With COVID-19 as the backdrop for the world, the tragic murder of George Floyd and the killings of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery brought to the forefront issues of race, racism, and police brutality in America. As a School of Nursing, our hearts were heavy. We were outraged and dismayed. Some of us were tired and weary. The Dean of the School of Nursing, Dr. Pamela R. Jeffries and Dr. Sandra Davis, Assistant Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the School of Nursing believed it was necessary to provide, for the SON community, time and a safe space to talk, share, listen and process systemic racism.
On June 2nd and June 4th, the School of Nursing held a Faculty & Staff Town Hall and a Student Forum & Wellness Session, respectively. These sessions were moderated by Dr. Sandra Davis, assistant dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the School of Nursing and invited panelists: Dr. Grace Henry, Director, School of Medicine and Health Sciences Office of Diversity and Inclusion; Natasha Kazeem, Executive Associate Dean, Operations and Chair, Diversity and Inclusion Task Force Milken Institute School of Public Health; Jonathan M. Walker, Assistant Dean, Student Services, Diversity and Inclusion Elliott School of International Affairs and Kylie R. Stamm, Diversity Program Manager, Elliott School of International Affairs.
The feedback from these meetings demonstrated the desire by students, faculty, and staff to learn more and do more to eliminate systemic racism in America. Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing student Katherine Liwanag reached out to Dr. Davis to ask for more sessions. She said, “The insight, the pain, the hope, were all honest opinions and feelings that needed to be heard.” Mary Pearce, Director of Student Services asked what more we can do as a school? Continuing the Conversation was the direct result of faculty, staff and students wanting a safe space to address systemic racism in America. Dr. Davis said, “Race and Racism have always been such taboo subjects.” “Through Continuing the Conversation, we are making the uncomfortable comfortable.” To make progress toward dismantling systemic racism, we need to, first, be able to talk to each other.