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Opinions & Observations: Reflections on mourning from Green-Wood, landmark home of human loss since 1836

June 3, 2020 Richard J. Moylan, President of The Green-Wood Cemetery

But do not let thy strength and courage fail;
For certain as the raven-winged night
Is followed by the bright and blushing morn,
Thy coming morrow will be clear and bright;
– James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938)

For the past three months, our hearts have been heavy as we’ve faced the unprecedented losses of COVID-19. It has been an extraordinary time. Today, our hearts are even heavier. Together with you, we mourn the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and innumerable other Black lives that have been taken. We condemn the actions of those responsible. These deaths and subsequent protests across the country are an important reminder that the issues that have plagued our past still color our future.

Green-Wood is committed to understanding, accepting, and learning from the truths of our collective history. How can we move forward before we embrace the lessons and complexity of our own past? What can we do to effect change? What can we do better? We believe these questions are critical as we navigate our path forward, both as a society and as a cultural institution.

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This message opens with lines from a sonnet by James Weldon Johnson. Interred here at Green-Wood, he dedicated his life to advocating for the equality of Black Americans at the turn of the twentieth century. Johnson’s words continue to inspire us: even in the darkest of times, we must work toward a day that is “clear and bright.”

President of The Green-Wood Cemetery Richard J. Moylan. Photo: Chet Berger

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