More than 150 education and leadership professionals gathered at Metropolitan Community College for the institution’s annual Social Justice Conference.
The event, which took place at the MCC-Penn Valley campus Nov. 10, included both College faculty and staff, but grew this year to also host representatives from 12 outside entities.
The goal of the conference is “to help attendees grow as advocates for social justice on their campuses,” said Robert Page, MCC’s executive director of inclusion and engagement. Page’s office is the chief organizer, engaging speakers and setting up interactive workshops. The idea is that participants leave with an “action plan” to help them develop goals.
Chancellor Kimberly Beatty, welcoming conference attendees, said she loved the event’s “Moving Beyond Complacency” theme.
MCC’s student population, she noted, has been changing over the years. The College’s minority student population has increased 13 percent over the last five years.
One way colleges can avoid complacency, she said, is by evaluating the curriculum. When she was an English faculty member at Cypress College in California, she wrote a grant to start a black studies learning community, with a group of students taking several classes together. As the only African-American English instructor, she’d noticed that “all the black students ended up in my class.”
Dr. Beatty, who attended historically black Morgan State University in Baltimore, recalled her father telling her, “You’re going to go to a black institution and end up with a black job.” She said the two of them revisited that conversation after she was named MCC chancellor.
In reality, she said, she read just one novel by a black author as an undergrad. But studying at Morgan State gave her “a perspective not often shared” on classics such as Shakespeare’s “Dark Lady” sonnets.
Another way to avoid complacency: hosting “courageous conversations” about difficult topics like those that would take place at the Social Justice Conference. “This is brave work,” Dr. Beatty said.
The chancellor was followed by keynote speaker Dr. Eddie Moore. Moore is recognized as a motivational speaker and educator, currently director of the Privilege Institute and the National White Privilege Conference. Moore founded both to provide opportunities and possibilities for research, publications, speaking and collaborations by those committed to true social and institutional change.
Moore said the goal of his speech at MCC was to explore the role of diversity past, present and future. There are some great things we’ve learned in the past and there are some great things going on now, but if we are going to do better in the future, “we gotta look at it in a different way,” he says.
In addition to that, Moore urges that we look at the issues beyond diversity, the issues of power and privilege. “And my premise is that everybody’s got privilege, and the better we understand that, the more we can do with that in a positive way.”
Moore, whose background includes working as a teacher and educator in Iowa, has recently written a book about working with white female teachers and helping them to better connect with students of color.
He was seeing “so many good white teachers who just didn’t know” how to relate to students.
“I really want to bridge the gap between good people who want to do a good thing, but don’t have the tools, skills and knowledge to do so,” said Moore. He presented more on his book, “The Guide for White Women Who Teach Black Boys,” in an afternoon workshop.
The conference this year also had an added benefit thanks to the efforts of MCC’s Diversity Supplier Coordinator Chris Kelly, who brought in minority vendors to expose them to event.
“I am trying to break ground here at MCC with some quality retail vendors,” Kelly says. “My focus is always diverse and women-owned businesses, so this was an opportunity to bring them in, to give them some exposure on the retail side. My hope down the road is to do something like a Christmas bazaar and bring the minority retailers in.”
To see the full gallery of photo from the conference, click here.
For more about MCC’s inclusion and engagement initiatives and to discover how to take part in future programs, click here.