On November 14 we held the Greater La Crosse Area Diversity Council 9th Annual conference. The goal of the conference was to expand and strengthen inclusive communities and workplaces through promoting diversity and equity.
The keynote speaker, Dr. Jacqueline Battalora, began her speech with a quick run-down of America’s history with racial division and the upbringing of terminology such as “the white folk”. She explained the history by starting with the British indentured servants, and then explained the beginning of slavery in America from the colonial time anti-miscegenation laws. These laws stated that interracial couples were not allowed, thus building the forefront of racial divide that we know today. Her speech not only went through what happened in the past, but she delved into what we can do to promote change and diminish the divide. Battalora engaged the audience through her history lesson from the perspective we were never taught in school, and her explanation of personal struggle involving social problems surrounding race. She closed her inspirational speech by explaining that in order to grow from racial division we have to start by changing our policies and realizing that taking action is about both humility and silence.
Another speaker, Wale Elegbede shared his story on his involvement with the community. During a time of division after a hate crime was committed in the Lacrosse area, Elegbede took the step forward to combat the crime with unity and education of racism. His personal experience is what drives him to inspire unity in others. The speech he gave ended with one truly inspiring quote: “we have the knowledge and the capacity; we just have to act on it.”
Amongst the many local businesses and organizations attending the conference, we want to give a special thank you for their commitment to equity and inclusion efforts. Michael Sallaway, Jacqueline Battalora, Adrian Lipscombe, Steve O’Malley, Jane Klekamp, Jill Breidel, Shane Gesler, Mao Kong, Mary Anna Thornton, Thomas Harris, Kayden Carpentier, Mark White, Arlette Rodriguez-Miller, Andrea Hansen, Danya Day. These community leaders represent local organizations as Ho-Chunk Nation, Uptowne Cafe, La Crosse County Administration, Gundersen Health System, Manpower, Diversified Consulting Cooperative, UW-L, and the Greater La Crosse Area Diversity Council.