WXXI AM News

diversity

*This hour includes an update on the coronavirus pandemic from WXXI's health reporter, Brett Dahlberg.

Author Linda Sue Park’s new novel, “Prairie Lotus,” tells the story of a half-Chinese girl and her white father as they make a home in Dakota Territory in 1880. In the story, Hanna and her father face racial prejudice as they try to adapt to their new surroundings. The book was released earlier this month to critical acclaim; some critics compare the historical fiction to “Little House on the Prairie.” 

Park won the Newbery Medal in 2002, becoming the first Korean American author to do so. She joins us this hour to talk about “Prairie Lotus,” its themes, and trends in children’s literature today. Our guest:

Local musicians from underrepresented communities say it can be difficult to make their mark on Rochester’s music scene, particularly because there are so many cover bands in town. They argue that original music doesn’t get the love and attention it deserves, especially if it comes from marginalized communities.

We discuss the issue from a number of angles with local musicians. Our guests:

*This episode of Connections begins with an update on the coronavirus pandemic from WXXI health reporter, Brett Dahlberg.

Gabriel Ponte-Fleary/RIT

According to a national registry, only 13 percent of the more than 10,000 sign-language interpreters in the U.S. identify as people of color.

RIT's National Technical Institute for the Deaf is trying to change that.

About a year ago, NTID established a two-year preceptorship called the Randleman Program, which specifically addresses the need for diversity in the interpreting field. 

The program was named for Valerie Randleman, the first black interpreter in RIT's Department of Access Services.

Cephas Archie was fired from his position as the chief diversity officer for the SUNY Brockport last month. The college has not disclosed why, despite outcry from the public, including Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren.

For the first time, Archie sits down at length to discuss his work and what he understands about his dismissal. We're also joined by Shaun Nelms, superintendent of East High School, who addresses the value of diversity work. In studio:

  • Cephas Archie, former chief diversity officer at SUNY Brockport
  • Shaun Nelms, superintendent of the East EPO, and associate professor and William & Sheila Konar Director of the Center for Urban Education Success at the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education

SUNY Brockport declined an invitation to join this discusson.

College at Brockport

The chief diversity officer at The College at Brockport has apparently been fired, and it’s resulted in a barrage of criticism of that move on social media.

The Democrat and Chronicle says that Cephas Archie confirmed that he was fired on Friday.

A spokesman for the college, John Follaco issued a statement saying that:

  

Inside Higher Ed reports that more institutions now have chief diversity officers than ever before. But what do those positions entail? How do colleges and universities make decisions about the roles and responsibilities of diversity offices, and how do they measure results when it comes to creating more diverse and inclusive campus communities?

This hour, we’re joined by local chief diversity officers who share how their institutions are providing structural responses to cultural issues. In studio:

  • Cephas Archie, chief diversity officer at the College at Brockport
  • Calvin Gantt, chief diversity officer at Monroe Community College
  • Keith Jenkins, vice president and associate provost for diversity and inclusion at RIT
  • Diane Ariza, vice president for community and belonging at Nazareth College

The Racial Equity and Justice Initiative (REJI) is making strides in addressing systemic racism in the community. The program – run through the St. Joseph's Neighborhood Center – is working with the Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative. Its teams work with local companies and organizations to begin or deeper conversations about race, review policies and procedures related to diversity and inclusion, and identify systemic barriers that need to be addressed.

This hour, we sit down with leaders from the REJI to discuss their work, their progress to date, and the challenges they see in the community. In studio:

Why do we need diverse books – books written by diverse authors that feature diverse characters?

The question is the focus of an upcoming panel hosted by the Henrietta Public Library. We preview that panel with local authors and a representative from the organization We Need Diverse Books. They help us understand the value and impact of reading diverse books (especially for children), and we explore the current literary landscape. Our guests:

We’re joined by Rue Mapp, the founder and CEO of Outdoor Afro, a nonprofit organization that celebrates and inspires African American connections to and leadership in nature.

Mapp will be in Rochester next week as a guest of the Genesee Land Trust, but first, she joins us on Connections to discuss the value of relationships with the outdoors. Our guests:

  • Rue Mapp, founder and CEO of Outdoor Afro
  • Gay Mills, Executive Director, Genesee Land Trust
  • Regina Geames, Community Programs Coordinator, Genesee Land Trust

The Clarissa Street Reunion is the largest independently organized African American festival in Rochester. The annual event is set for Saturday, and organizers say they expect to see more youth engagement at this year’s festival. Teen Empowerment has been working with young people in the community to train them as history ambassadors for the area. The ambassadors say they’ve learned Clarissa Street is a microcosm of Rochester’s history – from music and black-owned businesses, to redlining, institutional racism, and poverty.

The ambassadors join us, along with longtime Clarissa Street residents, to preview the festival and to discuss how the neighborhood has changed over the last several decades. In studio:

  • Shanterra Randle, lead coordinator of the Clarissa St. Reunion Youth History Ambassadors project at Teen Empowerment, and social studies and special education teacher at Monroe High School
  • Amarah Anderson, youth organizer and history ambassador at Teen Empowerment and 10th grader at School of the Arts
  • Elijah Hudson, history ambassador at Teen Empowerment, and recent graduate of Rochester Prep
  • Jaylen Wims, history ambassador at Teen Empowerment, and student at Pittsford Sutherland through the Urban-Suburban Program
  • George Fontenette, Clarissa Street Reunion Committee elder,  and longtime resident of the Clarissa Street area
  • Moses Gilbert, Clarissa Street Reunion Committee elder,  and longtime resident of the Clarissa Street area
  • Mel Henderson, co-chair of the Clarissa Street Reunion Committee

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