The 19th Annual Multicultural Forum on Work Place Diversity was hosted at the St Paul River Center on February 20th and 21st 2007. The event is an initiative of the University of St Thomas and was co-hosted by the National Black MBA Association and Thomson Corporation.
The objectives of the forum, outlined under its mission statement, are to “advance diversity in the workplace by enhancing awareness and understanding to bring about an inclusive workplace environment”. The two day workshop had about one hundred participating companies.
Some of the topics were ‘How to retain a diverse workforce’, Advancing Talent of Color into Leadership’ and ‘Lets keep Talking About Race’. Comprehensive talks were given at each of these sessions and if implemented, would go a long way towards bridging the gap between the Caucasians and people of color.
On the second day of the forum, various companies hosted a career fair and during a visit to the WCCO TV stand, Ann Oullette, Contoller and John Daenzer, Assistant News Director, expressed concern for the lack of diversity at the television station urged minorities to apply for positions since they can offer a balanced view of what was happening in the Twin Cities.
Julie Parvis of Diversity Promotions fully understands the need to encourage integration in the workplace and runs a company that adds their logo to promotional material for companies that support affirmative action.
Roger McKnight, a Private Mortgage Banker for Wells Fargo, and member of the Black MBA Twin Cities Chapter, shed light on the fact that one did not have to have a Masters degree in Business Administration (MBA) to join the organization. He realized many people stayed away from seeking membership for this reason. He further explained that membership to the organization allowed one to network and have increased career growth opportunities.
Keynote Speaker: Ambassador Andrew Young
Ambassador Young, a civil rights activist and the first African American US ambassador to the United Nations was one of the key note speakers at the Forum. He closed the session with a moving speech that urged the listeners to embrace diversity and understand that in order to survive and thrive in this economy, everybody needed to work together for a better future for all, starting at the grass roots level.
Ambassador Young in Africa
In a brief interview, with Mshale, after his speech, Ambassador Young talked about a recent visit to Livingstone in Zambia where he attended a meeting for the Southern Africa Enterprise Development Fund (SAEDF), and was able to approve funding for several indigenous enterprises, such as Liquefied Foods, based in Zambia. SAEDF’s objective is to provide financial services to previously disadvantaged, indigenous small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the southern African region.
Ambassador Young who was writing a memoir about Africa stopped because of the speed at which Africa is changing. He decided instead to produce documentaries, the most recent one is entitled ‘Rwanda Rising’ and looks at the country 12 years after the horrific genocide. Coffee growers are profiled as well as others who were affected by the atrocities. The documentary follows the peoples’ progress and how far they have come with the healing process. It highlights their determination to rebuild and forge on, despite their devastating loss. The genocide in Rwanda has slowly but surely hit people around the world and affected how we view each other as human beings. As new stories come out from the survivors, the determination by many to ensure such a thing does not repeat itself can never be over emphasized.