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The Social Justice and Diversity Summit 2013

Presented by the Farmingdale State College Social Science Research Institute 

Saturday April 20, 2013  9:00 am to 4:00 pm, Roosevelt Hall


Project Director: Angela Jones, PhD at angela.jones@farmingale.edu.
Social Science Institute Director: Miriam Deitsch, PhD miriam.deitsch@farmingdale.edu

Our conference was made possible thanks to the SUNY Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion’s Explorations in Diversity and Academic Excellence Grant. The conference invited faculty, students, student organizations, staff, the local community, non-governmental social justice organizations, and local government officials to the first conference of this kind on our campus. It combined cutting-edge research on the persistence of inequalities such as: educational inequalities, racism, gender inequality, environmental injustice, disability rights, and LGBT issues with information on getting involved in local non-profit organizations aimed at addressing these quagmires. The primary objectives of the conference were to: disseminate information about pressing social issues and to foster social change through civic engagement. Our goal was engage in meaningful dialogue about how we here on Long Island, in New York, and in the United States can work towards achieving equality, social justice, and equal access to vital resources regardless of race, ethnicity, class, age, religion, gender, disability, and/or sexual orientation. Our goal is to promote a culture of diversity, so that students and the community know that Farmingdale State College and the State University of New York are committed to fostering a culture of equality, one that celebrates multiculturalism, and stands for equality.

Keynote Address: Jonathan Kozol

In the passion of the civil rights campaigns of 1964 and 1965, Jonathan Kozol gave up the prospect of a promising and secure career within the academic world, moved from Harvard Square into a poor black neighborhood of Boston, and became a fourth grade teacher.

He has since devoted nearly his entire life to the challenge of providing equal opportunity within our public schools to every child, of whatever racial origin or economic level. He is, at the present time, the most widely read and highly honored education writer in America.

Death at an Early Age, a description of his first year as a teacher, received the 1968 National Book Award in Science, Philosophy, and Religion. Among his other major works are Rachel and Her Children, a study of homeless mothers and their children, which received the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award for 1989, and Savage Inequalities, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1992.

His 1995 best-seller, Amazing Grace: The Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation, was featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show and received the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award in 1996, an honor previously granted to the works of Langston Hughes and Dr. Martin Luther King. Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison wrote that Amazing Grace was “good in the old-fashioned sense: beautiful and morally worthy.”

Ten years later, in The Shame of the Nation, a powerful exposé of conditions he found in nearly 60 public schools in 30 different districts, Jonathan wrote that inner-city children were more isolated racially than at any time since federal courts began dismantling the landmark ruling in Brown v. Board of Education. The Shame of the Nation, which appeared on the New York Times best-seller list the week that it was published, has since joined Amazing Grace, Savage Inequalities, and Death at an Early Age as required reading at most universities.

In the fall of 2012, Jonathan published Fire in the Ashes, the major book of his career, a powerful and stirring culmination of the stories he has told over a quarter-century about the children of the poorest urban neighborhood in the United States. Fire in the Ashes follows these children out of their infancy, through the struggles of their adolescence, into their young adulthood. Some of their stories are painful and heart-breaking, but others are thrilling and dramatic tributes to the courage and audacity of fascinating children who refuse to be defeated by the gross inequalities of U.S. education and arrive at last at gloriously unpredictable and triumphal victories.

Fire in the Ashes is a sweeping narrative -- critics have said it reads like a compelling novel -- but the stories are interwoven with the crisis in our public schools and the decency of teachers who fight against the odds to defend the dignity of kids who are largely written off by our society.

When he is not with children and teachers in their classrooms, or at universities speaking to our future teachers, Jonathan is likely to be found in Washington, where he has spent much of his time in recent years trying to free our schools and children from the punitive and unsuccessful federal testing law No Child Left Behind -- and to convince his friends within the Senate leadership that an obsessive emphasis on “teaching-to-the-test” is unhealthy for our children and degrading to our teachers.

Jonathan received a summa cum laude degree in English literature from Harvard in 1958, after which he was awarded a Rhodes scholarship to Oxford University. He has been called “today’s most eloquent spokesman for America’s disenfranchised.” But he believes that children speak most eloquently for themselves; and in his newest book, so full of the vitality of youth, we hear their testimony.

Other Sessions and Speakers On Environmental Justice

Kishi Animashaun Ducre is an Assistant Professor in the Department of African American Studies (AAS) at Syracuse University

Ducre is the author of A Place We Call Home: Gender, Race, and Justice in Syracuse (Syracuse University Press, December 2012). She also served as 2011 Fulbright Scholar at the Institute for Gender and Development Studies at The University of the West Indies – St. Augustine. She received her PhD in the Environmental Justice Program of the University of Michigan's School of Natural Resources and Environment in 2005.

Kishi has been a committed advocate for environmental justice for over a decade. Her first foray in environmental activism was as a Toxics Campaigner for Greenpeace from 1994-1997. Under her coordination, her team at Greenpeace assisted in the victories of the nation's key environmental justice battles: defeating an AES power plant in San Francisco, halting the licenses of a uranium enrichment facility in rural Louisiana and the nation's largest proposed plastic manufacturing complex by Shintech in Convent, Louisiana. She combines her experiences on the frontlines of the environmental justice movement and academic training in geographic information systems and demography for a unique perspective on economic and environmental inequality in the Southern region of the United States.

In 2010, Kishi and Joan Bryant (AAS) were the recipients of a Digital Humanities grant from the College of Arts & Science Dean George Langford entitled, Black Syracuse Community History and Mapping Project. She is on the Board of Directors of the Fair Housing Council of Central New York. Her next project is the development of a book manuscript chronicling the transition of an ante-bellum sugar plantation into an oil and petrochemical complex which is a major source of pollution on the Mississippi River, today. She can be reached at kanimash@syr.edu.

On Racial Inequalitie


V. Elaine Gross, President Erase Racism

Ms. Gross has extensive experience in research, program development and evaluation at public and private agencies in Boston and New York. She earned her MSW from Boston University, with a focus on policy, planning and non-profit management. Throughout her career, Ms. Gross has focused on exploring the systemic causes of social, political, and economic inequities and finding ways to counteract those inequities.

While working in Boston, an example of her experiences include developing and managing human service delivery systems and tenant advocacy initiatives for the Boston Housing Authority. She was also Deputy Director of the Boston Housing Partnership, a premier public/private partnership supporting community development and affordable housing in fragile inner-city neighborhoods.

Subsequently, in New York, Ms. Gross served as a Program Officer for the Unitarian Universalist Veatch Program at Shelter Rock and developed a portfolio of grants across the U.S. focused on human rights and economic development. She then served as the founding Executive Director of Sustainable America, a national NGO that promoted sustainable, equitable development practices and policies.

Ms. Gross was hired by the Long Island Community Foundation to launch the ERASE Racism Initiative in June 2001. In 2004, ERASE Racism became an independent New York State not-for-profit corporation. Ms. Gross has successfully led ERASE Racism, bringing together a cross section of Long Island leaders to discuss and formulate remedies to persistent regional inequities, resulting from imbedded institutional and structural racism in health, education and housing. Under Ms. Gross' leadership, ERASE Racism has been recognized locally and nationally for its cutting edge work addressing institutional and structural racism, especially in the area of housing and community development. Ms. Gross has received numerous awards and is a frequent presenter on the topic of structural racism. Recognizing Ms. Gross' leadership and expertise, one of the Ford Foundation divisions invited Ms. Gross to be one of three presenters at an international foundation staff retreat.

Ms. Gross is a former member of the Long Island Regional Planning Council. Most recently she was appointed by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to The Long Island Regional Economic Development Council. She also served on the Advisory Committee of the Long Island Index of the Rauch Foundation and the Advisory Board of The Energeia Partnership, The Academy of Regional Stewardship at Molloy College. She has published opinion articles and received numerous awards, including the 2009 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Long Island Business News.

On Gender Inequalities

Stacey Scarpone, Executive Director Women's Fund Long Island

Stacey has over fifteen years of experience nationally and internationally in the philanthropic sector.   She is established in building collaborative partnerships between non-profit, civil society and the private sectors; and developing and managing initiatives that respond to and promote solutions to social challenges worldwide.

Her passion and focus has always been on issues related to the rights of women and girls, and she has extensive experience designing and implementing community and human rights based programs while living and working in Latin America, Africa, Europe and the United States. She is an expert on human trafficking issues and has been responsible for training and directing government officials worldwide on their country response strategies; as well as directing shelters in post-war countries and ensuring protection, economic livelihood and rights based training for survivors of trafficking and vulnerable women and girls.

She has worked for the International Organization for Migration, the United Nations, as well as a host of established national and international non-profit organizations including Mercy Corps, United Methodist Committee on Relief and The International Organization for Adolescents. Most recently Stacey was the Director of International Programs at the Pascucci Family Foundation on Long Island. She has also served two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Honduras.

Stacey holds a BA in Cultural Anthropology from New York University and an MPH from Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and she is fluent in Spanish and Italian. A native Long Islander, Stacey has recently returned to the area to raise her daughter and twin sons.