Illinois State will be taking a lead role in this year’s annual YWCA’s Racial Justice Summit.

The 5th Racial Justice Summit will begin at 9 a.m. Friday, Nov. 8, at the University’s Center for the Performing Arts (CPA). The event will feature Maura Cullen, author of 35 Dumb Things Well-Intended People Say!

“We as a university are uniquely poised to contribute to creating a more just and equitable society,” said Janet Wilson, director of the School of Theatre and Dance, who was approached by the YWCA to sponsor the event. “It is fortunate that at Illinois State diversity is a stated value, and we have support for an effort that will spark conversation on campus and in the community.”

Leading this year’s summit is Cullen, who is known for negotiating the complex issue of diversity with humor and passion. The aim of the summit is to work toward dismantling racism. Wilson said the timing of the event works well for her school, which is working on a new strategic plan in which diversity plays a key role. “I think the word ‘dismantle’ is an apt one, knowing that it is a grassroots step on the path to eliminating racism,” said Wilson.

Wilson noted the dismantling of racism also translates to a university level, where faculty can examine how courses are structured. “It’s so easy to look through a white, Eurocentric lens. Are we including scholars, playwrights and scientists who bring a different point-of-view or cultural perspective?” asked Wilson. “We have to make a conscious effort to take apart the idea that only one view is right or essential.”

The summit looks to promote constructive dialogue with Cullen’s talk, which will focus on the surprising things we say that widen the diversity gap. After her speech, participants will break into groups in the CPA to allow for discussion, before rejoining Cullen for a wrap-up. Cullen will also hold signings of her book in the lobby of the CPA. The book will be available for sale.

Illinois State is offering support from the Office of the Provost, the Harold K. Sage Foundation Fund, the Division of Student Affairs, the College of Fine Arts and the School of Theatre and Dance. Other organizations sponsoring the summit are Illinois Wesleyan University and COUNTRY Financial.

Participants can register online. Registration is $15 prior to Monday, Oct. 28, $25 after Oct. 28, including at the door. There is a $5 rate for high school students. Boxed lunches will be available for attendees.

To learn more about YWCA’s 5th Racial Justice Summit, contact Norene Ball of the YWCA at 662-0461, x265 or