Diverse Business Council, 2022 Diversity Summit: The Past leading the Present into the Future of DEI
by Khadijah Torbert
August 30, 2022
The 8th annual Diversity Summit put on each year by the Diverse Business Council, took place Tuesday, August 30, 2022, with more than 130 attendees ranging from business owners, vendors, employees, managers, and executives. This is also the 10th anniversary of the Diversity Business Council (DBC), formerly Minority Business Council, being in the West Alabama Community.
A panelist consisting of Moderator, Michele Coley with Allstate Coley Agency, Secretary Fitzgerald Washington with the Alabama State Department of Labor, Mildred Black with People Optimum Consulting, and Thomas Dedrick with Dedrick Wealth Management Group of Raymond James, began the ‘Past to Present’ discussion showing a blast from the past, a video from 2012 showcasing the Diverse Business Council’s first media coverage with WVUA 23 News. That introduction to the community and the media coverage that followed, along with the backing from the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama shed light on a lack of a true presence for diversity groups especially regarding black owned, women owned businesses, and businesses/companies owned by minorities or people of color. Because of that absence, Secretary Fitzgerald Washington and Jheovanny Gomez, owner of Jalapeños Mexican Grills in Tuscaloosa, Northport and Cottondale co-founded the Minority Business Council in 2012 and later named it the Diverse Business Council of West Alabama. Secretary Washington said, “Who would have thought that a vision both Jheovanny and I shared would turn into this [pointing at the room] a decade later, this is why discussions and being intentional about change is important.”
The Moderator, Michele Coley as well as all the panelists were an integral part in the advancement of the DBC. Mildred Black, previous DBC Chair spoke on the importance of workplace conversations. She said, “we must extend this summit and its conversations to our workplace, church place, and at home. We need to continue to have courageous conversations that lead to impact surrounding DEI.” Thomas Dedrick wanted the audience to reflect on the fact “we as a human race must get comfortable having conversations about race, diversity, equity & inclusion” He also noted that “we must learn the difference in each of those terms, if we truly want to move forward as a nation and community.” Secretary Washington also gave recognition from the stage to one of Tuscaloosa’s trailblazer, Dr. Charles Nash who was proudly in attendance.
Marlin Hall with Buffalo Rock Company/Pepsi-Cola echoed his sentiments of what Diversity and Inclusion meant to him and what it should mean to others listing four types of Diversity: internal, external, organizational, and world view before introducing the keynote speaker.
Keynote Address was given by Dr. G Christine Taylor, Vice President and Associate Provost at the University of Alabama Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion spoke on the Future of DEI in the Workplace. Dr. Taylor had interactive components in her address that asked for audience input and engagement reiterating the fact that “different people have different perspectives who see differently, which is why discussions are vital” She mentioned that we as a community and untimely a nation must develop the skills of being an empathetic listener while having civil discourse. Dr. Taylor said, “if you care about people, you have to care about diversity, because diversity is truly the unique qualities that each of us bring to the table, and you never know where talent will be there and appreciated.” She said sometimes there is evidence to the contrary, but we still lock a person into the stereotype we’ve seen from the media, had little to no exposure to, or learned at home. Dr. Taylor wanted those in attendance to ponder, “how do we present ourselves or position ourselves to maximize on the qualities that every individual-especially those who don’t look similar to us, brings to a given process.”
City of Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox provided insight on his efforts to employ all ethnicities over the span of his time as mayor and he provided an update of the city.
JacQuan D. Winters the DBC Chair gave closing remarks and DBC action items such as, forming a DBC Steering Committee, host lunch & learns, having business round tables, and hosting Diversity mixers, among others to create opportunity and to eliminate barriers.
We’d like to thank all of our sponsors including our Presenting Sponsors: Cadence Bank and The University of Alabama, Host Sponsor: The University of Alabama College of Continuing Studies, Gold Sponsors: Bryant Bank, Stillman College, Holiday Inn Express & Suites, Tuscaloosa East, and West Alabama Multiple Listing Services, Breakfast Sponsor: Tuscaloosa Tourism and Sports, Speaker Sponsor: Buffalo Rock Company/Pepsi-Cola, Table Sponsors: TTL, Inc., City of Tuscaloosa, Vendors: Alabama Public Radio, BankFirst, Cadence Bank, The Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama, Empowering Brands, JacQuan D. Winters, Realtor-Pritchett-Moore Real Estate, Kristen Amerson Youth Foundation, The Legacy Connection, People Optimum Consulting LLC, TuscaBlue, The University of Alabama, College of Continuing Studies, and Your CBD Store Northport.
About the Diverse Business Council
In 2012, the Chamber launched the Minority Business Council, now known as the Diverse Business Council. Although its mission is to foster the growth and competitiveness of minority owned businesses in West Alabama, DBC provides inclusive programming that is beneficial to a diverse workforce. For more info, visit DBC.