Hollins Explores “The Heart of Social Justice” at Leading EDJ Conference

Hollins Explores “The Heart of Social Justice” at Leading EDJ Conference

Diversity and Inclusivity, Special Events

February 20, 2024

Hollins Explores “The Heart of Social Justice” at Leading EDJ Conference Leading EDJ 2024

One of the nation’s trailblazers in championing learning access and equity shared insights on education’s role in furthering America’s values, vision, and mission at Hollins University’s fourth annual Leading Equity, Diversity, and Justice (EDJ) Conference, held February 15-16 on the Hollins campus.

Centering on the theme “The Heart of Social Justice,” this year’s Leading EDJ Conference welcomed students, faculty, and staff to a variety of educational and interactive sessions and workshops. On Thursday, February 15, the conference kicked off with a special screening at Roanoke’s Grandin Theatre of Hope of Escape, a new film written, directed, and coproduced by Associate Professor of Film Amy Gerber-Stroh. The movie is based on the true story of her ancestors’ emancipation from slavery.

Lloyd V. Hackley, Ph.D., a decorated veteran who became the first African American to lead the North Carolina Community College System and also served as chancellor at Fayetteville State University, University of Arkansas – Pine Bluff, and North Carolina A&T State University during a distinguished 65-year career, was the keynote speaker for the 2024 edition of Leading EDJ.  

“I am a passionate, proud, card-carrying member of the third African American generation post-slavery,” Hackley, who grew up in Roanoke, said, referring to African Americans who reached adulthood between 1955 and 1965. “Our unique experiences in the 40s, 50s, and 60s make this a closed club, and my membership conditioned my work in the military, education, and public service.”

Hackley described himself as a “pre-Brown baby,” referencing the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Brown v. Board of Education case that proclaimed racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional. The decision was handed down in 1954, just as Hackley became a student at Roanoke’s Lucy Addison High School.

“If it had not been for my generation, America would not be nearly as desegregated as it is. We paved the way for post-Brown generations,” he explained. “When America was forced to desegregate, after civil rights laws were passed in the mid-60s, we were the ones who had diplomas and degrees, the spiritual power, and the cultural armor to enter White America and survive and thrive.”

Lloyd V. Hackley, Ph.D., a leader in the nation’s charge for education access and equity, delivered the 2024 Leading EDJ Conference keynote address.

Hackley asserted that “the role of education, if properly defined, means that human beings, if properly educated, become the most divine and civilized of all animals. But if they are insufficiently or miseducated, they become the most savage of all earthly creatures.” He added that “schools in a democracy, public and private, from pre-K through college, are charged with the primary responsibility of fostering the most fundamental value of all human conditions: freedom.”

Two types of freedom exist, Hackley stated: “freedom from” and “freedom to.” The “principal conduit to both kinds of freedoms,” he explained, is “the personal human power achieved through the inculcation of high-quality, high-quantity education. The supreme end of education is to enable us to exert discernment in all things and equip us with the power to tell the good and the genuine from the bad and the counterfeit. If you prefer the bad and the counterfeit, I don’t care how many degrees you have. You are not educated.”

Hackley cautioned that “desegregation” is not synonymous with “integration,” and the terms should not be used interchangeably.  While he considers Brown v. Board of Education to be “the most significant education decision in American history,” he believes in some significant respects it became “a perverse initiative after its enactment” that emphasized statistics over educational outcomes. “Desegregation, which simply means changing numerical ratios, became the litmus test for compliance with the law” instead of high-quality, high-quantity education for all students.

“Too many people separate DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) from America’s democratic values, vision, and mission. They think that diversity simply means the numbers of people from certain demographic categories within an entity and where they are located on an organizational chart. Diversity is more than that. To be effective for the progress of American democracy, diversity will require more of us to eschew our penchant for invidious individualism, insidious insensitivity, self-victimization, and revenge seeking. We must develop a deeper understanding of the acceptance of shared American values, shared vulnerability, shared fate, and a shared destiny.”

Points of Diversity’s Katie Zawacki facilitated the workshop “Racial Reconciliation” in Niederer Auditorium.

Hackley also warned against what he called “inferioracy syndrome” (the opposite of “supremacy”) and its toxic effect. “After centuries of relentless indoctrination, brainwashing, undereducation, and miseducation, exacerbated by brute intimidation, many members of oppressed groups have inculcated feelings of inferiority, subordination, self-hatred, self-doubt, the imposter syndrome, self-destruction, and intracultural animosity, where you hate your own kind. That is ‘inferioracy syndrome.’ Once inculcated, it interferes with the achievement of success in America. Inferiority is the most lethal form of slavery, because you are with you all the time. If you inhibit your drive to success, nobody has to do anything to hold you back. You have to recognize what you are doing to yourself to prevent yourself from advancing, although people cannot be forced to acquire the educational power to free themselves.”

Advising the students in attendance that “your primary responsibility is to get as much education as you can, that’s your job,” Hackley praised the importance at institutions of higher learning of fostering a “values-based, vision-focused, mission-driven educational community, infused with ethics, morality, and cultural competence, clear standards and expectations for all units, all groupings, and all individuals.” A failure to do so, he said, will result in “an inadvertent mission that will be revealed in the gap of what could be achieved and what actually predominates institutional outcomes for students and for America.”

Leading EDJ was borne of a conversation in the summer of 2020 and developed into a diverse assortment of learning opportunities created by students, faculty, and staff, as well as outside guests from the Roanoke and higher education communities. “Leading EDJ aims to create an intentional and meaningful space for all of us to reflect, learn, and facilitate action toward making Hollins a more equitable and just community,” said Hollins President Mary Dana Hinton.