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Conference Advocates for Social Justice and Equality

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The Office of Student Diversity and Inclusion hosted the 2017 Equality U, an all-day gathering that brings together a diverse group of individuals to work toward the common purpose of building a community through knowledge, growth and unity.

“Deep Diversity,” which is defined as a cultural cohesion model that seeks to integrate head and heart in a non-judgmental yet challenging way, was this year’s theme for the conference.

Joanne Smith, vice president of Student Affairs, gave the welcoming speech and presented the goal of the conference.

“We want to create a legacy which exemplifies a diverse community where everyone feels included,” Smith said. “Equality U is a time for us to come together to work towards the common purpose of building our community through shared understanding and unity. Through our work at this conference, we hope to inspire individuals from all backgrounds to seek meaningful connections while developing deeper levels of trust across individual identities.”

This was the event’s fifth year at the Texas State campus and included two plenary keynote speakers as well as three workshops that allowed the students to freely discuss among their peers and group facilitators.

The first keynote speaker was Shakil Choudhury, an award-winning educator and consultant. A strong believer in candid conversations on race and how it affects one’s place in the world, he wrote his critically acclaimed book, “Deep Diversity: Overcoming Us vs. Them” in 2015. In his presentation, Choudhury focused on the impact history and the daily, constant influence it has on people’s lives. He also touched on the polarization and stereotypes currently present with a look at how our society is contributing to it.

“Stereotyping and prejudices are a normal function of our minds and you must be able to catch yourself in both low and high-cost situations,” Choudhury said. “Emotional literacy is needed as a solution to combat the barriers we create for ourselves. Don’t let something wrong be made okay in your personal space. Don’t become the monster to fight the monster.”

The second guest was Symone D. Sanders, the National Press Secretary for Sen. Bernie Sander’s presidential campaign. She now works as a political commentator on CNN. She focused on the racial and gender issues our communities are faced with in the modern era. She believes that conversations have to be understanding and non-threatening to one’s existence. Sanders also address the concept of intersectionality and becoming better allies.

“Intersectionality must be intentional to allow diverse inclusion,” Sanders said. “It is our job to stand up for others by standing in the gaps. You must be willing to do something we have not yet done before.”

During the workshops, students were able to freely express their thoughts and opinions on several subjects in regards to diversity and equality, such as tribalism, cultural appropriation and power. Many voiced their emotions in regards to personal experience where their culture and background was affected.

“When you tell me that you are colorblind and don’t see color or gender, you are ignoring a part of who I am,” Sanders said. “We have trouble dealing with today’s issues because we never dug out the root of the problem. People are still crying out for freedom,”