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Simple, complex but beneficial conversation about diversity, equity and inclusion

Diversity, equity and inclusion are critical in business today. Pulling together people from different backgrounds and cultures gives the workforce a balance of voices and diversity of thought.

The city of Charlotte is hosting its second annual diversity, equity and inclusion conference and the keynote speaker had his audience captivated from beginning to end.

Toussaint Romain is currently the deputy general counsel for Appalachian State University.

Most Charlotte residents remember the 10 years Romain served as a Mecklenburg County public defender when he provided legal representation to indigent clients.

“We oftentimes think we need complete knowledge, awareness and solidarity on (diversity, equity and inclusion) issues and we don’t,” he said. “Most things that get accomplished in society are accomplished by a very strong minority group.”

However, it seems as if many businesses still do not have a healthy balance of different people from different backgrounds working for them.

“What are you doing to use your privilege to help make change,” Romain asked the crowd.

The organizers of the conference are bringing together a diverse group of people and presenters who are subject matter experts in their respective fields.

“I’ve given this presentation a thousand times, to CEOs, I’ve shared the stage with Magic Johnson, with bar associations, in Seattle, Albany and Hawaii, and everyone takes away exactly what they need,” he said.

As part of this conference, participants explore ways to break down both organizational and personal barriers that relate to diversity and inclusion to fully identify obstacles to both organizational and personal success.

During his presentation, Romain showed images of civil rights icons but said that anyone help change the trajectory to help someone achieve a greater outcome.

A common theme from those speaking at the conference is how an individual, no matter who they are, can create positive change for the next person.

“It is the butterfly effect,” he said. “You can do one small thing. I can do one small thing, but it can have a much bigger effect on so many things. People.”

The underlying message was that an inclusive workplace doesn’t just have a diversity of people present, it has a diversity of people involved, developed, empowered and trusted.

“In case you haven’t realized it, you are that person who can create change,”  he said to the crowd.

During his travel, Romain concluded that there are three distinct types of people in the audience.

Those who are “un-woke,” which means people who aren’t alert to racial prejudice and discrimination.

“The second kind of people (in) my audience are those who are woke but frustrated. They’re tired. They’re angry. They’re marching. They’re protesting. They’re showing up but they don’t really care,” he said.

Then there is the third category of people: those who are woke and doing something about improving the lives of the marginalized.

Organizers want to advance the education, understanding and acceptance of differences in public safety, the public sector and the community while creating an environment that is inclusive.

“Once I do my part. You do your part. And then the next person does their part. And then the rest of the folks get a chance to be a part of that.  That’s all we really need to do,” Romain said.

While race and gender demographics are part of the dialogue, the conference promotes a multifaceted discussion including recruitment, legal issues, cultural diversity and human relations.

The conference is hosted by the Charlotte Fire Department, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, MEDIC and the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office.

If you have an inspiring story to share, email Kevin Campbell, WSOC-TV/WAXN-TV/Telemundo Charlotte public affairs manager, at Kevin.Campbell@wsoctv.com.

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