Elevate: Conn hosts second annual social justice conference
Furthering its commitment to social justice and anti-racist education, Conn hosted Elevate, its second annual social justice conference, Jan. 19-20. Presented by The Agnes Gund ’60 Dialogue Project, the two-day conference brought together Connecticut College students, staff, faculty, and alumni, along with residents of the New London region and the Conn community near and far, to celebrate cultural diversity and uplift and empower communities that have historically been marginalized, erased and silenced.
“What a way to begin a new semester and a new year, by taking the time to reflect on the opportunity we have and the part we can all play in making a more just world,” President Katherine Bergeron said in remarks opening the conference.
“Our mission at Connecticut College is to create productive citizens prepared to put their education into action in support of truth and justice across the world. That means working to elevate our discourses, our practices and our forms of self-governance to enable a world where all people, no matter their identity or background, have the opportunity to thrive, and reach their potential, and contribute meaningfully to their communities.”
Elevate featured Conn’s Conversations on Race keynote speaker, Rosemary Ndubuizu, an assistant professor of African American studies at Georgetown University who drew upon her expertise as a scholar-activist to talk about why housing justice is not only a race and class issue in the United States, but also a fundamental reproductive justice concern.
Ndubuizu’s talk was coupled with two workshops aimed at helping participants learn more about affordable housing concerns in Connecticut and how members of the greater Conn community can come together with local experts to address this long-standing issue in New London. Read more about these sessions in The Day newspaper.
Other keynote speakers included motivational speaker and author Christopher Coleman, whose talk, “The Complexes of an Intersectional Life—Dealing with the Combination of Racism, Homophobia & Ableism,” explored how society approaches disability justice as a community.
LaNitra Berger, senior director of fellowships and associate director of African and African American Studies at George Mason University, looked at applying social justice principles to work as members of an educational community in her talk, “Social Justice in International Education: The Moral Imperative to Elevate."
Students from the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, The Agnes Gund ’60 Dialogue Project, Race and Ethnicity Programs, Gender and Sexuality Programs, and the Office of Student Accessibility Services, along with Conn staff and faculty, also shared their knowledge and work on campus.
In one session, Rodmon King, who is joining the Conn community as the new dean of Institutional Equity and Inclusion on Jan. 31, shared his approach to equity and inclusion work.
“It’s not just about demographics,” King said. “You can have a community that’s diverse and yet not fully inclusive. This community has staked out ‘full participation’ as a core value. It would be a mistake if the Division of Institutional Equity and Inclusion is seen as the place where this work gets done. The division is guiding and leading these efforts, but everyone has a stake. Nobody gets to sit on the bench.”
Finally, Jenee Osterheldt, a Boston Globe journalist, concluded the conference with her talk, “A Beautiful Resistance: How We Tell Stories Matters.” Her message tied together the work the Conn community is doing to address full participation, dialogue and supporting the community across gender identities, race, disability and nationality throughout the two-day conference.
Ariella Rotramel, interim dean of Institutional Equity and Inclusion and the Vandana Shiva Associate Professor of Gender, Sexuality, and Intersectionality Studies at Conn, said the conference facilitated powerful connections among attendees.
“Participants have drawn out key questions about how we can use dialogue skills to thoughtfully address conflicts and take up the long-term work of equity and inclusion,” Rotramel said. “I’m pleased that Rodmon King is going to lead us in all ‘getting off of the bench’ and pursuing social justice as a community.”
For more information, visit elevate.conncoll.edu. Session recordings will be available soon.