The inaugural event—“From Moment to Movement”—stressed togetherness, community and action in face of inequality and deficits in social justice.
Organizers of the 2021 Equity Summit wanted to make it clear: This first-ever event of its kind on campus was not a day set aside for formal training or professional development.
Instead, the summit sought to showcase the wide-ranging talents and viewpoints of the college community—while finding ways to work together on common goals, including the promotion of equality in a society that does not lack for aspects calling for urgent action and improvement.
“Gathering and sharing our knowledge and experiences grows our understanding of one another—and helps forge a strong community,” said Tiffany Hamilton, chief diversity officer at Daemen.
“Our summit was about identifying who each of us are, who we can be and want to become—and what we can accomplish working together,” added Hamilton, director of the Arthur O. Eve Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP) at Daemen.
In planning the Saturday, April 24 event, the college’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion created a lineup of sessions rooted in equity education, which seeks to promote open-mindedness and find strength in diversity.
“We’re trying to create spaces that are inclusive and not exclusive,” said Hamilton
Open communication, open minds
In the keynote address, Shatorah Donovan, chief diversity officer for the City of Buffalo, focused on creating opportunities for historically disadvantaged populations and how to move justice-based conversations to action and onto sustainable change.
The summit also included remarks by Dasia Morman, the college’s assistant director of diversity and inclusion, and Daemen President Gary Olson.
“Not only does the summit demonstrate the college’s deep and long-standing commitment to social justice,” said Olson, “it will further this common pursuit of ours by bringing us together in active, ongoing ways.”
Held the week after the guilty verdicts for former police officer Derek Chauvin and as the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder approaches, the summit was organized to acknowledge the country’s growing awareness and acknowledgement of historic and ongoing racial and societal inequalities, while also providing opportunities to work together a better realization of the country’s ideals of justice and fairness.
“Things are heavy now,” said Hamilton. “Instead of throwing theory at people we wanted all members of the Daemen community to feel they can grow into the best versions of themselves.”
In planning the summit’s sessions, organizers sought to create educational experiences—and opportunities for conversations that showed “how vulnerability makes us stronger and helps us find comfort in speaking to each other,” Hamilton said. “Open communication is brave and promotes progress.”
The sessions included:
- A Look at Non-Western Art: House Mural Painting from Africa, a workshop and presentation by Brian Hammer, assistant professor of art history and Kate Hammer, director of alumni relations;
- A Perspective from an Actual Autistic Person, a talk by Jules Princess, undergraduate student;
- A Street with Substance: How Social Climate Necessitates Sesame Street, a presentation by Cameron Garrity, graphic designer at Daemen;
- What does it mean to become me? a discussion by Heike Peckruhn, assistant professor of religious studies and Whitney Mendel, assistant professor of public health.
“For this to be our first time, I could not be more proud of the unique experience our team created,” said Hamilton. “We set the groundwork for a really robust summit next spring and for years to come.”