Power in Diversity Conference joins people statewide

St. Cloud State hosted its 6th annual Power in Diversity Leadership Conference, which started Thursday night and ended Sunday morning, featuring a variety of events, workshops, and keynote speakers that kept the schedule for the conference full.
Managed by Multicultural Student Services, the conference was put on to provide students of color, and underrepresented students, with opportunities for personal growth and leadership development. Students and faculty came for the conference from around the region including the University of Minnesota, Southwest Minnesota State University, Winona State University, College of St. Benedict and St. Johns University.
The theme for this year’s conference was “Remembering the Sixties While Charting the Future,” which seems to resonate the idea, while recently social justice improvements have been made, there is a lot more work to be done. This notion seems to follow the trend of recent events, which have been bringing race relations back into conversation, like the Supreme Court’s decision in 2013 to invalidate a key part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
The decision made by the Supreme Court and other recent events involving social injustices were brought up in keynote speaker Yoruba Richen’s presentation on Saturday night. Richen is an award winning documentary filmmaker making films abroad and in the United States, and is well-recognized in the social activism community.  She aimed to tell the stories of oppressed people and cover the continual struggle for civil rights.
“Any one with a sense of history can realize that we are living in a time of political and social upheaval,” Richen said as she addressed the conference. Her presentation was on the intersection of the gay rights movement and the civil rights movement.
“There is no single issue struggle because we don’t live single-issue lives,” Richen said. In her presentation, she went on to summarize that all social justice movements are fundamentally about human rights, and people must recognize that fact in order to keep improving diversity in society.
Along with Yoruba Richen, there were five other keynote speakers who addressed the conference. Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay, a Minnesota based Lao-American poet and playwright, presented a scene from her play “Kung Fu Zombies vs. Cannibals,” and spoke about the power of telling our own narratives.
Thunder Before the Storm, Clyde Bellecourt, founder of the American Indian Movement gave a presentation on the history of the American Indian Movement from 1968 to present. Jerome Love, an entrepreneur and inspirational speaker, presented on how to overcome obstacles that hinder achieving greatness. Business mentor Dr. Bernard Franklin spoke on leadership in a global marketplace. Griselda Aldrete, the executive director of Hispanic professionals of Greater Milwaukee, also gave a presentation on education and entrepreneurship today.
The presentations were also accompanied by workshops for staff faculty and employers, as well as different workshops for students. There also was a job fair for participants to look for jobs and internships, and a graduate school fair for those who may be interested in graduate school. The conference also held a variety show and had a special cultural performance by Bill Miller, an award winning Native American musical and performer.
All of the workshops and presentations that the conference hosted were consistent with the conference’s main purpose of identifying ways in which participants can lead the way in making positive changes in tomorrow’s world. The Power in Diversity Leadership conference reflected the university’s commitment to global and cultural understanding, as well as the university’s mission, which is to prepare its students for life in the 21 century.

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