Multicultural leadership summit focuses on social justice
Students and staff meet to discuss the topic of social justice and diversity in leadership roles.
By Keldrin Palmer
In today’s society, there is a wealth of diversity available at nearly every turn.
Our country is historically a melting pot of culture, ideas, and opportunities, but every aspect of our society does not accurately or proportionately reflect the whole. This disconnect can especially be seen throughout the leadership positions in America.
Last Saturday, the Center for Service and Leadership at the University of Alabama hosted its annual Multicultural Leadership Summit, its attempt to bring more light to the subject.
The 8 a.m. event served as a platform for students, faculty and staff to open the door for discussions about not only becoming leaders in their own right, but also how the role of a leader has changed with our increasingly diverse population.
“You have to know the people you’re going to lead, and you’re not going to always lead people who look like you,” said Gretchen Moore, the assistant director of the Center for Service and Leadership and event organizer. “You need to know how to lead those people who identify differently than you, so you can lead them in the right direction.”
The event was formerly known as Alabama Leads: A Southern Leadership Conference. It was held on a Friday and charged admission. Moore said this was inhibiting their potential, so she moved it to a Saturday and made the summit free to attend. After the change, they received nearly double the attendance the following year.
“We felt like there was a gap in who we were servicing,” Moore said. “We wanted to have a larger audience and we wanted to make the audience represent the topic that continued to come up: social justice.”
Summit attendees were treated to two meals, two keynote speakers in Dr. Charles Nash and Dr. Andre Denham and small group sessions where attendees discussed thoughts and ideas on social justice and working in diverse groups of people.
Nash serves as the University of Alabama System senior vice chancellor for academic and student affairs and Denham as president of the UA Black Faculty and Staff Association and associate professor of instructional technology in the department of educational leadership, policy and technology studies in the UA College of Education.
Trenton Brasfield, a public relations major and sociology minor, told a story from childhood and trying to educate his classmates.
“In grade school I had to do a self-portrait and someone asked, ‘Trent, why didn’t you draw your curlies (hair)?’ I explained to her that they were naps (messy, unkept) and weren’t good. She told me she loved my curly hair and I told her that she didn’t understand my culture,” Basfield said.
A thought that seemed to be in the minds of most in attendance was that there was not yet enough progress.
“I feel like diversity is happening, albeit a little slower than I would like, but inclusion is not,” Brasfield said. “You can put me at a table, but if I don’t feel heard or like I’m a part, there’s no reason for me to be there. I’d feel worse there in that room than I would at the bottom with people that I can embrace with.”