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Conference at PLU focuses on how to have productive conversations about race and equity

Conference at PLU focuses on how to have productive conversations about race and equity

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People's Assembly Event Banner
January 27, 2017

Tune in: The People's Gathering is streaming live

By Zach Powers '10
PLU Marketing & Communications

TACOMA, WASH. (Jan. 27, 2017)- Genesis Housing and Community Development Coalition will host a professional development conference called The People’s Gathering on the campus of Pacific Lutheran University on Friday, February 24. The full-day conference will focus on skills and strategies to facilitate difficult conversations around race in workplace and educational settings.

Headlined by four nationally-known speakers (listed with bios below) with expertise in diversity, racial equity and multicultural education, The People’s Gathering will seek to help attendees increase their personal and professional cultural competency.

“Our goal is to bring company leaders, employees and student leaders together to create a supportive space in which participants can engage in honest and open dialogue about race and racial disparities that are systemically present in work, school and everyday life,” said Genesis Housing and Community Development Coalition President Toney Montgomery.

The conference will balance lessons from the featured speakers with breakout sessions in small groups.

“We hope to increase cultural understanding and respect in the community through a unique and engaging learning experience that will expand professional and personal networks across cultures,” said Montgomery.

A number of local elected, nonprofit and business leaders have registered to attend and bring their staffs to The People’s Gathering, including Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson.

“I am excited for this conference experience to intentionally advance my cultural competency and ultimately enhance my ability to lead in the workplace and serve diverse communities,” said Anderson. “The People’s Gathering will provide a meaningful chance to take information and tools back to the office and implement immediately.”

Event organizers say The People’s Gathering was conceived in response to the culturally divisive 2016 election, and other racial tensions that have recently frequented local and national news.

“Many citizens are finally acknowledging the depth of our racial differences and divide in America and are crying out for opportunities to learn and more deeply understand their role in it,” explained Montgomery.

“How people talk ─ or don’t talk ─ about race at work and in the classroom is a strong indicator of whether the organization, school or community has an inclusive culture,” Montgomery continued. “Our hope is that our community can have an organized base of folks equipped to move these difficult conversations forward towards solution-based strategies.”

Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland will be issuing a proclamation acknowledging the racial divisions in America, affirming the City of Tacoma’s commitment to diversity and dialogue, and declaring February 24, the day of The People’s Gathering, “Professional Development Day” in Tacoma.

In the spirit of The People’s Gathering, the proclamation encourages “all government agencies, corporate and small business entities, nonprofit organizations, educational institutions and individual citizens to educate themselves in the areas of cultural awareness, literacy and competency as a way to strive towards unity.”

Conference registration is $250 for general attendees and $125 for students. Discounts are available for teams of five or more from the same organization and scholarships are available to eligible students. For more information contact PLU Director of Multicultural Outreach and Engagement Melannie Denise Cunningham at or call 253-535-7467.

Reforming Event Series-January

Featured Speakers


Dr. Randal Pinkett, an entrepreneur, author and scholar, is founder and CEO of BCT Partners, a consulting and research information technology firm headquartered in Newark, NJ. His book, Black Faces in White Places: 10 Game-Changing Strategies to Achieve Success and Find Greatness, was named one of “The Best Books of 2010.” He holds a B.S. in electrical engineering from Rutgers University; a M.S. in computer science from the University of Oxford; and a M.S., MBA and Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is a former captain of his collegiate track and field team, and was the winner of NBC’s hit reality television show “The Apprentice.”


Eddah Mbula Mutua, Ph.D. is a Professor of Intercultural Communication at St. Cloud State University, Minnesota. She teaches in the area of intercultural communication. Her research focuses on peace communication in post-conflict societies in Eastern Africa with a special interest in the role of women in post-genocide Rwanda and grassroots peacebuilding initiatives in Kenya. In the U.S., her areas of research include East African refugee and host communities’ interactions in Central Minnesota, Africans and African-Americans relations, and critical service-learning as a pedagogical practice in peace education.


Robin DiAngelo, Ph.D., is director of Equity for Sound Generations, Seattle/King County, and a consultant and trainer for over 20 years on issues of racial and social justice. Growing up poor led her to explore class oppression and how her experience differed from others in poverty because she is white. Her work on “white fragility,” a defensive response to real conversations about race, has been featured in Salon, NPR, Slate, Alternet and The Seattle Times. Dr. DiAngelo earned her PhD in Multicultural Education from the University of Washington in Seattle and earned tenure at Westfield State University before returning to the Northwest. She was twice honored by her university students as educator of the year.


Jewel Diamond Taylor is a dynamic speaker, messenger of hope and life coach.  She is known as “the self-esteem doctor.” In the late 1980s, Taylor was one of the first women of color to become a national and international motivational speaker. She has made presentations at the Pentagon and in prisons, for corporate America and on college campuses, and for community groups and on military bases. Taylor is author of seven books, an ordained elder in her church, founder of Women on the Grow Ministry and frequent radio guest.


Beth Kraig, Ph.D. strongest interests center on the history of discrimination and oppression (and resistance to those forces) in the United States, and especially in the 20th century. Her research into the subject include examinations of anti-gay ballot measures in the 1970s, racism in the military in World War II, and feminist voices in popular literature in the post-WWII decades. She is actively involved in interdisciplinary programs and fields of study, including Women’s Studies and Peace Studies, and has participated in research and projects that center on the importance of historical thinking in interdisciplinary contexts. Dr. Kraig is a professor of History at Pacific Lutheran University.


John Scott, MA, Ph.D.(c) is an artist, educator, counselor, writer, facilitator, consultant, who has been providing support to organizations and individuals for over 15 years. His areas of expertise are in issues of cultural competency, community leadership development, social justice, non-violent communication, and community building processes. Through his socially conscious interactions with audiences, John provides practical tools participants can use in making positive, sustainable changes in their lives, communities, and organizations. John has a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology with a concentration in Drama Therapy. He is currently finishing his PhD work at CIIS in San Francisco focusing on social justice, ecology, and indigenous studies.