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Op Eds

To the Dreamer: Claudine Gay, We as Black Women Thank You.

By Julian J. Giordano
By Kelisha M. Williams, Crimson Opinion Writer
Kelisha M. Williams ’25, a Crimson Editorial editor, is a Psychology concentrator in Kirkland House.

United we stand. Divided we fall.

To former University President Claudine Gay: On the rainy autumn morning of September 29, 2023, I watched as your soulful stride and proud aura graced the steps of the platform before Memorial Church. The damp stairs could not impede the history about to be made.

In the following days, my grandparents, aunts, and uncles all called me, asking if I had gotten a photo with you yet. “Not yet,” I replied, “but there’s plenty of time.”

As a woman of renowned talent and academic achievement born into the loving embrace of two Haitian immigrants, the measure of your success will always exceed the limitations others would place on you. Dedicated to excellence, you have proved your capability well beyond what others could’ve expected — well beyond what is expected of a woman and well beyond what is imagined for a Black woman.

From the moment your clipped coils took the crown of higher education, your character, your ability to lead, and your integrity have been called into question. But even now, even after the announcement of your resignation, any photo of yours used in the press depicts an elegant smile with your head held high.

Thank you for this.

Dearest dreamer, the photos tell me, worry not about the troubles you face. Although others might obstruct your climb — dream, dream despite.

Even in this moment of struggle, President Claudine Gay, you serve as a beacon of hope to Black women across the world.

As I watched you walk across the stage and accept the keys to Harvard, I couldn’t help but live through your success. To taste the unadulterated happiness as I felt our ancestors cheer you on. To know that my time at an institution built without reverence for people who looked like us would be placed in hands that looked like mine.

You are my grandparents’ wildest dreams, and I remember with anguish the day I saw you in person and was too shy to ask for a photo. Your success marks a once-unachievable dream now brought within grasp. Your smile made my own high-flying dreams feel accessible and beat back the self-doubt of the racism I experienced as a child and the racism I experience now.

To the dreamer, Claudine Gay, you have done what others will never do. You will forever be the first Black president of Harvard University. You claimed the highest honor in higher education and did it with effortless grace. I hope that in your resignation, you still feel the warmth of the Black community’s reach, at Harvard and beyond — a blanket against the cold world you and your family have faced in recent weeks.

To make it abundantly clear, your tenure at Harvard and its impacts have not gone unnoticed. I hope your faith in your ability to be a pillar of hope for women who look like us remains unwavering. In your inauguration speech, you beckoned us in the audience to ask “Why not?” when we consider the University’s future. In light of these events, the question for Black women like myself becomes: “How could I not?”

How could I not defy the racist remarks I receive? How could I not fight for the vision I see for myself? How could I not stand for what I know to be true and just?

President Gay, you may see yourself as just the president of Harvard University, but for me, you were physical proof of the possibility of my grandest dreams.

And so, to the dreamer, President of Harvard University, Dr. Claudine Gay, born to Claudette and Sony Gay Sr., I thank you for what you’ve done. Thank you for what you’ve meant to Black women everywhere. And in humble recognition of your persistence and resilience, I will continue your legacy as a Black woman. I am a Black woman dedicated to achieving her dreams.

I am a dreamer too.

Kelisha M. Williams ’25, a Crimson Editorial editor, is a Psychology concentrator in Kirkland House.

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