A Letter From Aria Byrd, President, Black Graduate/Professional Student Association

Photo of Aria Byrd

Dear black graduate and professional students,

As an African American graduate student, I understand that we are living through a very surreal time. Within the last two weeks, I believe I have felt every emotion that there is to feel.

I have laughed hysterically at the clever memes and videos from social media.

I have also cried uncontrollably at the collective pain, stress and trauma that my people, both past and present, have experienced for generations. My heart weeps for the unfathomable number of precious black lives that have been lost, and for the beautiful black bodies that have been beaten, raped and otherwise violated. I cry daily for the constant microaggressions that we are forced to navigate in order to survive.

I have grieved immensely for the pain of my ancestors, my peers and myself. I grieve for the lives we could/should have had, if not for racist systems of oppression. I grieve for the negative physical, mental and emotional ramifications that this moment will have on our lives and the generations to come.

On the other hand, I have also celebrated with just as much fervor. I've celebrated black resiliency, black music, black bodies, black creativity, black strength, black support, black food and black love.

I have felt immense hope for the amount of support that we are receiving after centuries of injustice, gas lighting, brutality, dehumanization, and unabashed theft and appropriation of black culture.

I have also felt immense apprehension that this may be yet another trend that fizzles out over time. I worry that I will experience the all-too-familiar feeling of inevitable helplessness that was present after the injustices made on Travon Martin, Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Rodney King, Philando Castile and so many others.

I am still processing all of my emotions, and for that reason, I may not have the perfect message for consolation. I do, however, hope that this letter serves as a source of compassion, love and permission for you to be radical in your humanity by feeling every emotion that rises within. As you continue to exist in these unprecedented times, please keep the following in mind.

  1. If you need support processing your emotions:
    • The UKCC is offering a meditation hour every Wednesday at 4 pm via Zoom. If you are interested, here is the link to join. Join here.
    • The UKCC will continue to provide services by phone or telehealth HIPAA-compliant software. Please see their website for details.
    • Email may not be a secure means of communication and we cannot ensure its confidentiality. Staff members may have limited email access for the remainder of spring 2020 semester. Please call 859-257-8701 to schedule an appointment or to speak with a clinician. Call 911 in the event of an emergency.
  2. If you are attending the street protests, practice self-preservation at every moment. Wear your personal protective equipment and practice social distancing as much as possible.
  3. If you are not attending the street protest, CONTINUE TO PRACTICE SELF-PRESERVATION. Remain in tune with how much you can engage with people. Understand that engaging is a massive emotional labor that takes a toll on your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.
  4. If you are trying to identify creative ways to evoke change in your respective departments, colleges, and the University at large, I encourage you to reach out to the Center for Graduate and Professional Diversity Initiatives (CGPDI) for support. Visit the CGPDI website here. CGPDI program coordinator, Te'Asia Martin:
  5. UK’s Black Graduate and Professional Student Association (BGPSA) is currently experiencing a transition of power, and is thus functioning at half capacity. However, we will be reaching back out with different resources to support you and your peers. Be sure to follow us on Instagram @uk_bgpsa for future announcements. Also, if you are interested in supporting BGPSA and all marginalized students during the next school year, feel free to reach out to our advisor, Dr. Cleophus Price at

My thoughts and prayers are with you all during this trying time. This is a collective experience, you are not alone, and we will get through this together.

Please be safe and continue to be the amazing, intelligent individuals that you are.


Aria Byrd, M.S.

2019-2020 BGPSA President