8 Days of Diversity recapped

8+Days+of+Diversity+recapped

By Ben Blakney, Technology Director

 

In remembrance of the death of George Floyd earlier this year, EWU’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion released a week-long set of emails highlighting the struggles of American minorities. 

Each email, released Oct. 1 through Oct. 8, had a different focus matter ranging from Native Americans to students with disabilities. Spread over the course of eight days to represent the eight minutes and 46 seconds of George Floyd’s murder, the emails were a success.

“With us being in quarantine and not all together on campus,” said Dr. Shari Clarke, vice president for Diversity & chief diversity officer at EWU. “I kept trying to think of innovative ways to connect with our students … We still have to let them know you’re part of the campus and we want to educate you even though we all can’t gather and go to a program.”

The Office of Diversity and Inclusion’s initiative, titled 8 Days of Diversity and 46 Seconds of Reflection, aimed to provide all EWU students with a way to both learn something new and to stay connected to their peers. The emails were sent to all EWU email addresses.

“When George Floyd was killed, the world sort of erupted,” said Clarke. “Then it was Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Vanessa Guillén … it was just so much in the midst of COVID and we all had to pause and find ways to connect while staying distant from each other.”

“It was just so much in the midst of COVID and we all had to pause and find ways to connect while staying distant from each other.” -Dr. Shari Clarke, vice president for Diversity & chief diversity officer at EWU

Clarke went on to explain her process for drafting the first memos following George Floyd, and how that evolved into this initiative.

“Being an African American and the mother of black sons, I [wrote about] what it felt like,” said Clarke.

From her first memo, Clarke stated she had received calls in praise from faculty and others alike. Some even called her crying because her message was so touching to them.

“It hit a chord,” said Clarke. “And I thought, ‘maybe we need to honor him in a different way’, so that’s what I did.”

Clarke’s small team that collaborated on the event included heads from disability studies, gender, womens and sexuality studies, the office of tribal affairs, and Dr. Pui-Yan Lam, a sociology professor and member of the Asian-American and Pacific Islander group.

Despite the initiative’s success, Clarke and her team encountered some hiccups.

Keresha Richards, Eagle Entertainment Diversity Outreach Coordinator in 2017. | Sam Jackson for The Easterner

“When we talk about diversity, I always worry that we just want to put it in a category of black and white, and it’s simply so much more than that,” said Clarke. “So I thought, ‘what kinds of areas can I introduce or reacquaint students with, that gives them a wide swath of what’s here on campus?’”

Clarke also included some literature and resources on how to be a good ally, with help from the Pride Center of EWU’s LGBTQ+ community.

In the past, the Office for Diversity and Inclusion has provided events contextualized by other outside influences, like Black History Month. However, Clarke said this initiative was new territory for them. 

Clarke described how the event was a great way to reach out to students and keep them involved with conversations about diversity. The office prides themselves on the ability to stay innovative.

A large concern and factor at play for the initiative was the balancing act of emailing students. Clarke said they did not want to inundate EWU students with massive information dumps, so they spread out their content into smaller, more manageable correspondence. 

“I just want students to keep finding ways to engage with diversity,” said Clarke. “It’s so important, especially with all of the divisiveness that’s going on in our country right now. Just keep finding ways to continually educate ourselves on these issues and find ways to try to connect with one another.”