Rinku Sen keeps the race conversation going at 15th annual Diversity Symposium

Seth Bodine

Rinku Sen, the executive director of Race Forward: The Center for Racial Justice Innovation and publisher of the award-winning news site Colorlines, spoke as a keynote speaker for the 15th Annual Diversity Symposium Thursday evening.  

(Photo Credit: Cisco Mora).
(Photo Credit: Cisco Mora).

Her speech focused on how to keep the race conversation going once it has started. She also focused on strategic framework for advancing racial justice by discussing emotional skills, equity, equality and intent vs. impact. 

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“I think people often know they need to start and they get started one way or another, but obstacles do arise,” Sen said. “It’s very easy to get discouraged and stop once you’ve started when the first round of obstacles come up, but nothing gets done in a day or in one initial effort.”

The keynote speaker is chosen each year for the Diversity Symposium by a committee in the Office of the Vice President for Diversity. 

“I was really excited about Rinku because she’s pretty cutting edge as far as what she does as far as online activism and blogging and social movements,” said Ria Vigil, director of diversity education and training at the Office of the Vice President for Diversity. During the speech, Rinku focused on the strategic framework for advancing racial justice. 

RinkuSen_CM_09252015-0151
(Photo Credit: Cisco Mora).

The office picked Sen to speak because of the timeliness and the importance of the topic, according to Vigil. 

“I felt like this was a very timely topic,” Vigil said. “Especially if you look at the nation in the past year, the things that have been happening, the black lives matter movement, I felt like this would be a really great opportunity for someone to come in to talk about social activism and social commentary.”

The speech began with a introduction from CSU President Tony Frank.

“It’s no secret to anybody who has watched the news in the last year that our country is currently in the midst of some very real struggles around race,” said Frank. “Tonight’s speaker in particular has had a rich history in the use of language and talking to all of us about how we watch our language and how the way we speak about issues and how the way we frame issues has a great deal of how we’ll end up responding to the issues.”

Each attendee who went to the speech received a piece of paper to write a fear they had with obstacles in racial justice. At the end of the speech, the attendees received a different piece of paper. Sen ended the speech by telling to hold onto their fears, and to others, and just keep going. 

The keynote is great for students who feel more comfortable in large event settings, compared to small intimate sessions, according to senior social work major Mo Wells.

“The keynote is very large, almost like attending a TED talk series or attending any other large event on campus,” Wells said.  “So, it allows students to kind of have more of a space where they don’t have to be too far into the issues but also they are also being educated.”

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A total of 48 different sessions were available for students to attend at this year’s Diversity Symposium. Diversity-oriented sessions related to topics in higher education, focusing on diversity initiatives at Colorado State University, were presented throughout the symposium. There was an average of 1,500-2,000 attendees, according to Vigil. 

Sen said that there are opportunities for everyone to get involved with conversations toward racial justice. 

“There are many many opportunities to make choices in life,” Sen said. “There are daily opportunities, there are opportunities in our personal lives and in our work lives, institutional lives and being able to look for those opportunities and then actually make new choices and get other people to make those choices to is the job here of all of us, including allies.”

Collegian Reporter Seth Bodine can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @sbodine120.