SPRINGFIELD, Mo.– Missouri State University’s 8th Annual Diversity Conference begins on Wednesday.
It was cancelled in 2020, but this year the conference is being held virtually and anybody can register for free. Though, this year it’s a two-day event rather than the usual three.
“We felt it was important enough to do it this year, particularly because of the divisiveness and polarization and the challenges that we’re facing as a nation,” chief diversity officer of MSU H. Wes Pratt said.
Since he was 15 years old, Pratt’s life passion has been making people more accepting of each other.
“The challenges still persist regardless of the accomplishments and some of the progress has been made,” Pratt said.
As Missouri State prepares for another collaborative diversity conference, Pratt said he wants to get the message across about how to resolve systemic racism.
“We have to be able to engage folks who may think differently,” Pratt said. “And then when you engage them, perhaps you can find resolutions to some of the challenges.”
The effort to help people understand starts on Wednesday – with Lyle Foster’s workshop on facing racism.
“One of the things we really need to understand is how has our history informed us?” Foster said.
Foster will talk about historical events in the Ozarks, like the 1906 lynchings of three black men or the Trail of Tears.
“Just to contemplate and understand how we got to where we are, so at least we don’t make the mistakes of the past and bring those into the present and future,” Foster said. “Sometimes people think when you’re looking at history, you’re trying to drag up stuff to get people angry. That is really not the goal at all.”
He said people should realize they’re making history right now.
“What will we want future generations to learn about what we did? Sometimes we look back at slavery. We look back at various events and say ‘If I had been there, I wouldn’t have done it, I would have done it this way.’ How do you know? People will look back on 2020, on 2021. ‘Oh, they went on a lockdown! Oh, they had to wear masks!’ We’re looking back at the previous pandemic. People will study this pandemic.”
Foster’s virtual workshop hit capacity of 45 people – but there is a wait list.
Registration is still open for all other sessions on Thursday, April 22. Those interested in registering can do so by visiting their website.