Sunday, January 17, 2021 kicks off five months of online panel discussions each third Sunday afternoon from January through May on the topic of systemic racism, as viewed through the lens of its effects on education, health/wellness, banking/finance, and criminal justice. The sessions will be moderated by Von Gordon, Youth Engagement Manager for the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation. January’s session will introduce the overall topic of systemic racism and present individual panelists with expertise in the four areas the series will dissect in detail. Dr. Cathy Grace, Co-Director of the University of Mississippi’s Graduate Center for the Study of Early Learning, and Jennifer Calvert, Center Director of ABC Daycare in Aberdeen, Mississippi and lead partner for the Monroe County Early Learning Collaborative, one of Mississippi’s 18 collaboratives in the state-funded pre-K program, will share insight into systemic racism’s effect on early childhood education. Dr. Sandra Carr Melvin, DPH/MPH and Director of the Institute for the Advancement of Minority Health, will look at health disparities holistically, and particularly through the lens of COVID-19. Kiyadh Burt, policy analyst with Hope Policy Institute, will discuss the unbanked and underbanked, as well as touching on issues with affordable housing. Leslie Faith Jones, Staff Attorney specializing in criminal justice reform with the Southern Poverty Law Center, will speak on the juvenile justice system.
The February through May programs will focus individually on the topic areas. The sessions include additional panelists, and offer an interactive Q&A segment. February 21 will be the Education program, March 21 will be the Health/Wellness program, April 18 will be the Banking/Finance program, and May 16 will be the Criminal Justice program. All sessions begin at 2:30 p.m. Community members are invited and encouraged to attend these sessions.
Vondaris “Von” Gordon is a native of Moorhead, MS, in Sunflower County. He joined the Institute to develop and coordinate youth programs as Youth Engagement Coordinator. He attended the University of Mississippi, where he was a student leader and helped organize the first Statewide Student Summit on Race. He served as a founding board member of the Winter Institute and the only student representative.
Von has worked in the private sector in franchise and corporate multi-unit restaurant operations and in business development for one of Pepsi’s top franchise bottlers. Von is the married father of three, and he is passionate about equipping youth to build stronger communities through education, empowerment, and racial healing. He thinks the best salads in the world are the ones with no dressing.