Introducing the UB JEDI Series

The new JEDI Series is an engagement platform for University of Baltimore faculty, staff, and students to dialogue, learn, and reflect on current issues related to justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion. The series was developed by Zandra D. Rawlinson, UB HR Associate Director of Learning & Development; Angela Koukoui, Outreach and Public Services Coordinator at UB Special Collections & Archives; Allison Jennings-Roche, Reference & Instruction Librarian at RLB Library; and Sarah Gilchrist, Reference & Instruction Librarian at RLB Library. 

The first meeting of the JEDI Series focused on Cultural Humility in Current Times was held on September 16th. The meeting featured guest speaker Betty Garman Robinson, Baltimore community organizer and SNCC activist. This engaging and informative event featured Betty’s experiences in community activism in SNCC during the Civil Rights Movement and her work in community organizing later in Baltimore. It also provided opportunities for participants to discuss and brainstorm ways they can advocate for inclusion in their communities.

This blog post features the organizers of the JEDI Series as they discuss the first and future events.

How did the idea for the series form? Can you share some background about how you created this group and the ideas for the event?

Sarah Gilchrist

Zandra Rawlinson approached Sarah Gilchrist after her presentation about equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) at the UB RED Talks in February 2020, and then reached out to Angela Koukoui and Allison Jennings-Roche to create a group and discuss the format and topics for a campus-wide series of EDI talks at UB. This collaborative group’s goal was to create opportunities for dialogue and resources for faculty, staff, and students. 

The format that the UB JEDI team created was loosely based on monthly library EDI discussions developed by Alyse Minter, Sarah Gilchrist, and Adam Zukowski; InterGroup Dialogue sessions; and a faculty development series led by Ms. Gilchrist at Towson University.

Can you tell us about the name of the series, JEDI, and how it was developed?

Zandra Rawlinson

The term EDI has been overused in higher education and doesn’t include the idea of justice. Allison Jennings-Roche, who has previous experience working with diversity and inclusion programming, had used the term JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion) at previous institutions and she suggested that we use that title for this series. Zandra Rawlinson did further research on the concept of Jedi in Star Wars and found that Jedi display qualities related to collective action, fairness, and justice. Our first session topic also reflected those qualities; we hope to continue to promote ongoing engagement with these concepts.

The first session of the JEDI series included guest speaker Betty Garman Robinson and opportunities for group discussion. Can you tell us more about the first session and your vision for it? What do you hope people walked away with after the meeting?

Angela Koukoui

Our vision for this session was to inform, share, discuss, and educate people about issues related to historic and current fights for civil rights and racial justice. We decided to allow time for people to share and reflect on the teachings of Betty Garman Robinson and to allow time for intention-setting to promote action. We hope that people saw that activism and organizing are part of larger efforts to change our communities in a positive way and that every person can commit to one action that promotes change toward greater cultural humility.

What can we look forward to in future JEDI series events?

Allison Jennings-Roche

Future JEDI series events will continue to pull from current events and to showcase speakers from Baltimore, the UB campus, and leading experts on subjects related to justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion. It is our intention to offer a platform where staff, faculty, and students can engage in open dialogue, draw upon self-reflection, and transform the collective consciousness. We want to foster a movement toward deeper understanding and action for justice and equity.

Thank you to the JEDI Series team for sharing more about the first event! We’re looking forward to attending future JEDI events and encourage everyone in the UB Community to check out the next meeting online!

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