Equal Ground to Opportunity • Northwest Indiana Business Magazine

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Courageous conversations can lead to change

Dr. Vanessa Allen-McCloud
Dr. Vanessa Allen-McCloud

Sometimes we can feel that we are up against impossible odds. The challenges of racial and economic injustices, the difficulty many find moving forward on the path to equality and the resistance we see on a national level to policies leading to the “greater good” can leave us wondering about the future of our Region and our nation.

Here at the Urban League, we continue to focus on core issues that affect the Region’s communities. Access to high-quality education and jobs are at the top of the list, along with breaking down the barriers of exclusion through diversity and inclusion.

But what does all of this mean in reality? Some might question the value of these ideas, but when they are linked with establishing stable, peaceful communities, the new possibilities become clear.

Imagine our Region as a place where all people, regardless of race or income, are able to access education, jobs and housing, just for starters. Can we really imagine what this would look like? Instead of glaring inequalities that juxtapose gated communities, we would see diverse blocks of people living together in friendly spaces.

In our schools, our children would know each other by their first names, and would participate in academics, sports and clubs as equals, challenging each other to do his or her best, in the spirit of fellowship.

Imagine our Region as a place where communities work together to support each other, where police departments function to serve and protect, where people are not intimidated by those in power, where people of color are not treated differently from those who have traditionally had the advantage of skin privilege.

Does this sound utopian? It always will be seen as such if we do not change our thinking and our policies. We believe that information and conversation are crucial elements in bringing about new understandings among employers and people in the workforce, community and educational leaders. We tackle the harder conversations about race, privilege, power and identity. We believe that silence is not an option, especially when so much is at stake.

A profound and relevant response to these challenges is to see new possibilities that can arise from diversity and inclusion practices.

For the past five years, the Urban League has hosted a “Diversity and Inclusion Symposium” that addresses the challenges our communities face. The purpose of the symposium is to find solutions to problems with police-community relations, and to engage citizens in proactive conversations about the important issues of the Region and our country.

In November 2016, about 200 Porter County stakeholders convened at Valparaiso University and participated in a “Town Hall Forum” that provided a safe environment for these courageous conversations.

This year’s event will take place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 5 at Valparaiso University. People from all over the Region will meet to discuss difficult subjects that will lead them to new and better understandings through workshops that encourage inclusive thinking and training opportunities. The Urban League’s role is to plant the seeds of change among stakeholders in Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties. It will provide knowledge and exposure that confront the realities of racism and privilege, and strategies to overcome these barriers.

Every year, and in every way, we re-dedicate ourselves to the goals of knocking down walls and opening doors to equality and prosperity by providing strategies to overcome historical barriers. As Urban League president and CEO, I am proud to say that ours is the only regionwide symposium that focuses on these issues within Northwest Indiana.

Please visit our website for more information: www.urbanleagueofnwi.org or call 219-887-9621 to register.

The compelling words of a man whose life was devoted to tearing down walls, so that others could grow and live life to its fullest, bear repeating. He cautions us to make intentional change in ourselves, so that we, as individuals, become who we need to be.

“The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.”—Muhammad Ali

Click here to read more from the Aug-Sep-2018 issue of Northwest Indiana Business Magazine.


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