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Connecticut College to host second social justice conference

Connecticut College will host its second annual social justice conference, Elevate, on Zoom this week.

The virtual conference, scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday, will focus on the complex issue of housing injustice, while highlighting the work Connecticut College students, faculty and staff are doing to promote equity and inclusion on campus and in the community.

Presented by the Agnes Gund ‘60 Dialogue Project, the two-day conference aims to recognize, celebrate, amplify and elevate diverse voices.

The keynote Conversations on Race discussion will be led this year by Dr. Rosemary Ndubuizu, an associate professor of African American studies at Georgetown University, who studies how housing policies are shaped by race, gender, economics, politics and ideology. She has more than a decade of involvement in Organizing Neighborhood Equity DC, an organization dedicated to racial and economic equality.

Ndubuizu will use her expertise as a scholar-activist to engage in a conversation about why housing justice is an issue that involves race and class, and is “a fundamental reproductive justice concern,” according to a statement from the school.

Her talk will be paired with two workshops that will help participants learn about the federal infrastructure bill and how it impacts affordable housing, and about activism involving housing needs.

Over the course of the conference, virtual attendees will have the opportunity to participate in more than a dozen different sessions, ranging from conversations on disability justice to discussions on why gender pronouns matter.

The goal of the conference is to bring together Conn College students, families, faculty, staff, alumni and community neighbors to celebrate the beauty of cultural diversity in a way that “seeks to elevate our collective consciousness about issues of equity and justice and to uplift and empower our communities that have historically been marginalized, erased and silenced,” according to the college.

One exercise will feature Black, Indigenous and people of color, or BIPOC, alumni who will share stories of how their experiences studying abroad impacted them. Following the discussion, Assistant Director of the Walter Commons for Global Study and Engagement, Melissa Ryan, and its coordinator, Lauren O'Leary, will discuss how students can engage globally while at the college and share resources to help students prepare and thrive in study-abroad environments.

Another workshop will focus on “debunking trans myths,” digging into myths about transgender folks throughout history, the harmful impact some myths have on trans communities and why using proper pronouns matters and is grammatically correct.

Speakers will include LaNitra Berger, the senior director of fellowships and associate director of African American Studies at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., an award-winning scholar, educator and social justice advocate who is the author of several books, including “Exploring Education Abroad: A Guide for Racial and Ethnic Minority Participants.”

Also scheduled to speak are life coach and author Christopher Coleman, the founder and CEO of Unconfined Life Institute, a nonprofit that coaches and motivates individuals and groups; and Jeneé Osterheldt, a culture columnist who writes about social justice and identity through culture and arts, focusing on Black lives.

Osterheldt created a multimedia series for The Boston Globe called “ A Beautiful Resistance,” that amplifies Black voices. Her workshop will explore how stories about Black people are often told through extremes of brutality and poverty, but should be told in a space that celebrates everyday lives.

The conference is free and open to the public. People can register for workshops online at elevate.conncoll.edu; a Zoom account is required for registration.

t.hartz@theday.com

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