A Letter to My Sister


Editor’s Note: Sam Jean-Francois ‘23 gave this speech at a Multifaith sponsored event in a pre-celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Sunday, January 15th. Sam agreed to share this speech with The Student for publication. 

The last few years of my life have been marked by healing, growth, and love. But like for many of you they’ve also been filled with violence, death, and the burning question of when will my life, Black Lives, truly Matter? With this in mind I want to lead us through a moment of remembrance, guiding us all to reach into ourselves and reflect on the loss that has filled our community throughout the years, and the grief that often feels anything but beautiful. But before I do I want to read to you all a letter I wrote to my sister a year into the pandemic. Makhia Bryant had just been killed, and I was feeling lost. Everything felt numb with death circling around me name after name, hashtag after hashtag, and I had had enough. Unable to describe the onslaught of grief I found myself feeling I chose to write instead, hoping that maybe my words could connect with her too. 

Dear Molly,

I’ve sat here thinking how to begin this, how to enter this discourse on Black bodies, Black life, and Black death and the simplest way that I can put it is that I love you. 

I. Love. You I love you. I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I. Love. You.

I know this love doesn’t erase the pain, I know that my words alone cannot always remind you that you’re beautiful. That you’re  wonderful. That you’re creative,  That you’re joyful, that you’re powerful, that you’re REVOLUTIONARY. I know that my words alone cannot make you feel seen as the world around you shrouds your voice with silence.  I know that elling you that your life matters feels like whispers when everywhere around you is screaming that your  life— your body,  is nothing more than the resting place for bullet holes and  future champion for hashtag BLACK  LIVES MATTER

But I love you

love · /em(p)tē/ · verb

an intense feeling of deep affection.

a friendly form of address.

If I could briefly describe a reality that I think you deserve, it would be a world where Ma’khia Bryant’s justice is life being returned to her lungs, where Breonna’s justice rests beside her baby, where your justice is a government that cares about illness not just when they’re killing the white masses, and a world where our Blackness does not subject us to pain. 

In this  world you wouldn’t know who Mah’kia was. Or Treyvon Martin, or George Floyd, or Sandra Bland, or   Olwuatoyin “Toyin” Salau , Riah Milton, Dominique Rem’mie Fells, Iyanna Dior, Tony McDade, Nina Pop, Shelly Frey, Kayla Moore, Korryn Gaines, Eleanor Bumps, Kendra James, Kathryn Johnson, Shereese Francis, Tanesha Anderson, Rekia Boyd. 

You wouldn’t know because, you wouldn’t have to know. They wouldn’t be names we shout in anger, they’d be lives, people, futures full of Black joy, Black love, and Black souls. 

You would exist free.

I know my words can’t bring Makhia back  or Breonna justice or anyone else we’ve lost

And maybe all  I can do is love you.

But I love you.

  • love.   you 

justice· /jUHs-tis · state of being 

definition- Unknown

Allow yourself to breathe, to exist in this space enveloped by silent grief. As you do so know at this moment you are not alone, or forgotten, but loved.  

Thank you