Helena Diversity and Inclusion Board holds public forum

Published 11:54 am Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

By MICHELLE LOVE | Staff Writer

HELENA – On Tuesday night, Jan. 18, Helena’s Diversity and Inclusion Board held a public forum for Helena residents to discuss diversity and acceptance in the community.

The forum included special guest speakers Dr. Gregory L. Samuels, an associate professor and Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer from the University of Montevallo, and Dr. Amy J. Samuels, an associate professor also from the University of Montevallo.

“The more language we learn, the more comfortable we can be talking with each other,” Gregory said. “We know there’s going to be a learning process, we’re going to trip and stumble, but we’ll come back stronger the more language and terms we have under our belt.”

Key points discussed during the forum included the importance of language, equity versus equality, the varied categories of diversity and how life experiences play into perspective.

“Gender, language, race, sexuality and social class are all categories of diversity,” Amy said. “Thinking about the lives of people in our community who don’t necessarily look or believe the same things that we do, think about how their lives have been influenced in these areas, and then we need to ask ourselves are we empathetic to this? Just because I don’t experience something, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist for someone else.”

Both Gregory and Amy placed an emphasis on cultural competence and introspection, asking people to think about how their personal life experiences have shaped their beliefs and their world view and then thinking about how someone else’s experiences have shaped their different world view.

Amy used the analogy of asking a fish what it’s like to life in water.

“If you asked a fish what it’s like to live in water, the fish would probably say, ‘I don’t know,’ because it doesn’t know anything outside of living in water,” she said. “And the same goes for us. We don’t know what it’s like outside of our own water… we have to learn to think beyond our own kaleidoscope, our own world view, our own water.”

“We all have voices in this room, and we can all hear each other and acknowledge each other’s points of view on an issue,” Gregory said. “That’s a great thing about diversity. When you have a lot of different people in the room offering different view points and solutions to issues so you can find a more well rounded path going forward. If you don’t have diversity in the room, that means you’re missing voices, and that makes the argument weaker.”

The Board has posted a short survey for residents and business owners in Helena that will provide the Board with the varied and diverse perspectives that make up the city and can give them a guideline of how to better represent those perspectives.

The survey is available until Feb. 10 and can be accessed through the provided QR code or at qrco.de/bcXJvg.