Bryant K. Smith recited poetry and even attempted to levitate as he spoke about equity to a group of MCC Administrative Center and Broadway Plaza employees. He also told a story from his childhood.
One sultry summer day on the South Side of Chicago, he was out on the back porch as the garbage truck came down the alley. “Little boy,” asked the garbage man, “can I have a drink of water?”
The boy obliged. Inside, under his mother’s eye, young Bryant rooted around in a cupboard for a plastic cup, then filled it with ice and water.
“What are you doing?” demanded his mother. “You’re not giving that man water out of a plastic cup!”
The plastic cups, she added, were for Bryant and his brother. She directed him to the nice glasses, “the Thanksgiving glasses.”
The garbage man accepted the drink and thanked him. He, too, understood that this was one of the family’s nice glasses.
“He was a garbage man,” Smith told his audience, “but he was still a man.
“Riding the back of the garbage truck did not make him less of a person.”
The moral of the story: “You treat people with excellence,” Smith said at the Equity Day luncheon at MCC-Penn Valley on Aug. 25.
As a college student, Smith said he made it a point to show courtesy and respect to custodians, groundskeepers and other workers — probably more so than to his professors.
His “three pillars” of equity: access, diversity and excellence.
In discussing access, Smith recited his poem that begins and ends this way: “I had a dream of becoming an astronaut, but the L train didn’t go to Cape Canaveral.” (His second career choice as a kid was to become a magician, hence the attempted levitation.)
And in case you’re not quite sure how to define equity, Smith — a “human potential specialist,” author and former college administrator — compares it to someone who wears glasses or contact lenses or who’s had Lasik surgery. It doesn’t really matter what caused their poor vision; the point is that now they see clearly.
Equity is “the concept of trying to help people see better,” Smith said.
Robert Page, MCC’s executive director of inclusion and engagement, describes equity this way: “When everyone’s potential is being achieved.”
New MCC Chancellor Kimberly Beatty, who welcomed employees to the event, offered some thoughts on diversity using the letters in the word:
D: develop a purposeful approach to inclusive language. Sometimes we’re not as inclusive as we could be, she said.
I: Impact someone’s life — give back.
V: Vow to challenge colleagues to learn more about diversity, equity and inclusion.
E: Equity in student and employee programming and services.
R: Require professional development offerings on diversity, equity and inclusion.
S: Support the needs of the institution where diversity and inclusion efforts are concerned.
I: Increase diversity in all ranks of the institution.
T: Teach everyone the importance of an inclusive work environment.
Y: Yearn for inclusion. “Stretch your mind for ways we can be more inclusive.”
“We need to stay committed to including all perspectives,” Dr. Beatty said.
The Equity Day program was a chance for Administrative Center and Broadway Plaza employees to come together at the same time the five MCC campuses were holding Welcome Week in-services to build community and relationships. It’s important for AC and BP employees to do the same, the chancellor said.
And one more thing: The College’s theme for 2017-18 will be “MCC Is on the Move.”
“That’s going to be our mantra,” Dr. Beatty said.