Best-selling author highlights ‘Conversations about Race and Racism’ event

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Mercer University’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives and the Minority Mentor Program will welcome best-selling author Dr. Beverly Tatum at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 15 in Willingham Auditorium as part of a series of “Conversations about Race and Racism” intended to reaffirm the University’s commitment to racial equality across all fronts.

COVID-19 protocols will include social distancing and masking, and participants are required to register online for both in-person and virtual viewing.

Monday’s conversation will be centered upon Dr. Tatum’s award-winning book Why are all the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? The event is co-sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, School of Law, Student Affairs and QuadWorks.

An autographed copy of the 20th anniversary edition of Dr. Tatum’s book, first published in 1997, will be provided to the first 100 in-person attendees.

The conversation will be moderated by Dr. Ansley Booker, director of diversity and inclusion initiatives at Mercer. Dr. Booker said the event was inspired by the implementation of Dr. Tatum’s book in various curricula across the University and how it has raised awareness of racism and racial inclusivity throughout various facets of life.

“It gives great information about how to have these conversations to break the silence and have a cross-racial dialogue,” Dr. Booker said. “I think it’s a great opportunity to continue to expand the conversation in our larger campus community, as well.”

In addition to authoring this influential text, Dr. Tatum was specifically chosen for this conversation due to her immense success as president emerita of Spelman College and a clinical psychologist, as well as her overall insight into how racial relations factor into many contexts within the American way of life.

“The book was really important because of the population shift in the United States and the work of dismantling racism as it relates to segregation, politics, higher education and law,” Dr. Booker said. “Racism can impact all those systems, and this great book provides insight into that and brings awareness to defining racism and what it looks like.”

Dr. Booker believes this discussion is essential to have at Mercer specifically due to its status as a racially diverse while predominantly white institution.

“We want all students, but especially students of color, to not only be granted admission but to feel welcomed and included because those very actions help to increase student retention, recruitment and graduation rates,” said Dr. Booker. “We have to make sure that everyone is cultivating an environment modeled after inclusive excellence and practicing good allyship.”

The campus community has been receptive of this message of inclusion, Dr. Booker said.

“Multiple student organizations, both undergraduate and graduate, as well as faculty in several departments have already held conferences, lectures, dialogue series and trainings this year,” she said. “NAACP and Omega Psi Phi Fraternity even held a vigil for Breonna Taylor, ultimately fostering these courageous conversations around campus.”

Dr. Booker is ecstatic to welcome Dr. Tatum as a fellow participant in this ongoing discussion.

“I’ve always admired her work, admired her as an individual and as a Black woman in higher education,” Dr. Booker said. “I’m super excited just to have this conversation and listen to some of the wisdom that she’s definitely going to impart on the audience.”

Dr. Booker hopes that those who attend the event will achieve a greater awareness of racial issues at various levels and leave with action items to reinforce racial awareness.

“We have to get equal footing if we’re going to fight for diversity, equity, inclusion, justice and liberation,” Dr. Booker said. “Utilizing these conversations as a gateway will help to spark intentional practices about how we can make the campus more inclusive.”

 

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