The Year That Changed Everything

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At this year's Inforum Capstone event, things looked a little different. We weren't all gathered at the traditional networking hour or seated in a large banquet room eager to hear from the keynote speaker. Despite that, our mission remained focused on celebrating women and addressing the issues impacting our world.

When we were planning Capstone, we went back and forth on the best topic and speaker. 2020 has been a stressful year with a global pandemic, violence and racism running rampant throughout our country. We've never shied away from tough topics. In fact, we embrace them—like when we featured Tarana Burke, founder of the 'me too' Movement, in 2018.

It was important for us to still come together, and we did (virtually) to discuss "The Year That Changed Everything, Antiracism, and the Urgency of Now." Kelley L. Carter, Michigan native and senior entertainment reporter of ESPN's The Undefeated, touched on this year's topic alongside a panel of West Michigan women.

The panel featured moderator, Robyn Afrik, the first director for the Ottawa County Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), and panelists, Michelle LaJoye-Young, sheriff of Kent County; Kelsey Perdue, Kids Count project director at the Michigan League of Public Policy; and Milinda Ysasi, Grand Rapids city commissioner and executive director of The SOURCE.

Image and Perception in Media

We all know how important the role of image and perception is, especially with news available on our phones, tablets, laptops, social platforms, and more. We've witnessed the media changing the way we view a person or situation within seconds based on how a story is reported.

In Carter's opening remarks, she touched on the role reporters play in shaping a story's narrative and the immense responsibility a journalist holds to ensure they are being inclusive, diverse and factual. This is especially true in a world where the term "fake news" is thrown around as a way to discredit unwelcome information.

Being a Woman of Color in Hollywood

It was an honor to provide Carter a platform to speak about her journey as a woman of color in an industry heavily dominated by men. She recalled the countless times male reporters would receive an exclusive interview or a special assignment and she wouldn't—even though they had less or the same amount of experience. It's a story the women of West Michigan understand.

We know change doesn't come easily. It will only happen by supporting each other, having tough conversations, and demanding equal opportunities and equal recognition in our lives and our careers.

Open and Dialogue and Conversation

During Carter's opening remarks and the panel discussion, she shared the biggest driver toward change will be continued and passionate conversations regarding the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion. Some 10 years ago, those words were not spoken as freely, but because of open dialogue and conversations surrounding inequities as they relate to race and gender, things are beginning to shift.

But change is still needed, and there is always room to grow and improve.

When women and people of color are consistently included at the table without question or a second glance, true change will be made.

As we enter into a new year, it's our job to continue to push these (sometimes tough) conversations to the forefront. If this year has taught us anything, it's that the time is now. We will continue to learn, listen and amplify the voices and leadership of Black women.

Written by Becky Puckett-Wood, Vice President, Corporate & Member Engagement, and Courtnai Calloway-McCurdy, West Michigan Ambassador, Inforum.

Photo courtesy of Inforum.



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