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Equity Summit takes regional approach to collaboration, civic renewal

Second annual meeting addresses equity, inclusion from multiple perspectives

After a successful 2018, the university’s Second Annual Equity Summit is expanding its reach by embracing the region. By broadening its focus to encompass four Southern cities that share similar histories, socioeconomic issues and cultures, the summit aims to create a network of like-minded individuals working to improve quality of life across the Southeast.

Panels will focus on work that is advancing equity in Atlanta, Georgia; Birmingham, Alabama; Jackson, Mississippi; and Columbia. The three-day conference, which runs Nov. 20-22, “is an extension of the work being endeavored by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion,” says John Dozier, chief diversity officer for the university.

The summit is the place to learn from our differences and promote civic renewal that helps participants to understand that the future success of our communities requires us to think and act in ways that show how interconnected we are,” Dozier says.

By bringing together people from a variety of fields — such as public health, law enforcement, education, media, history, social work, human rights and community activism — Dozier believes we can begin to take a systemic approach to a systemic issue.

“We know from experience that this conference can lead to meaningful collaboration between people who have historically not necessarily worked together,” says Jennifer Gunter, director of the South Carolina Collaborative for Race and Reconciliation. When we know that groups do not always interact in positive, meaningful ways, “It’s important to create the space for this kind of networking and learning,” she says.

The summit’s goals dovetail nicely with some of the ideals stated by new university president Bob Caslen, who has openly shared his interest in diversity and inclusion on campus and in how the university can positively affect communities.

“The Second Annual Equity Summit is an exciting opportunity for the University of South Carolina to host thinkers and community leaders from across the Southeast to talk about ways to make all of our communities more compassionate and equitable,” Caslen says. “The Collaborative on Race and Reconciliation and attendees of this conference are in our communities not just talking but also doing impactful work to make a difference that benefits each of us.” 

The three-day conference begins at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 20, at the Nickelodeon Theatre with a reception and talk from Esther Anne, cofounder of Maine-Wabanaki Reconciliation Engagement Advocacy Change Healing. The screening of Emmy-winning film Dawnland, which highlights Anne, will be followed by a conversation with members of the South Carolina Indian Affairs Commission.

Events the next two days run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Each day will begin with a resource fair and be followed by panels and breakout sessions that focus on different aspects of race equity and inclusion. The two panels on the 21st will focus on Jackson, Mississippi, and Atlanta, Georgia. That evening will also feature, in partnership with the South Carolina Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina, the annual Bishop’s Dialogue — this year’s focus is “Confronting Hate.” The panels on the 22nd will highlight Birmingham, Alabama, and Columbia, South Carolina. 

The summit is cosponsored by Children’s Trust of South Carolina, the I. DeQuincey Newman Institute for Peace and Social Justice, the Center for Civil Rights History and Research and the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina and is in partnership with the South Carolina Human Affairs Commission.   

All summit events are free and open to the public, although registration is limited. For more information, visit the summit’s web page.

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