Nov. 4, 2020

Webinars spark courageous conversations about equity, race, systemic racism and anti-racism

Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion leads speaker series with internationally recognized scholars

Conversations can ignite change. It takes courage to overcome the silence and say what must be said. That’s why Dr. Malinda Smith, PhD, is launching Courageous Conversations — a new University of Calgary speaker series designed to spark a national conversation around equity, race, systemic racism and anti-racism.

“I was inspired to name the series Courageous Conversations by two quotes from inspiring and courageous Black women,” explains Smith, UCalgary’s first vice-provost, equity, diversity and inclusion, pictured above, left. At the heart of this Courageous Conversations speaker series is the wisdom of the great Maya Angelou, who stressed why courage is vital to change with integrity and equity. 

Writes Angelou: “Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can't practise any other virtue consistently. You can practise any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.”

This new speaker series will centre and amplify the voices of action-oriented academics, students, administrators and activists from Canada and beyond. It aims to contribute to the local and national conversation around combating inequities and racial injustice through concrete actions for change.

For this reason, the speaker series is also inspired by the audaciousness of the great Calgarian Violet King, Canada’s first Black woman lawyer. In a 1956 speech to the Beta Sigma Phi Sorority in Calgary, she said, “People told me it wasn’t a good idea for a girl to be a lawyer, particularly a coloured girl — so I went ahead.” The speaker series aims to raise awareness but also to inspire people to engage in action for equity and social change.

The first webinar in the series features a presentation by Dr. Alana Lenton, associate professor of cultural and social analysis at Western Sydney University, and author of the newly-released book Why Race Still Matters. Lenton’s presentation, The Racist Violence of “Not Racism” and the Role of “Contrarian” Academics, explores how public discourse on racism has gone beyond the four Ds of racism management: denial, debatability, distancing and deflection. Lenton is pictured above, right.

She will delve into why today’s defining struggle has become what racism is and who gets to define it, and dig into why those affected by racism are cast by others as less capable of doing that framing and defining.

Smith will moderate the presentation and will host the question-and-answer session. Register for the first event and visit the EDI website to learn more about upcoming webinars and events as they are announced.

The racist violence of “not racism” and the role of “contrarian” academics

Dr. Alana Lentin, associate professor, Western Sydney University
Thursday, Nov. 12,  3:30 p.m.
Register for this event

Future speakers in the Courageous Conversations series include:

  • Dr. Patrina Duhaney, assistant professor, Faculty of Social Work
  • Dr. Marlon Simmons, associate professor, Werklund School of Education
  • Dr. Sarita Srivastava, professor and dean, Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences and School of Interdisciplinary Studies, OCAD University
  • Dr. Fiona Nicoll, professor, political science and Alberta Gambling Research Institute chair, University of Alberta
  • Dr. Sheila Cote-Meek, vice-president (equity, people and culture), York University

In addition to these webinars, UCalgary has committed to supporting equity, diversity and inclusion as part of its new strategic vision Unstoppable, our "growth through focus" plan. The university has been selected as one of 17 pilot institutions in the ambitious Dimensions Equity Diversity and Inclusion initiative, Canada’s distinctive effort to advance EDI in higher education and in the research ecosystem. It has also partnered with over 40 Canadian universities in the National Dialogues and Action for Inclusive Higher Education and Communities.

The University of Calgary is committed to an equitable, diverse, and inclusive university. It recognizes that diverse faculty, staff, students and alumni benefit and enrich the work, teaching, learning and research experiences of the entire campus and broader community. We are committed to removing barriers that have been, and continue to be, encountered by equity seeking groups, particularly women, Indigenous peoples, visible/racialized minorities, persons with disabilities, and LGBTQ2S.

The Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at the University of Calgary is situated on the traditional territories of the people of the Treaty 7 region in Southern Alberta. The City of Calgary is also home to the Métis Nation of Alberta, Region 3.


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