To the Oberlin community:
On March 12th, high school senior Draylen Mason was murdered in the second of a series of bomb attacks in Austin, Texas. On March 23rd, he would have learned that he had been admitted to the Conservatory for bass performance. Our hearts break for Draylen and his family, and for the loss of all the light he would have brought to the world.
It is no exaggeration to say that Draylen's murder has had a profound impact on our community. That an act of terrorism could cut short the life of a bright and talented young person who, through hard work and talent, had earned his place at several prestigious institutions is to many of us an incomprehensible injustice.
Injustice demands action, and it has been profoundly inspiring to see so many members of the Oberlin community come forward, with great care and compassion, seeking ways to honor Draylen’s life and memory. Even in this call to action, however, many have shared concern that we engage thoughtfully in our efforts, to ensure that we don’t in any way impose on or appropriate a family’s very personal tragedy.
Draylen's great talent led to acceptance at multiple excellent institutions, and we will never know which of them he might have chosen. For this reason, we are asking all members of the Oberlin community who wish to honor Draylen's memory to contribute directly to one of the following:
The Draylen Mason Memorial Fund. This fund has been established to assist with expenses related to rebuilding Draylen's home, which was badly damaged in the bombing, as well as medical expenses for Draylen's mother, Shamika Wilson, who was also a victim in the attack.
The Draylen Mason Fellows Program. Austin Soundwaves is an organization that brings high-quality music education to underserved youth. Draylen was a member of Soundwaves from its inception, and in fact it was as a result of this organization’s work that we at Oberlin had occasion to meet him this past summer. In honor of Draylen’s deep connection to Austin Soundwaves, the organization has established the Draylen Mason Fellows Program to “further the musical and personal development of high school musicians.” We believe that Oberlin’s most powerful recognition of Draylen would be to extend our philanthropy beyond our own institution, and to support the creation of new opportunities for talented young musicians in Draylen’s home community, through an organization that meant so much to him.
This does not negate the need for Oberlin’s own work to ensure that talented students of all backgrounds, ethnicities, and financial means have access to the teaching and opportunities necessary to develop their talent, but we believe that these two causes are the most appropriate institutional recognition of Draylen at this time.
Thank you again for your passion, care, and action.
Carmen Twillie Ambar
Dean of the Conservatory
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