As a member of the Salus University Board of Trustees, Joyce Koh, Esq., was asked and accepted an invitation to communicate with the University’s Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) population.
She saw it as an important exchange of ideas, especially now in light of the sustained racism and rising violence against this community. The topic has been thrust to the forefront by the recent violence in Atlanta, Georgia, where a gunman went on a shooting spree and killed eight people, six of whom were Asian American women.
The University reacted quickly, and invited Koh, along with Salus partner, Ken Wong and Chestnut Hill College professor and psychologist, Bindu Methikalam, PhD, to serve as panelists for a virtual Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) panel discussion titled “Perspectives of Racism and Hate for Asian Americans” March 24, 2021.
Organized by Juliana Mosley-Williams, PhD, CDP, the University’s special assistant to the president for DEI , the purpose of the event was to provide those attending with the opportunities to share personal reflections and perspectives on Asian hate, according to Dr. Mosley-Williams.
“These forums provide an opportunity for our community to connect with one another to hear, speak and process feelings,” she said. “They also provide some education and information, and a sense of solidarity when members of our community have been negatively impacted and are hurting.”
Koh, a second-generation Korean American, offered her own stories and vulnerabilities in hopes of creating a safer space for others to unpack their thoughts and share their stories.
“The expediency with which the University put this forum together is in no way an indication that the University has the answers to the historic ills of terror and supremacy, or even that we know exactly how to support our students,” said Koh. “Rather, it’s a demonstration of compassion for humanity and earnest desire to support our AAPI students, and support all of our community in dialoguing in these times.”
Koh added she was happy to see so much of the University’s leadership attend the forum, giving their time and willingness to listen and learn. While the issues are complicated and deeply rooted, Koh is hopeful for coalition efforts to stand together and understand one another.
“The benefits from a forum like this, we take those personally. For one person, it could mean affirmation. For another, it may provide safety. And, still another, it could help diffuse anger to be channeled to activism,” said Koh. “But in the aftermath of hate and violence, I think a consensus benefit of open discussions like this is that we have an opportunity to process and mourn together the personal and communal levels of grief from which we can move forward together. In doing this, we benefit from ‘perspective,’ which is a critical component to being able to participate meaningfully in any conversation involving any diversity matrix.”
Dr. Mosley-Williams said the session was informative and personal, providing participants multiple ways to connect and engage with the panelists and each other. About half of the participants stayed on for an additional 20 minutes at the conclusion to continue the conversation. She said she also received emails and calls after the forum expressing such sentiments as: "Great panel discussion,” "The discussion was very illuminating, compelling and informative,” and "It was great to hear from the speakers and learn more through this session."
While some are looking for solutions and action steps when tragic events happen, according to Dr. Mosley-Williams, we should be mindful real change takes time and it begins with people talking to one another.
“What we can do on the journey to change is provide an opportunity for our community to hear, speak and learn . . . making us armed for the battles ahead,” she said.
This session was recorded for those not able to attend, if you would like more information, contact Dr. Mosley-Williams for details.