More than 300 members of the extended campus community tuned in virtually to watch racial equity strategist Dr. Darnisa Amante-Jackson give a powerful lecture on diversity, equity and inclusion for SUNY New Paltz’s 14th annual fall Distinguished Speaker Series.
The virtual talk, titled “The Culture of DEI: Creating and Manifesting Belonging,” opened with a quote from writer and activist James Baldwin, Amante-Jackson offered a vitally important perspective on how race relations in the United States leave many feeling disempowered.
“Everybody’s wondering, ‘What can I do?’” she said. “In the face of oppression, when there are so many conversations to have, the one thing that I want us to all leave this presentation understanding is every single one of us has agency to change the world.”
Amante-Jackson went on to explore the difference between an ally, an accomplice, and a co-conspirator in the fight for equity.
She described an ally as someone trying to understand what equity means; an accomplice as one who works to let go of their place of privilege to affect change; and a co-conspirator as someone both acknowledging their privilege and using it to provide opportunities for marginalized groups.
Amante-Jackson encouraged attendees who come from places of privilege to understand that they need not choose which category they identify with among the three.
“I don’t just want you to figure out where you are,” she said, “I want you to know that each of those callings is a different place in the journey.”
Amante-Jackson also discussed the difference between diversity, belonging, inclusion and equity. Equity was identified as the last step in a journey to full acceptance of people of color.
“To actually create diversity will create belonging, or create inclusion or create equity,” she said.
As the CEO of two companies focused on equity — Disruptive Equity Education Project (DEEP) and DEEP Corporate Consulting Partners (DCCP) — Amante-Jackson has made fighting for racial equity her life’s work. She has a master’s degree in sociocultural anthropology from Brandeis University and her educational leadership doctorate from Harvard Graduate School of Education. Her work includes devising racial equity strategies for Boston and New York City public schools and Harvard University Programs in professional education.
About the Distinguished Speaker Series
The SUNY New Paltz Distinguished Speaker Series connects the College’s alumni, community members, faculty, staff, students and their families with well-known authors, policymakers, scientists, media experts, business leaders and other luminaries.
The Distinguished Speaker Series is made possible by the SUNY New Paltz Foundation. The fall 2021 program was presented with support from Americas Best Value Inn of New Paltz, Campus Auxiliary Services, Central Hudson Gas & Electric, Liberty Coca Cola Beverages, M&T Bank, Orange County Chamber of Commerce, Rondout Savings Bank, Royal King Cleaners and Sodexo.