Diversity Forum 2022 seeks to build on past years’ successes | University time
By SHANNON O. WELLS
When Pitt’s Diversity Retreat began in 2014, the event aimed to build campus-wide cultural competency while creating a resource for students, faculty, and staff to address systemic inequalities and how they affect different identity groups. While these goals remain at the heart of the annual event, a key difference – aside from a name change to Diversity Forum – is its availability and access.
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic led to retreat into virtual territory. “It allowed us to leverage the retreat with a greater focus on social justice, equity education and global community,” said Ron Idoko, Pitt Bureau’s diversity and multicultural program manager for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (OEDI). “The virtual format has also given us the opportunity to connect diversity, equity and inclusion practitioners and scholars from around the world.”
Built on the theme of “Rewiring our systems: Transforming the intersections of inequality”, the all-virtual Diversity Forum 2022 will take place from July 25 to 28. The event, which is free and open to the public, will feature what OEDI called “dynamic” core programs and community-led sessions aimed at “developing social equity awareness and systems approaches” that intersect. social identities and cultivate role models to advance social justice. The event will include sessions with expert panels and multiple workshops designed as interactive, in-depth dives on specific topics.
Keynote speakers are Tarana Burke, activist, author and founder of the “Me Too” movement, at 9 a.m. July 27; and Nyle DiMarco, Deaf activist and winner of “America’s Next Top Model” and “Dancing with the Stars” at 5:30 p.m. July 26.
Part of the forum’s virtual evolution from its more insular beginnings, this year’s event focuses on the community inside and outside the Pitt campus.
“When we think about community, it goes beyond the boundaries of the University,” Idoko said. “That’s why the forum focuses on answering big questions like ‘How do we position people?’ and “How can we help people and communities cultivate models of social equity, advance social justice, and achieve an equitable and inclusive world?”
The theme, Idoko explained, represents a move away from simply acknowledging societal inequalities and systemic oppression to thinking about “how we can work to reconfigure, rebuild and rewire these systems to prioritize equity, particularly between intersecting identities”.
Idoko explained “intersectionality,” a key term at this year’s Diversity Forum, as the idea that “we all have more than one identity,” as in Black vs. Black woman, Black trans woman and so on. “Our identities are interdependent and create unique societal privileges and disadvantages,” he said. “They also combine to inform how we each see and discuss the world.”
The event builds on the 2021 forum theme, “Dismantling Oppressive Systems: Building Just Communities,” which Idoko said drew 5,000 attendees.
Noting that there is “no shortage” of events across the country to whet interest in this year’s event, the main takeaway from 2021 is that there are “many people looking for real, practical ways to get into DEI and social justice work,” he said. “People are also looking for opportunities to develop strategies to address DEI issues across the country. We also learned that people want to celebrate their accomplishments in DEI and social justice work.
Hearing about these successes, Idoko said, allows Pitt’s OEDI to learn from them and replicate them. “This job can be difficult and exhausting, but we encourage everyone to take the time to take a moment to celebrate their hard work.”
A pre-Diversity Forum institute event, affiliated with Pitt’s Institute of Racial Equity Awareness, is also available for free to members of the Pitt community, or $199 for those outside of Pitt. Spaces are limited for the first-come, first-served institute, titled “Illuminating the Racism Vaccine: Embodying an Ingrained Personal and Collective Racial Equity Consciousness.”
Idoko said the event uses the Racial Equity Consciousness Institute as a guide to provide a “deep and immersive experience with engaged community learning dialogues that address the complexity and pervasiveness of racism”, exploring methods to “catalyze ideas, practices and cultures that lead to racial equity.
Shannon O. Wells is a staff writer for the University Times. Join it at [email protected].
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