Each year since 1986, The University of Texas at Austin has held the Sweatt Symposium on Civil Rights to explore past and present issues impacting historically underserved communities in the United States. This year’s event, held on Nov. 2 at the LBJ Auditorium, focused on transformation through cross-cultural unity.
Serving as the MC for the evening, Dr. Devin Walker, director of the Sweatt Center for Black Males and Global Leadership and Social Impact program, opened the event with an audio clip on the history of Heman Marion Sweatt. Narrated by Brenda Burt, the clip was pulled from the first chapter of “Overcoming: The First History of Desegregation at the University of Texas at Austin,” written by the beloved Almetris Marsh Duren and UT staff member Louise Iscoe in 1979.
Donovan Handy, student president for the Heman Sweatt Center for Black Males, provided a brief history behind the audio clip, sharing how both Almetris Duren and Brenda Burt played major roles in supporting and advocating for Black students at UT Austin.
Olibeti Moultry took the stage to introduce the crowd to our generous sponsor Netspend, a Global Payments Company that prioritizes diversity, equity and inclusion. Moultry serves as the company’s automated clearing house operations senior manager.
“One of the things I love about our company—about the opportunity to fund and promote beautiful causes like transformational solidarity—is that Netspend thrives on diversity. I am a living representation of diversity at Netspend. My voice is heard.”—Olibeti Moultry
Student poets— Caleb Smith, Trinity Dow and Rosa Elisa— treated the crowd to a powerful spoken word performance that speaks to the ongoing struggles faced by Black and Brown communities.
Project MALES Executive Director Dr. Emmet Campos (pictured far right) opens the panel discussion with Tamara Craver and Dr. Charles Lu, asking about their efforts in closing education and opportunity gaps with the students they serve—and how they plan to keep moving the needle forward for generations to come.
“We have to have more people doing this work and understanding that it does affect you, it does affect the economy. I look at my program, and I talk to my donors, and I say, ‘It’s not enough just to get these kids into college. I also have to find them jobs.’ Because when I do, it changes the economy of the city….that is what is going to change these communities.”—Tamara Craver, President and CEO of Reality Changers
“I’m really optimistic, and I feel really good because a lot of young folks—our students who I have worked with on the East Coast, the West Coast and the Southwest—have been the most conscious than ever before, and they’re really looking out for each other and working in solidarity. That gives me great hope.”—Dr. Charles Lu, associate dean of equity and inclusion, Johns Hopkins University
After a brief Q&A following the panel discussion, awards were given to this year’s Heman Marion Sweatt Legacy Award recipients. This year for the first time, the DDCE honored faculty and staff along with students for leading campus and/or community civil rights efforts. Picture here is Dr. Moran González, the J. Frank Dobie Regents Professor of American and English Literature; acting director of the Plan II Honors program; former director of the Center for Mexican American Studies; and founding director of the nonprofit Refusing to Forget.
Marilyn Nwora, a junior majoring in public health; member of the UT Track and Field/Cross Country Team; and member of the DDCE’s Longhorns for Equity, Access & Diversity (LEAD) initiative.
Parker Kirlew, a senior majoring in psychology; student staff member at the Gender & Sexuality Center (GSC); member of the Black Queer and Trans Collective; and mental health ambassador.
Dr. Ryan M. Sutton, assistant dean for diversity, equity and inclusion at Dell Medical School; former director of the DDCE’s Herman Sweatt Center for Black Males and the Community Integrated Health Initiative.
Cydni Cox, UT Austin alum and program coordinator for the Fearless Leadership Institute, treated the audience to a performance of “Rise Up.”
The evening concluded with good food and fellowship in the reception hall, where guests gathered to take photos, enjoy a catered dinner and reconnect with one another.