Identifying the problem of systemic racism often results in so much resistance that sometimes, the conversation about whether it exists upstages a more practical concern - how to end systemic racism.
That topic - identifying how people can work to end structural racism right now - is the topic of "What Truth Sounds Like," an upcoming symposium at Texas A&M University-Commerce. The event is being presented by the university's College of Education and Human Services, led by the college's dean, Dr. Kimberly McLeod.
One of the two keynote speakers is no stranger to to A&M-Commerce. Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and Atlanta mayor Andrew Young visited the university in 2017 as the featured guest at the naming of David Talbot Hall of Languages. Young, a longtime leader in the Civil Rights Movement, will present in the symposium.
The other keynote speaker, Dr. Donna Ford, is Distinguished Professor in the College of Education and Human Ecology at The Ohio State University. Ford is a national leader in the field of education, with work focusing on the achievement gap, gifted education, multiculturalism, teacher training, and African-American issues in education.
Symposium participants will have the choice of six breakout sessions on the following topics: Education, Elected Officials and Public Policy, Faith-Based Community, Law Enforcement, Mental Health, and Student Voice.
The Education breakout session panel will include Ford, Harris County Department of Education administrator Darlene Breaux, Houston Independent School District superintendent Dr. Grenita Lathan, and Manor (Tex.) ISD administrator Michele McKinley.
Dallas-area State Sen. Royce West, familiar to a statewide audience thanks in part to a recent campaign for U.S. Senate, is among the elected officials in the Public Policy breakout panel. Other presenters include Texas State Board of Education member Aicha Davis and Lancaster ISD school board trustee Ty G. Jones.
The Faith-Based Community breakout session panel features three leaders: First Presbyterian Church of Dallas senior pastor Rev. Amos Disasa, Dallas pastor and activist Clarence Glover, Jr., and Austin (Tex.) Greater Calvary Bible Church senior pastor Dr. Sterling Lands.
Another out-of-state presenter, Clayton County (Ga.) juvenile court judge Steven Teske, headlines the Law Enforcement panel, which also includes former Texas Education Agency administrator A. J. Crabill, Houston-area community leader Charles Rotramel, and Durham (N.C.) Police Dept. investigator Ofc. Joel Turner.
The Mental Health breakout session panel will be led by Loudoun County (Va.) Public Schools lead psychologist Dr. Charles Barrett and Sam Houston State University Department of Psychology and Philosophy chair Dr. Yuma Tomes.
Five local scholars and a state-level student leader will comprise the Student Voice panel. Patricipants include Texas NAACP youth and college division president Shevann Steuben and five A&M-Commerce graduate and undergraduate students: Carlos Hernandez, Kelvin Hayes, Leslie Jaeger, Tyler Lawrence, and Martha Schlessler.
Dr. McLeod joined the university in April 2020. Registration for the online event is free. The internet conferencing app Zoom will be used, and participants should create a free Zoom account prior to the start of the symposium.