Message from the Interim Chief Diversity Officer: Recognizing our underrepresented communities

Thursday, June 17, 2021

With summer in full swing and an exciting fall semester on the horizon, I’m pleased to begin my tenure as interim chief diversity officer representing all members of our campus community. I take seriously my charge to continue the great work of App State’s first cabinet-level chief diversity officer, Dr. Willie Fleming, who retired earlier this month. Under the leadership of Chancellor Everts, our university has made tremendous strides in recent years, and it is important to recognize and celebrate these achievements. At App State, we recognize it is an ongoing process to achieve and sustain inclusive excellence.

My regular updates to students, faculty and staff will serve as a platform to celebrate and recognize underrepresented communities, to provide information about upcoming campus events related to diversity, equity and inclusion, and to offer resources to help us all work respectfully with the many different identities found in the Appalachian Community.

This Saturday, we celebrate Juneteenth — a commemoration of the day in 1865 when Union soldiers told slaves in Galveston, Texas, that they were free. This occurred more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. Juneteenth represents the beginning of a journey to freedom and opportunity — one that has been fraught with inequalities our nation is still working to overcome more than 150 years later. Today, we will witness a significant milestone as President Joe Biden signs a bill — which received overwhelming support in the House and the Senate — designating Juneteenth as the 12th federal holiday.

On Saturday, the Town of Boone will unveil and dedicate a new Junaluska community historical marker in downtown Boone. This is the culmination of many years of work by the Boone Historic Preservation Commission and Junaluska Heritage Association and another important step in helping to shine a light on the contributions of Boone’s historic African American community. I am honored to represent the university at this event and bring flowers on behalf of Chancellor Everts and the App State Community.

June is also Pride Month, during which we recognize our LGBTQ+ community. June 1969 marked a pivotal moment for the gay rights movement when New York City police raided a gay club called the Stonewall Inn, sparking six days of protests and serving as a catalyst for the modern-day LGBTQ+ movement in the United States. At App State, we work to support members of the LGBTQ+ community. Our university’s Henderson Springs LGBT Center offers support related to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender life on campus, and I am excited to welcome a new affinity group to our campus: Queer and Trans Staff and Faculty (QTSAF). If you are interested in being involved, either as a member or as an organizer, please complete this interest form. QTSAF will also host its first social event later this month.

We all share the responsibility of advancing an equitable and inclusive university environment, and I invite you to read my updates as I spotlight our successes and offer new opportunities for our campus community to learn and grow together.

/s/ Jamie Parson, J.D.

Jamie Parson, J.D.