The first-ever Diversity in Literature Symposium will convene on Friday thanks to the passion and initiative of Becky Watts, president of MOSAIC, the Multicultural Organization of Students Active in Christ.
“The purpose of the symposium is exposure. I believe the best way to learn about a different culture is to interact with the stories they tell,” Watts said.
Among the speakers are Laura Barrio-Vilar, Ph. D. who specializes in African-American literature, Violeta Lorenzo, Ph. D. who specializes Latin American literature, Hazel Ervin, Ph. D. whose scholarship is in African-American poetry and Toni Jensen, an author who will be talking from a Native American perspective. These women will be speaking about representation of women of color in literature throughout time, and how representations have changed and evolved.
“A majority of the information that people know about women of color comes from the media, which is not the best source to learn about anything,” Watts said. “The only way to truly learn about a culture is through the stories they tell, and the way to break stereotypes is through reading and understanding those stories.”
The symposium is an event in a line of others sponsored by MOSAIC, the multicultural campus organization that encourages unity among minority students and celebrates the diversity of cultures. MOSAIC usually sponsors events that are discussion based, but the symposium will be taking a different approach to encouraging diversity.
“As we worked through the many details for planning the symposium, we thought it would be a unique way to celebrate Black History month on campus. Becky’s vision will provide the JBU community a new and enriching way to experience diverse narratives,” said Marquita Smith, MOSAIC sponsor and Coordinator for Diversity Relations.
“As far as MOSAIC, we’re always looking for different ways to introduce diversity here on campus,” Watts said. “Usually the way that we do that is through conversations about race, but I thought that there was a more creative route we could go with, that people could interact with on campus. I thought of literature automatically.”
The Diversity Commitee, MOSAIC, the English department and the Division of Humanities and Social Science are supporting the symposium. Brad Gambill, head of the English department, commended Watts for organizing the symposium.
“Becky has been talking to me for about a year about putting this on. My main role has been encouraging her to pull this off. Becky has been very savvy about working with MOSAIC, the comes from a range of different backgrounds, whether that is Christian, non-Christian, different ethnic backgrounds, different scholarship altogether, you’re going to hear a wide range of perspectives on this one topic. You’ll really get to immerse yourself in this type of literature and be guided through it,” Watts said.
“Approach this with an open mind. You’re there to learn and enjoy and to interact. It’s not going to be like other events in MOSAIC where we’re talking directly about racism. It’s more interactive. Come, learn, listen and ask questions about this,” Watts said in a final word to students.
The Diversity in Literature Symposium will be held on Feb. 12 from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. in Simmons Great Hall A.