Devin Plaskett believes in the power of discussion, so as he sat at the MCCJ’s third annual diversity dialogue entitled “Can We Talk? Really, Can We Talk?” Wednesday night, he listened attentively.
“We generally say things but don’t think how it affects others,” said Plaskett, 21, a biology major and senior at Barry University. “We need these dialogues to promote change.”
The conversation revolved around the challenges of creating diversity and of addressing issues of racial inequality. The event was pegged to the Charleston, South Carolina, church shooting earlier this year in which nine people were killed as they prayed in a church.
Alexandra Villoch, president and publisher of the Miami Herald Media Company, led the discussion in Wolfson Auditorium at the Wolfson Campus of Miami Dade College.
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For two hours, the panel had a frank talk about issues such as racial divisions and socio-economic gaps. Panelists included Carlos J. Martinez, a Miami-Dade County public defender; David Lawrence Jr., chair of The Children’s Movement of Florida; Benjamin Evans III, the managing director of BMe Community; and Shed Boren, executive director of Camillus House.
“We’re so fragmented that we’re not coming together to have these conversations,” said panelist Fabiola Fleuranvil, the CEO of Blueprint Creative Group. She mentioned that various “pockets” in Miami-Dade don’t interact with one another and said that needs to change: “Miami does not want to be a St. Louis or a Baltimore, so these are the conversations we really need to have before we do become one of those cities.”
Panelist Gihan Perera, the executive director of New Florida Majority, also touched on that point and mentioned how many issues facing those who are marginalized need to be better addressed.
“When we talk about diversity and inequity, we don’t really say what the problem is,” Perera said after the discussion. “Part of that is we haven’t addressed the crisis of black poverty.”
Despite the serious topics, many left the event feeling hopeful.
“I thought it was excellent,” said Roberta Shevin, executive director of MCCJ. “This is right on. All of the topics discussed reflected the mission of MCCJ.” She also said that she hopes the dialogue creates a ripple effect and that the conversation will continue.
Plaskett, for one, plans to help keep the conversation going: “I feel it’s up to the people to let go of that fear and to really step up and talk to others.”