In the wake of the death of Tyre Nichols, transform your anger into resolve.

By now our community is gripped with news of the tragic death of Tyre Nichols. This young man, the 29-year-old father of a four-year-old boy, was killed at the hands of five Memphis police officers who brutally beat and pepper sprayed him, their actions captured on body-cam footage and surveillance cameras. All five officers are Black, adding more layers of anguish and heartache to this tragedy. All five have been fired and charged with second-degree murder, but justice has been far from served.

As we grapple to understand what has happened, we will see the tragic death of Tyre Nichols through our own personal lens. This innocent young man, while he lay handcuffed on the ground enduring a brutal barrage of kicks, punches and blows from a baton, called for his mother. When I watched the horrific video of the beating Friday evening — which I did not want to see, but felt a duty to Tyre Nichols, to do so — I thought of my sons. I was brought to tears, hit with a flood of anger, despair and other emotions. I thought of my two precious boys and asked myself, What kind of world will they live in? I found myself caught in an inner dialogue that is on a constant loop with me — How else can I prepare them? How can I protect them?

As grief churned in me, I focused on another difficult question — How can I help ensure that this sort of inhumane action never happens again — to anyone? Many of us spent the weekend in a solemn, contemplative frame of mind. I’m certain I was not alone in having been deeply triggered by the video of the beating, reliving my own experiences of racial profiling by NYC police and during a bogus traffic stop by Chicago police. It is an old fear, going back generations, that kicks in and reminds me those situations could have gone in so many directions.

If you are a member of our college community who has been justice-impacted and is feeling the profound weight of what Mr. Nichols’ death brings up, you can find solidarity and support across BMCC. Project Impact can link you with a mentor who has experience with what you’re going through. The Urban Male Leadership Academy (UMLA) provides peer mentoring and services dedicated to student empowerment. The Counseling Center is staffed with compassionate professionals who are ready to assist you with confidential one-on-one counseling, crisis intervention and other critical help.

I want to give us something to hold on to in this time. The theologian and educator Howard Thurman, a prominent American religious figure who was a mentor to civil rights leaders including Martin Luther King Jr., reminds us that in “moments of high resolve … in the days when the darkness and the foe are nameless or familiar” — such as now — we should keep in mind the values, the important goals to which we have committed our lives. We should never forget that in those moments — the lived reality — we must continue to be our best person and to do the right thing.

As your heartache and rage emerge in response to the tragic death of Tyre Nichols, transform your feelings into resolve. Join me, in our collective resolve to produce scholars who will leave the world safer and better than they found it. Join me, as we launch our graduates into careers where they will transform their fields — whether they become educators, nurses, scientists, or social catalysts for change who help redefine the profession of policing.

The five Black police officers who killed Tyre Nichols could have had a different story. They could have inspired trust, not fear and rage. They could have empowered their communities rather than traumatize them with violence.

Our college students can raise the banner that these five men dropped somewhere along the way. Our students continue to be a force of good and trust in the world and in their communities. And they need us to be there, never forgetting, never wavering in our commitment to them.

In closing, I have this: Feel your anger. Anger energizes us. It brings people together. But let’s not let our anger fuel destructive acts and divisiveness among us. Transform your anger into resolve, the determination to make a difference. When your moment to make change for the better is before you, seize it.

With strength in community,


Anthony E. Munroe signature

Anthony E. Munroe
President, Borough of Manhattan Community College