Five-part “We Are Not OK: Injustice, Action and Healing” series concludes but the dialogue continues

Five-part “We Are Not OK: Injustice, Action and Healing” series concludes but the dialogue continues


Rowan University’s five-part interactive series, “We Are Not OK: Injustice, Action and Healing,” concluded with a call for greater dialogue between student and school groups, police, faith leaders, government officials and others interested in racial justice and equity.

The series, organized and sponsored by Rowan’s Division of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in response to the slaying of George Floyd in Minneapolis by police May 25, drew thousands of interactive participants, many of whom posed questions live.

The final segment wrapped June 15 with a virtual roundtable in which the participants – including the New Jersey Secretary of Higher Education, Rowan administrators, two Gloucester County mayors, Glassboro and Rowan Police, students, clergy and the President of the Gloucester County chapter of the NAACP – agreed that the conversation must continue.

“It feels like we are at tipping point,” said Dr. Zakiya Smith Ellis, the state Secretary of Higher Education and a former advisor to President Barack Obama. “It’s important for us to realize in the year 2020 that systemic racism still exists.”

Introducing President Ali A. Houshmand in the first segment, Senior Vice President for DEI Monika Williams Shealey noted that Houshmand led the formation of her division in 2019 to address issues of equity and fairness for all students, faculty and staff.

“What some of you may not know about President Houshmand is that his commitment to addressing persistent issues facing higher education, such as affordability, food insecurity and racism, stem from his own experience as an immigrant and his identity as an Iranian American,” Williams Shealey said.

Speaking quietly and directly, Houshmand said he believes conversations such as the one started by DEI strengthen our community.

“My greatest hope as president is that I want a university where every single person feels at home and dignified and valued as equal to everybody else,” Houshmand said.

By design, the series was a forum to discuss issues related to racism and policing, especially in black and brown communities, but it was not an attack on police.

“It's not enough for people to not be racist,” said Arielle Gedeon, the first black female president of Rowan’s Student Government Association, during the opening session. “We need our police forces to be actively anti-racist… When you lose that emphasis, when personal fear of someone's skin color comes into play, that's when you lose that goal of protection and safety for all.”

The series was recorded and may be viewed on the DEI website. Sessions included: The Match that Lit the Flame: Unpacking Systemic Racism, Policing, and Resistance; I Can't Breathe: Discussion of Racial Battle Fatigue, Trauma, and Self-Care; Speaking Truth to Power through Pedagogy: Anti-Racist Teaching in Higher Education; White People, Do Something: A Dialogue on Whiteness and Allyship; and Where Do We Go From Here? Navigating Campus and Community.

Summarizing opinions voiced throughout the sessions, Williams Shealey said the time for action is here, and the first step is openly acknowledging that racism is widespread and must end.

“It’s important that we focus on being proactive,” she said. “We are reacting to what’s happening in our country right now.”