Written by Katie Shpak, University Writer
“If Martin Luther King were afraid…if all our leaders were afraid, then where would we be today? So, we have to all look at our own selves and say, ‘it’s not about us, it’s about others,’” declared Post University Associate Faculty Member and Panelist Adrienne Parkmond, J.D.
In efforts to begin leading transformative changes towards a more equitable future within the Post University and Greater Waterbury community, Post’s Inclusion and Diversity Council (IDC) hosted a panel entitled “Moving Forward…TOGETHER,” on January 19, 2021.
IDC Member and Academic Success Counselor Rebecca Legoute initiated the need for this event, acknowledging that it is time to shift the University from being reactive to being more proactive.
“We are an institution with a plethora of resources and tools at our fingertips,” said Legoute. “We have faculty members with a diamond’s worth of knowledge. This panel is just the start of sharing that knowledge and using resources to have continuous, unapologetic, necessary, and honest conversations.”
The moderator for this open discussion was Post’s Program Chair for Early Childhood Education Elsa Jones. Jones is a Child Development Specialist, consultant, and advocate with thirty-five years of experience.
“Over the years, I have marched for freedom, social justice, voting rights, against gun violence in support of Sandy Hook and Parkland, and most recently, Black Lives Matter,” said Jones. “My professional work requires me to be an early childhood activist, a play activist, an equity activist, social justice activist, a family activist, and the list goes on. And as a parent, I proudly serve as a life-time activist for my daughter and son. For 58 years, activism and allyship has been my privilege and responsibility, often burdensome, but always, always a blessing.”
Joining Jones on Tuesday night were four other inspiring panelists—all from Waterbury—who steered the open discussion aimed to educate on the topic of activism and allyship with the intent on creating a lasting and lawful change.
Panelist and Post Alumna Akia S. Callum, M.Ed is the Director of Community Impact & Marketing at the Waterbury Bridge to Success Community Partnership. Callum is the President of the NAACP CT State Conference Youth & College Division, as well as the Chair for National Initiatives & Development for the NAACP National Youth Works Committee. She is also the founder of the Post University Black Student Union.
During the discussion, Jones asked the panelists, “What are ways to combat performative allyship as an ally, and what is the best advice you can give us when it comes to allyship?”
In response, Callum shared, “The responsibility is not on black people or people of color to educate you on your implicit and explicit bias. Develop your own education. Read your own books. Ask questions. Attend a Black Student Union meeting. Attend a Los Latinos meeting. You have these opportunities to ask these critical questions while giving Black and Brown people their space.”
Panelist Adrienne Parkmond, J.D., was born and raised in Waterbury, CT. Parkmond has been an Associate Faculty member at Post University since 2001 and is the Chief Operating Officer of the WorkPlace, overseeing a team of approximately 180 individuals within six states. She is also the President of the Waterbury CT Chapter of the Links Inc., which is the nation’s largest not-for-profit volunteer service organization of extraordinary women who are committed to enriching, sustaining, and ensuring the culture and economic survival of African Americans and other persons of African ancestry.
Being only three generations removed from slavery, Parkmond was raised from a family of activists, beginning to advocate for African American rights at a young age.
“As my mother and my grandmother used to say, there’s a lot of things that can be taken away from you, but your education and your knowledge can never be taken away, so always be informed,” said Parkmond.
Also serving as panelists for this event were President of the Waterbury Board of Alderman Paul Pernerewski, Jr. and Chief Executive Officer of Main Street Waterbury Carl Rosa.
Pernerewski became a member of the Board of Alderman in 2002 as the democratic majority leader. He was elected president in 2009. Pernerewski is also a Director and an Executive Committee Member for the Waterbury Development Corporation. Like Parkmond, Pernerewski was also born and raised in Waterbury CT, becoming an active member in the community in numerous respects.
“To be a real ally is to understand…or being open to understanding and wanting to learn. Asking meaningful, probing questions. Then, taking that information that we have learned and using it in a way that transforms our lives and helps us to work to transform our interactions with others in a better way,” said Pernerewski.
Carl Rosa, who is another life-long Waterbury resident, has been the CEO of Main Street Waterbury since 2004. The focus of this organization is to advocate, educate and collaborate for the revitalization and enhancement of downtown Waterbury.
“From my perspective, I will never know what it’s like to be a person of color, but I could pledge to say that I want to learn,” said Rosa. “I want to do what I can to learn. We never stop, in our lives, learning and growing and trying to understand. The minute we do is the minute, the game is over.”
Other powerful conversations ensued around issues of underlying racial prejudices, microaggressions, awareness, and understanding of allyship, and proper approaches to activism, as well as the importance of education around diverse races and cultures.
As the event came to a cessation, Jones left the panel with a question: “How do we start making a change—tomorrow?”
The responses from our expert panelists were as follows:
“Listen and strive for understanding,” said Rosa.
“Breaking down the silos that we live in,” said Pernerewski.
“Engage in the conversation and be willing to have the tough conversation. Challenge yourself to be a voice for the voiceless,” said Parkmond.
“You should all take an implicit bias test online. This is for everyone across the board – whether you’re black, white, pink, what have you. Go ahead and take that test,” said Callum.
Post University’s Inclusion and Diversity Council will continue to host events, encouraging all to Listen, Learn, and Lean In.
“We are still in the civil rights movement,” said Jones. “It’s a new phase, but we are all in this together.”
The Council’s mission is to lead positive, transformative changes within the Post University and Greater Waterbury community that support, cultivate and sustain diverse perspectives through conversations, events, and actions. Their commitment is to ensure an environment of inclusion, equity, and justice for all people.