A time to celebrate diversity
By Fedwa Wazwaz, Engage Minnesota
“Our differences can bring us together to know one another.”
I was very honored to receive an email inviting me to the University of Minnesota’s tenth annual Equity and Diversity Breakfast which will be held on Thursday, November 16, 2017, 7:45-9:45 AM, at the McNamara Alumni Center. The Breakfast will bring together the University community and external stakeholders—alumni, donors, community organizations, and corporate entities—to recognize the students, faculty, and staff doing the work, and to reaffirm the University’s commitment to equity and diversity.
Awards will be given to outstanding students and to an outstanding unit promoting equity and diversity.
I am blessed to work at the University of Minnesota and to see that during these challenging times, the University has created various teams and committees to respond to the challenges of diversity proactively. Some of these listed are:
- The Bias Response and Referral Network (BRRN), along with other campus partners, works to respond to bias incidents on the Twin Cities Campus in ways that support those most impacted, promote education and dialogue, and affirm the University’s commitment to equity and diversity, free speech, and academic freedom.
President Kaler charged the BRRN in January 2016. It was initially called the Bias Response Team (BRT), but the name was changed in November 2016 to better reflect its purpose and work.
- An Immigration Response Team was created to ensure that all faculty, staff, and students who are affected by immigration policy changes have access to resources and support. The team provides outreach to the greater University community on the impact of executive orders and other policy changes, immigration regulations, and issues connected with DACA and immigration status.
- Recently, President Kaler launched an Initiative to Prevent Sexual Misconduct. a public health approach offering one of the best frameworks to address this crisis. Key elements of the implementation of the initiative. Among other things, it:
- Requires training for all faculty and staff system-wide
- Launches a new and comprehensive public health campaign
- Develops new student educational programming for each of the four years of the typical undergraduate experience but also for graduate, transfer, and professional students
- Will evaluate our work to know what works best so that we keep doing it, and what doesn’t work so that we stop doing it
I hope this work at the University will trickle through to other areas within the State of Minnesota and throughout the country, to motivate organizations and communities towards diversity and equity.
I was happy to read that Mattel Inc. will sell a doll modeled after Ibtihaj Muhammad, a Muslim-American fencer who competed in 2016 Rio Games Olympics while wearing a hijab. She was the first Muslim-American to compete wearing a hijab. She won a bronze medal.
Muahammad said, “I had so many moments as an athlete, where I didn’t feel included, where I was often in spaces where there was a lack of representation.”
I recall watching TPT program Arthur a cartoon for young children with my daughter. One of their episodes had young girls wearing hijab telling their story at a public school. My daughter jumped in joy when we watched this episode together feeling included. We hope other companies selling products can consider opening doors for diversity, representation, inclusion, and equity.
Then, come together and celebrate.
Fedwa Wazwaz is a Palestinian-American born in Jerusalem, Palestine and raised in the US. She was the chair of the Interfaith Relations at Islamic Center of Minnesota. She has completed training in restorative justice at the University’s Center for Restorative Justice and Peacemaking. She was a 2008-2009 policy fellow at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs. She is a public speaker and writer and lives in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.
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