WXXI AM News

diversity

A new project called “In This Moment” is highlighting Black leaders, writers, and photographers in our community. The work will result in a series of chat books, where essays and photos tell the remarkable stories of local leaders – stories the project’s organizers say are historically undervalued.

We talk to the team behind “In This Moment” about their work, their goals for the series of books, and the value of highlighting Black voices through art. Our guests:

21 years ago this month, the NAACP was advocating a boycott of the major television networks. That's because the networks had just released their fall schedules. 26 new shows would be hitting the airwaves that year, and not a single one of them featured a star or prominent character of color. For African American leaders in particular, enough was enough. The networks promised to change. In some ways, they have: there are more African American and Latino leads than ever before. But in many other ways, the industry has not changed much at all. As the LA Times reports, there are very few executives of color at the networks, and while the networks are pledging support of the Black Lives Matter movement, African American actors have their doubts.

This hour, we explore representation in media. Our guests:

  • Calvin Brown, Jr., executive producer of "The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder"
  • Tina Chapman, director of diversity theater at RIT
  • Chris Thompson, engineer, writer, comedian, and activist
  • Darnell Hunt, dean of social sciences, and professor of sociology and African American Studies at UCLA

James Brown / WXXI News

Monroe County Executive Adam Bello has created the Department of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, which is dedicated to creating more equity in Monroe County. 

The new department will be led by a chief diversity officer and will create at least four new positions. The new positions will review county contracts, policies, and strategies with a goal, Bello said, of combating all forms of bias. 

*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:

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