It's no secret that social disparities are prevalent in marginalized communities. The current climate of racism, white supremacy, anger, fear and divisiveness in America is having significant impact on many children and adults. In the inaugural installment of our #ThisIsAmerica social justice series, engage in a stimulating discussion as we learn about and analyze systems of oppression that affect minority communities. Topics covered range from how students of color living in poverty are supported by their community, the mental health disparities among minority communities and racial profiling of African Americans during COVID-19 to the issues of obesity and food insecurity among minority communities, especially for African American women, and the ways racial equity supports nutritional health.
Be critically reflective of one’s own practice. Focus on how we reach people who need the information most.
Health and Educational Disparities: These are not factors of race. Race is a way we determine who is most affected, but these are not causal factors. There are a multitude of things that come together to restrict access to resources, opportunities, and information.
Role of Community: It is important to engage with others and these conversations start at the dinner table. These conversations are not ones we engage in alone. Sometimes we need to build the communities and find the people we can work with to create change on a personal and societal level. For systemic, policy and structural changes, we need to be in a community with others and use our voices. This is tiring work, so we need our communities around us.
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In this installment of our #ThisIsAmerica social justice series we'll focus on civil rights and criminal justice reform. Leading this discussion are UConn Alumni, who are CJR champions and work tirelessly to bring light to and enact change on the issues and challenges within our communities. They are on the front lines of this movement, having difficult conversations and working to shift the dynamics and empower a positive trajectory for our country. In this important dialogue, they discussed education reform as it relates to criminal justice, police accountability, voting, the crime victim's role in criminal justice reform and much more.
Find your passion. You can't fake your passion, but you can use it to fuel your work. Even on a small scale, find what you're most passionate about and use it to make an impact in your community.
The Digital Divide. As technology advances we must remember to bring all along, otherwise we end up with gaps highlighting the "same play, different cast." These gaps are evident in children's internet access and impact on their educational outcomes, all the way to adults and their ability to utilize techology in the judicial process.
The Historical Perspective. We're here today because of what happened in the past. Remembering the truths rooted in history are critical to acknowledge for continued progress. The current pandemic is not the disruption we wanted but it was needed. Although we've made progress in civil rights, there's still a long way to go. We hope you left this program hopeful of the future with alumni leaders like Judge Robinson, Dieter, Aswad, and Steven at the helm of justice reform and organizing.
Who is at the table? It's important to have a diverse voice in decision-making. The judicial system has seen a critical shift in conversation as a result of more diverse voices at all levels. As Steven quoted Shirley Chisolm during the program, "if they don't give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair."
Implicit Bias. We all exhibit traits of implicit bias. Acknowledging them is the first step to changing it. Consider taking Harvard's Project Implicit test.
Learn more from the organizations that the panel represented:
Led by UConn Chief Diversity Officer, Dr. Franklin Tuitt, engage with this community discussion about the student-of-color experience at UConn. Before UConn Nation can positively impact society, we must first examine the true history and experiences of our community. Panelists unpacked the history of racism and student protest from 1970s to present day.
To support the work being done by the Office for Diversity and Inclusion, please consider making a gift today!
Children’s early experiences shape what they imagine to be possible for people who look like them, live near them, or come from where they come from. Children determine what they can be by the representation that they see around them. This interactive storytelling session was led by activist, educator, DJ, poet and co-founder of Project Happyvism, Justis Lopez ’14 ’15 (ED) along with co-founder Ryan Parker and publisher Dr. Melissa-Sue-John. Creators of Project Happyvism led the workshop for adults and children on how to have important conversations around representation, loving our identities, and why choosing joy and self-love are powerful forms of activism.
“Books are sometimes windows, offering views of worlds that may be real or imagined, familiar or strange. These windows are also sliding glass doors, and readers have only to walk through in imagination to become part of whatever world has been created or recreated by the author. When lighting conditions are just right, however, a window can also be a mirror. Literature transforms human experience and reflects it back to us, and in that reflection we can see our own lives and experiences as part of a larger human experience. Reading, then, becomes a means of self-affirmation, and readers often seek their mirrors in books.”
― Rudine Sims Bishop
Strategies for courageous conversations. Children are learning about race and ethnicity whether we talk about it or not. Use books as a pathway for courageous conversations. Books give children the opportunity to see themselves and celebrate who they are. Diverse children's literature act as a mirror and window for children to develop a greater understanding of themselves and the experiences of diverse individuals in the world. Representation in children's literature can increase self pride and build self strength academically. Studens can develop an increated interest in reading, improve literacy skills, boost self-esteem and help to develop a positive sense of racial and ethnic identity.
Centering "Joy". There is an intentionality around centering joy as a form of liberation and activism. Joy is recognizing and valuing yourself and smiling in the face of hate. Black and brown joy are an act of resistance; a choosing to call for representation and self-love. Taking joy away is taking away your humanity. Reflect on what brings you joy.
Silence about race reinforces racism by letting children draw their own conclusions based on what they see. Teachers and families can play a powerful role in helping children of all ages develop positive attitudes about race and diversity and skills to promote a more just future--but only if we talk about it!
Representation is about seeing yourself positively reflected in books, movies, magazines, and more. Fostering environments for people to create and publish their own stories. Creating and supporting organizations and businesses that foster inclusive communities.
Meet Our Facilitators
Our country has seen a tragic rise in hate crimes and racism towards the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. With May being Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month and Mental Health Awareness Month, this program addresses the intersection of race and mental health in the AAPI community. We acknowledge the injustices facing the AAPI community, as well as celebrate individuals making an impact in the mental health space. This panel of experts share their insights on how to best take care of yourself and your emotional well-being as well as teach strategies on how to work through the trauma that many in the AAPI community face due to recent events in our country.
“Self-compassion entails both yin and yang — it is tender and helps us heal but it can also be fierce…”
-Dr. Kristin Neff
Meet Our Panelists