the Ursuline Sisters of Louisville. I later became an Ursuline Associate, like Ruby is. And like Felicia, I am a Mercy Academy alumna, so I had the Sisters of Mercy, but I have come to love the Ursulines.
There are many things I admire about the Ursulines. One of the biggest is that they have long been a prophetic voice in the wilderness on the issues of social justice. They have been educators, they have served in communities of color, they have been advocates for fair housing and several participated in that famous March on Washington with Dr. King and John Lewis, getting into “good trouble.”
Lately, I find myself getting into a bit of that good trouble, both personally and professionally. I am the editor of several publications for the Sisters and their social media. In March, we decided to make the focus of our summer DOME magazine the pandemic—the isolation, the fear and trying to stay connected in the new normal. Then, Breonna Taylor was killed. Then, George Floyd. And before them, so many more. We realized we had to talk about two pandemics that were upon us.
One was a virus that attacks the body; the other a virus that attacks our hearts. One was a new virus. The other, a virus that has been around for centuries. This virus is racism.
I am the editor of the Ursuline Sisters’ DOME magazine which come sout three times a year. So, we invited some of our Black Associates, including Ruby, to share what their life experiences have been for this summer issue.
Their words were honest, painful, full of struggle, but also hope-filled. We also included a photo on the back cover with the words: Pray For Peace. Work for Justice. Black Lives Matter.
Black Lives Matter.
Those three words make some white people VERY upset. Some of them, just a handful, let me know that. They ascribe to these three words meanings such as marxist, communist, anti-family and pro-abortion. And I questioned my decision. Was it too much? Too in your face? But then, the president of the Ursuline Sisters assured me that, “If some people are upset, we must be doing something right!”
Thank you, Lord, for wise women. May we know them, may we raise them and may we be them.
I’ve gotten into squabbles with family and friends over these three words. I have been disappointed by so many white people. I’ve heard over and over, “All lives matter.” (Yes, we know that.) “He or she was a criminal.” “Systemic racism doesn’t exist.” “Black people just need to work harder.”
It makes me tired. Sad.
And I also know that I don’t know.
I don’t know what it’s like to be treated differently because of the color of my skin. I don’t know what it’s like to have to tell my son to keep his hands on the wheel and to become invisible whenever a police officer is near. I don’t know what it’s like to see my family members killed for walking through their neighborhood with Skittles, or jogging or buying a soda, or simply trying to breathe. I don’t know what it’s like to have my daughter killed by police when she was just 26 years old.
I do know this:
I can be an ally. I can use my voice as a communicator, as an Ursuline Associate, as a mother, as a grandmother, as a woman of faith to say that I see your pain. I see your suffering. I see you. And I stand with you.
The great Muhammad Ali said, “Some mountains are higher than others, some roads steeper than the next. There are hardships and setbacks, but you can’t let them stop you. Even on the steepest road, you must not turn back. You must keep going up. In order to reach the top of the mountain, you have to climb every rock.”
So, we have to keep going. We have to keep holding each other up. We have to be strong women of great faith.
In closing, I leave you with the words of Saint Angela Merici, founder of the Ursuline Sisters:
If you all stand united in heart, you will be strong in adversities.
Thank you. God Bless you. Black Lives Matter.