Shaashawn Dial-Snowden, a professional in leadership, diversity, inclusion, and social justice, the founder and owner of Voycetress Media, LLC, providing training to individuals and organizations to affirm and empower, Director of Social Equity & Affirmative Action for the City of Harrisburg, Chair of the Board of Directors of the LGBT Center of Central PA, and author of numerous books, was the presenter at the March 27 Hershey All Things Diversity session held at the Hershey Story.
Rather than mention her many successes and accomplishments in her opening remarks, she went through a list of complimentary and insulting, encouraging and deflating, collection of descriptive adjectives in rapid fire that she has gather about herself throughout her life and experiences. As the audience smiled and cringed as they heard the “words” that Snowden used to identify herself and learned more about her.
The title of her presentation was Promoting Social Justice and Equity and Creating Multi-identity Embracing Brave Dialogue. She “showed up, shared, and created trust”, three things that are necessary to open dialogue on social justice and equity. She said, “Don’t just give credit to your education. Lived experience is a credential.”
She encourages others to choose to embrace equality and showed a picture of individuals of different heights standing on a box or boxes to see over a fence to demonstrate the challenges of equality, the reality of equality, and the liberation of equality. “In order to build a community that creates a space to embrace all our identities, we have to talk about it. We must be willing to practice active listening which can mean sitting uncomfortably with awkwardness, and defensiveness, to have dialogue.
She told the audience that none of us are bias free even when we have good intentions and explained that there are four levels of change in building a community: Institutional change, organizational change, community change, and individual change.
“Language and words have weight. Choose your words to be as inclusive as possible. What are you encouraging people to do or not do? Think about what others need and share to make others comfortable,” she said.
She wants individuals to do their own work and to learn about others. “Be in the community – show up,” were her parting words to the audience.
Visit the Township’s YouTube page to see a recording of the presentation.
The program is underwritten by Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and College of Medicine, The Hershey Company, and Hershey Entertainment & Resorts.
The next session, Addressing the Needs of Individuals on the Autism Spectrum, will be held on Wednesday, May 8, 5:30-7:15 p.m., at the Hershey Story Museum.