What can a mini grant and a small group do to support diversity, equity and inclusion? A lot, when the group of colleagues are headed to the “largest multiracial, intergenerational conference for racial justice advocates.”
In mid-July, the UNC School of Medicine Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion announced the first DEI Mini Grants awardees. One group, Gretchen Mason, Samantha Campbell and Judithe Louis, are part of the UNC Center for Health Equity Research (CHER), where they support the RADx® Underserved Populations (RADx-UP) project.
Gretchen, Samantha and Judithe will use their mini grant award to attend Facing Race, a national conference offering “unprecedented access to information, tools, and resources on racial equity.”
We asked them to share their reasons for attending.
Gretchen Mason, a Project Specialist supporting RADx-UP, hopes to connect with other attendees from around the country. She’s interested in getting perspective from others doing work “to increase accessibility of tools and information for communities of color.”
Those new perspectives are relevant to her work at RADx-UP because, “as we have seen in these past two years, structural racism continues to place health inequities and lack of resources to BIPOC [Black, Indigenous and people of color], and that needs to stop.” She added, “I’m here for the fight!”
Samantha Campbell is also a Project Specialist supporting RADx-UP. She shared her reasons for attending Facing Race, along with her vision for the future.
Samantha framed her journey to Facing Race with reflections on her family’s past – and future – journey:
As a child, I heard stories from my grandmother about her lived experience with racial injustice. As a teen, I heard stories from my mother about her lived experience with racial injustice. As an adult woman of color, I reflect on the decades between my journey and my grandmother’s, realizing that racial injustice never ceased, it just changed its presentation. I’ve made the declaration that I want different for my daughters. I’m very grateful to be able to attend the Facing Race Conference, convening in a collaborative space with other individuals willing to be comfortable with what’s uncomfortable to advance racial justice.
Her vision for her work and the future: “Together we can make a difference.”
Judithe Louis is an Assistant Project Specialist with RADx-UP who shared that she was “pleased to hear that [she] won the mini-grant.” She added that she’s looking forward to “sharing this experience with my two amazing teammates.”
Like Samantha, Judithe also shared a personal story that grounds her interest in attending Facing Race:
As a child, my parents express their feelings about racial injustice, but it was Americans towards Haitians; I always thought my parents were overreacting and that it was their lack of understanding of the English language that got them frustrated with America. In high school, I started to learn more and noticed the lack of education that was provided to us about Black History and heard stories from others about lived experiences with racial injustice. As an adult woman of color, Haitian or not, I reflect on the stories that I heard from decades of racial injustice, and having experienced it myself, I want different for my daughter.
With echoes of Samantha’s future focus, Judithe connects her family’s past and her child’s future. She also emphasized another point that Samantha raised. Facing Race is a space for getting comfortable with discomfort.
Judithe’s focus on “be[ing] in a collaborative space with other individuals willing to be comfortable with what is uncomfortable to make a difference in our injustice system” reflects the conference’s goal. It points to the broader impact this mini grant will have for this group of awardees.
Gretchen, Samantha and Judithe are expecting their conference attendance to positively impact their work, communities and, importantly, families. Importantly, that includes the next generation of Americans.
That’s what small awards can do for those with big goals.