Thinking Outside the Box
Understanding Diversity Workshop
By Henry Ford
On June 2 and 3 I was fortunate to attend an excellent Diversity Workshop entitled Thinking Outside the Box, sponsored by The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio. It quickly became clear why the Northern District of Ohio is so often commended for excellence. Other organizations acknowledged for their support are listed at the end of this article.
No amount of explanation could truly duplicate the content or the impact of the two day conference. It is one of those things that fall into the category of “you had to be there.” Thanks to a “heads-up” e-mail from our friend Stanley Miller of the Cleveland NAACP, I became aware of the conference, and after passing it along to others, I made an unusual decision. I decided that despite a challenging schedule, it was time for me to “go back to the well.” Most of us need to do that on occasion; especially those of us who by profession attempt to help others.
The workshop turned out to be a lot more new information than I had expected, in addition to reminders of previously learned information, reminders of challenges and opportunities, and a renewing of passion and purpose. The workshop began with a brilliant keynote address delivered by Margot J. Copeland, an Executive Vice President at KeyCorp.
Another memorable highlight of the workshop was meeting and interacting with Jane Elliott, internationally recognized, respected (and sometimes feared) author of Blue Eyes, Brown Eyes. The no-nonsense Ms. Elliott is a near perfect example that “truth crushed to the earth shall rise again.” Her years of research, teaching, and speaking the truth has no doubt won her a few enemies, and the way she can eat them alive, I wouldn’t want to be one of them.
At Ms. Elliott’s request, a gentleman who is a member of the Sikh Community spoke briefly about their beliefs, accomplishments, and of some of the misunderstandings and discriminations against them.
I found his comments informative, enlightening, positive, and yet eerily similar to the African American experience. Jane mentioned that the gentleman was active in civic affairs in the Cleveland area, and asked had anyone in the audience ever considered him as a speaker or participant. Before the last “No” could be uttered, she quickly responded, “Don’t you think you should?”
(Correction/Addition to above paragraph) - Thanks to the very fast response to this article, Ms. Colleen Brown was kind enough to share the following information
"As a follow up, the Sikh gentleman, Azaad Khaira, has been a speaker about his religion at our conferences numerous times."
A common thread running among presenters was their ability to deliver informative and interesting material to such a diverse audience. Stephanie Wood of Smart Consulting was extremely effective at sharing her message in a way that captivated the audience. Her quiet, humble and entertaining method of delivery kept the participants on the edge of their seats. I had the opportunity to speak with Stephanie after her session, and the one on one experience was just as gratifying.
I was also excited about the presentation Choosing to Participate, about an organization with international impact that is dedicated to eridicating discrimination and suffering through education and involvement. They believe as many forward thinking individuals and organizations do, that through education and involvement, we can all survive and prosper. More information can be obtained about Choosing to Participate and upcoming events by going to http://www.choosingtoparticipate.org.
The workshop was definitely a wise investment of time, and I am looking forward to the next one. Meanwhile, I will be attempting to stay connected to Jane Elliott, Stephanie Wood, and many of the other planners and participants of very powerful and much needed program.
Thanks also to:
Northern Ohio Civil Rights Working Group
FBI Citizens’ Academy Foundation of Cleveland
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Glenn
Research Center’s Diversity Council
Federal Executive Board
Medical Mutual of Ohio’s Diversity Committee
Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage
Refugee Family Center
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
Ohio Civil Right Commission (OCRC)
Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights
Facing History and Ourselves
Western Reserve Historical Society
Case Western Reserve University