On November 24th at 1:20 PM, students along with some staff, faculty, alumni, and media filled the Council Chamber in Lewis & Clark College’s Templeton student center to hear Tanguy Muvuna speak. Late the Friday night before Muvuna was attacked by several white males in the campus’ estate gardens. Muvuna entered the auditorium limping slightly, with an orange Lewis & Clark pioneers beanie, with a friend at his side embracing him. The room was completely silent for minutes. Without an introduction, Muvuna began:
Hi everyone. I don’t have a lot to tell you, but, first of all I would like to thank you for the support you showed me. Second I’d like to let you know that I’m fine after the incident. Whatever happened was because I have this skin color. I never asked to be born black. To be black is not a crime. And I’m proud to be black. I have friends who their skin are not like mine but I like to interact with them because who they are not their skin color. Besides we are all human beings who bleed red blood, and what we have inside the skin are the same. Today I would like to tell you from the bottom of my heart that I like each one and everyone. I say it again, I do not have time to hate people—I have time to love them. Because I have no time to hate you it doesn’t matter if you’re black, white, or yellow. In my point of view we are all brothers and sisters. In other words, we are one. Let’s say, we are one.
Muvana came to Portland on a scholarship from Rwanda to study English at Lewis & Clark. Though it is apparent that he is an English learner, he did not seem to struggle with the words. This was the first moment that he looked up from his prepared speech, as he held up one finger, and asked everyone to say with him, “We are one.”
I would like to tell those who attacked me that I forgive them. But I would like to ask them to ask themselves these questions before they act, “What do I get from attacking my fellow classmate, or student, or another person?” “What would I do if it was me who was attacked by another classmate or students because of my skin color?”
Don’t give hate a space in your heart because it’s an unnecessary thing to have. Because you are more meaningful [than hate] I’m ready to become your friend. I will never let the behavior of others destroy my inner peace. And at the end no one is perfect in the world. Also I have no intention to take you to the courts—I’m talking to the one who attacked me.
Because I wish to all who attacked me to finish their studies and become the person who they’ve always wanted to become, and make their family and country proud of them. I would like to end this by telling you who share the same skin color, the black, please try not to think that white people don’t like you or they are [unclear] by the system. Please let’s just think about what our goals are, and how to achieve them. President Obama, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Oprah Winfrey are good examples to all of us. Before I finish I would like to invite all black students to come here in front.
Most of the black students were already present at the front, sitting on the floor beneath the lectern and in the first few rows, but more appeared from the entrances to the auditorium and came to stand around Muvuna.
As I said, we are one. I would like for all white, yellow, whatever you are, it doesn’t matter what skin you have, let’s show those black students we love them and come and hug them. And tell them that we are one! Tell them we are one!
While the logistics of hundreds of people descending cramped aisles to give hugs to few dozen others are slightly awkward and improbable, the sincerity in his belief that it could happen, and that this act would heal a community, was contagious, and the audience descended upon the floor of the room and tried their best to give as many hugs as possible and as such ended the speech.