“Who’s at the Table?” The second Sankofa Community Conversation tackles diversity, equity and inclusion

January 18, 2018

Top row, from left: Maria Madison, associate dean of diversity, equity and inclusion, Isaac Cudjoe, MA COEX'18, Ajai Scott, MBA/MA SID'19. Second row, from left: Louis Salemy, board member from Harlem Lacrosse; Cynthia Maltbie, chief human resources officer from Partners in Health; Jarrod Chin, director of diversity and inclusion from Partners in Health; Elon Cook, public historian and womanist.

By Daniella Fernandes

The second Sankofa Community Conversations event on Jan. 17 brought together leaders in the fight against inequality locally and globally. It began with a silent, audience-wide reflection, as everyone wrote down their personal mission statements to be displayed publicly, then joined in on a performance of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” by Bria Price, MPP’19. These set the tone for an hour-long panel discussion entitled, “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: Who’s at the Table?”

Bria Price, MPP'19

The panel included Cynthia Maltbie, chief human resources officer, and Jarrod Chin, director of diversity and inclusion, both from Partners in Health (PIH), which provides healthcare in the poorest areas of developing countries; Louis Salemy, a board member from Harlem Lacrosse, which uses sports to improve at-risk youth’s educational outcomes; and Elon Cook, a public historian and race womanist. 

Heller’s Associate Dean of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Maria Madison moderated the panel. She asked about their work and collaborations within their diverse fields, the different ways they measure impact and their approach to making sure all voices are heard as they combat inequities.

Maltbie spoke about PIH’s commitment to provide healthcare as a human right, “deeply engaging the community and following their lead” all over the world. Chin agreed, adding that educating and empowering locals has helped ensure the “voices of the community are represented well.” 

Cynthia Maltbie, chief human resources officer for Partners in Health

Salemy shared the importance of buy-in from principals, teachers, families and students for programs like Harlem Lacrosse, which deeply immerses itself in the lives of at-risk students. He hopes it will come full circle one day, with students who come through the program and graduate from college returning to work with a new generation of students. 

Elon Cook, public historian and race womanist

Cook emphasized the importance of constantly asking questions and entering spaces where she, as a black woman, is not expected. She challenges all her audiences—from students who take her historical walking tours to fellow attendees at genealogy conferences to members of the Daughters of the American Revolution—to think critically about the society they live in and how centuries of American history has informed their lives today. There’s always more work to be done to promote equality, she says. But it’s essential to keep in mind this phrase to make sure equity is achieved in the best possible way: “Nothing about us, without us.” 

You can watch the entire conversation here: