Speaker series celebrates diversity, encourages cross-cultural interaction

Contact: Deanne Puca
Photo of a crowd at a 2016 Real Talk event.

A crowd takes in a 2016 Real Talk event at WMU

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Western Michigan University's Real Talk Diversity Series begins Tuesday, Sept. 26, with a look at the life of a transgender American activist, and wraps up in April with a discussion on environmental racism, discrimination and socioeconomic neglect.

Sponsored by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, a total of seven topics at eight events are planned through Wednesday, April 11, that are free and open to the public. All events are held in the Trimpe Building Multicultural Center.

Please notify the program coordinator at (269) 387-6324 or lindsey.palar@wmich.edu if accommodations are needed to make the event accessible for you or your guests.

Being Seen: Discussion of Janet Mock's 'Surpassing Certainty'

Janet Mock is an American writer, TV host and transgender rights activist. She is the author of the New York Times bestseller "Redefining Realness," contributing editor for Marie Claire, and a former staff editor of People magazine's website.

"Surpassing Certainty" is a portrait of Mock as a young woman, before identifying her talent for advocacy, as she searches for her place in a world that provides her with no instructions. Mock shares the story of being a first-generation college student who is dating, pursuing professional aspirations, and most importantly, affirming who she is and being truly seen.

Natalie Nguyen, director of the Office for Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay and Transgender Student Services, and Lindsey Palar, program coordinator for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, will facilitate discussions. Attendance at both discussions is encouraged. Lunch and copies of "Surpassing Certainty" will be provided to a limited number of registered participants. Registration is requested.

  • Tuesday, Sept. 26, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 10, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Imagining Inclusion

As lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender movements continue the work of resisting systemic gender oppression, increasing LGBT visibility, and envisioning a more inclusive society, trans and queer individuals and allies are addressing the continued marginalization that they experience even within these spaces. This discussion will address the question: How can a movement be truly inclusive for everyone, including traditionally silenced individuals and communities? Light refreshments will be provided.

  • Wednesday, Oct. 4, 6:30 to 8 p.m.

Disability at the Intersections

Facilitators from WMU's Disability Services for Students will explore the social model of disability, the language used around disability, and how to identify and challenge one's own implicit biases. Participants will have the opportunity to participate in breakout discussions on the ways in which disability is influenced and impacted by identities of race, ethnicity, gender identity and sexuality. Participants will also learn more about the experiences of people who identify with disabilities at WMU via panel discussions. Light refreshments will be provided.

  • Thursday, Oct. 26, 6 to 8 p.m.

Racial Socialization and the Power of Narrative

The WMU Student Assembly for Racial Equity and Cultural Inclusion student organization operates with the goal to foster intentional conversations that address white supremacy and its placement in higher education. Through RaceTalk panels, this student organization promotes sharing of a diverse group of panelists' narratives around their own racial socialization. This authentic approach, coupled with an anti-racism framework, results in critical conversations on the path to building a campus community that dismantles institutionalized racism and white supremacy in all of its forms. Dawnielle Simmons, doctoral student in counseling psychology, will facilitate the panel and discussion. Light refreshments will be provided.

  • Thursday, Nov. 2, 6 to 8 p.m.

Unlikely Allies: The Case for Aligning Business and Social Justice

Keynote speaker Tim Terrentine, vice president for the Office of Development and Alumni Relations, who holds diverse experiences in leadership, will discuss the ways in which different entities can come together to create stronger communities. Light refreshments will be provided.

  • Thursday, Feb. 15, 6 to 8 p.m.

Systemic Change at WMU

WMU students, staff, and faculty who have advocated for and directly affected systemic change at WMU will discuss their efforts, including successes and barriers, at this interactive presentation. Light refreshments will be provided.

  • Friday, March 16, 1 to 3 p.m.

Environmental Justice

The environmental justice movement addresses systemic issues such as the history of environmental racism that puts historically marginalized and low-income communities at an elevated risk of experiencing environmental hazards. Through discrimination and socioeconomic neglect, the communities are far more likely to experience air, noise, and water pollution; food insecurity; proximity to toxic waste facilities; and a myriad of mental and physical health impacts that result from exposure to these hazards. With awareness around environmentalism and sustainability rising, how can individuals, and Kalamazoo residents specifically, approach environmental issues with equity and inclusion in mind?

Laura Donders of the WMU Office for Sustainability, along with local community members and leaders, will engage participants in a discussion of this topic. Light refreshments will be provided.

  • Wednesday, April 11, 6 to 8 p.m.

Real Talk Diversity Series


WMU's Real Talk Diversity Series gives participants a chance to interact and learn about the experiences and perspectives of individuals and groups from many backgrounds and identities. It is rooted in the concept that many of the problems experienced by culturally different groups and individuals are based on cross-cultural miscommunication and misinformation. The Real Talk Diversity Series serves as a catalyst to promote, celebrate and increase awareness about diversity at WMU, to recognize cultural differences as well as similarities, and to encourage cross-cultural interaction. Details on this year's series are available at wmich.edu/diversity/events/real-talk-diversity-series-2017-18.

Learn more about WMU's Office of Diversity and Inclusion at wmich.edu/diversity.

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit wmich.edu/news.