The Diversity Lecture Series is back in Grand Rapids for its 23rd year.
Sponsored by Grand Rapids Community College’s Bob and Aleicia Woodrick Center for Equity and Inclusion, the event is intended to provide insight and understanding of equity and inclusion to the West Michigan community.
This year’s speakers include a neuroscience researcher, a comedian and a filmmaker.
Domingo Hernandez-Gomez, director of the Woodrick Center, said the variety of perspectives offered by the speakers in the 2017-18 series reflects a diversity of issues important to the current state of public affairs in America.
“The message of all our speakers is simple and explores the steadfast American virtue of philanthropy toward others,” he said. “In their own way, each speaks to this common cultural philanthropic tread, in the broadest sense of the word, by espousing goodwill, compassion and altruism.
“We know that the topics in the Diversity Lecture Series need to be discussed if we are to maintain or build a healthy community, for we depend on each other to overcome the challenges that divide us. It starts with dialogue and reflection in the spirit of learning. It is not easy. It takes courage and humility, and one must be open and willing to listen to other perspectives and extend grace when offended. May our wisdom prevail over our pride; that is the invitation.”
With numerous speakers to choose from, Hernadez-Gomez believes author John Cacioppo is the right person to kickoff the series.
“I believe we all agree that we are experiencing a crucial moment in our history, where division may seem to prevail. Dr. Cacioppo reminds us that there is danger in isolation and division, not only for our physical and psychological health as individuals but as a community. He will be speaking about the importance of reaching out, connecting, extending kindness and establishing quality relationships.”
The series is designed to “create awareness, enrich understanding and enhance conversations and relationships of issues that matter in our community; and stimulate new perspectives and ideas.”
By making the lectures free and open to the public, the series hopes to reach as many people as possible and ultimately, enhance the community.
With these ideas in mind, author Negin Farsad is the perfect candidate to close the series. “Her novel approach in combating phobias that prevent people from talking about sensitive issues. Her point is that there are tools available for reaching out,” Hernadez-Gomez said.
Each speaker is independent from one another, so every event provides a new opportunity to hear a different perspective.
Lecture Series Line-Up:
- Oct. 25 – Loneliness and Brain Health – John Cacioppo, author and founding director of the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience at the University of Chicago.
- Nov. 15 – The American DREAMer: From Undocumented to Wall Street and Immigration Advocacy – Julissa Arce, author, immigration and education advocate and co-founder of the Ascent Education Fund.
- Feb. 21 – Defending America in the Age of Mass Incarceration – Dawn Porter, attorney, filmmaker and criminal justice system reformer.
- March 14 – Fighting Islamophobia, Bigotry and What Have You with Comedy – Negin Farsad, author and social justice comedian.
All the lectures begin at 7 p.m. at Fountain Street Church, 24 Fountain St. NE. Book signings by authors follow the lectures, and presentations are ASL interpreted. All lectures are free and open to the public.
*Photos courtesy of GRCC