Clayton State’s annual Diversity Leadership Institute kicked off last Friday as students, faculty and community partners gathered to tackle social justice issues and find solutions.
Formerly known as the Diversity Leadership Conference, the Institute strives to promote self- awareness, self-identity and develop an understanding of diversity and multiculturalism.
The theme of this year’s Institute was “The Stay Woke Tour,” a name evoking the rallying cry of many in the social justice movement to challenge individuals to be more aware of race and social issues impacting the nation.
“In contrast to years prior where the event was held as a conference, this year’s Institute was an interactive tour that granted students the opportunity to work through and compose a four step action plan to address any current social justice issues,” said Atawanna Royal, Associate Director of the Department of Campus Life.
Students began the day-long Institute given a shirt of their choice and then received a tour schedule and tour guides to attend various workshops.
Sessions ranged from immigration to LGBTQIA+ issues to the history of criminalization, lead by local organizations including The Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights and Georgia Equality.
The Innocence Project, a nonprofit whose mission is to free incarcerated individualswho are wrongly convicted, spoke about the challenges within the judicial system and the issues surrounding bail.
Tyler Crews, a junior marketing major, took particular interest in the session based on his own personal experience.
“I’ve witnessed some of my very own family members being affected by the judicial system by not having the funds or the resources to even obtain bail,” he said.
Attendees also had the opportunity to explore art as therapy for the healing process through local nonprofit Art of the Heal. Participants created artwork that reflected their feelings about the current political atmosphere and President Donald Trump, which is planned to be delivered to the White House.
Keynote speaker, Dr. Wes Bellamy, vice-mayor of Charlottesville, Virginia, spoke about ways communities can join the fight against social injustice. As the youngest individual to ever be elected to the Charlottesville city council, Bellamy shared how he pursued a career in politics, his fight against racial injustice, and his belief in improving the lives of those who lack resources and positive role models.
“I think the interactive tour concept gave students a real-world experience as well as first-hand knowledge on the social and political challenges we strive to tackle,” said Desiree Barrow, AmeriCorps graduate assistant and vice-president of Diversity Educational Experiences for Peers (D.E.E.P).
The Institute culminated with attendees developing action plans to tackle social issues.
Students were tasked to identify a specific social issue, find out how it affects various population, and explore the policies that perpetuate or minimize the impact of the issue. Through group activities and discussions, the students developed a set of steps to address said issue.
As an incentive, students can earn the Stay Woke Agent Award and win up to $1,000 in funds from Campus Life to execute programming related to the action plan, and the support of a Campus Life administrator to advise and assist with the planning and execution of the student’s program or event from their action plan.
They’ll also receive $150 Lakerbucks added to their Laker Card.
Action plans must be submitted to the Campus Life office by Oct. 25. Finalists will be announced on Oct. 27 and voting will take place from Oct. 30-Nov. 2. A winner will be announced on Nov. 3.