Sunny skies, heartfelt vocals, heart-pumping exercise, and more were on tap for the social-justice warriors who stepped up to fight hate during the 17th annual Diversity Stride 5K on Sunday, June 25, in Jersey City, NJ. Walkers of all ages, races, and religions took to the Liberty State Park pier to rally for more just and inclusive schools, workplaces, and communities.
The American Conference on Diversity (ACOD) continues the important work of our founding organization The National Conference of Christians and Jews (NCCJ) by hosting events and creating opportunities for people of all races, religions, and cultures to unite. Diversity Stride reminds us of the value of diversity. In recent months, we have seen just how tragic prejudice, stereotypes, and hate can be to members of our society. Rallying together for those who are afraid and for those that are bold enough to speak out is critical. Walkers expressed that now is the time for us to respect one another because we are different, not in spite of our differences.
“This walk is not for just some of us – it’s for all of us,” said ACOD President and CEO Elizabeth Williams-Riley. “Rallying together for social justice is a priority for us as individuals and as a nation. Our strength lies in our ability to value the unique contributions to more inclusive communities. This walk is set aside to unite people of all backgrounds, religions, and cultures to take action one step at a time. Thank you for choosing to be here today and helping us raise significant dollars to give youth life-changing experiences.”
The spectacular day kicked off with energizing music by DJ TeeRamz, moving vocals by Erica Kearney, and a liturgical dance performance by Soul Xpressiion School of Dance. While walkers, many draped with powerful messages of diversity and inclusion, awaited the ribbon cutting and step-off, they sung, danced, cheered with people of all different backgrounds. The walkers also browsed exhibitor tables taking advantage of the free gifts, lined up for face painting by Pattysweetcakes, and participated in pre-walk warm-up exercises led by blink FITNESS.
“The energy from those in attendance was great and it was wonderful to see the diversity of people,” said Rhonda M. Figueroa, Corporate Diversity Officer at New Jersey Resources and an ACOD board member. “I got my steps in for the day while spending time with friends and enjoying a fabulous view of the Statute of Liberty and the city skylines.”
To close out the day, 16-year-old DJ Ameer took to the stage to keep the crowd dancing and excited as they walked across the finish line. The excitement and energy of the day also got the attention of others visiting the park and heading to Ellis Island.
Robert G. Rose, Esq., former Chair of the ACOD Board of Trustees, a former partner in the international law firm Day Pitney LLP, and an advocate for social justice, launched this year’s Diversity Stride Walk with the ribbon cutting. “This organization means so much to me,” said Mr. Rose, who was also celebrating his birthday on June 25. “I can’t think of a better way to spend my day.”
Funds raised during Diversity Stride have a direct and lasting impact on tomorrow’s leaders, helping to educate, empower, and make young people more employable through the organization’s Lead for Diversity (LFD) Institute. Since launching LFD in New Jersey in 1995, the Institute has had more than 3,300 graduates from 120 educational institutions statewide. The LFD class of 2017/18 began on July 9 with a summer residential learning experience that includes courageous conversations on pressing diversity matters, leadership development, and experiential learning activities on socioeconomics, ability status, sexual orientation, body image, race, religion, gender, immigration, and other diversity-related topics. LFD builds social-awareness, leadership, conflict-resolution, and human-relations skills, and it equips high-school students to recognize and challenge bias and oppression within their communities. Our program this year will include students from NJ, NY, and PA. During the week, students are joined by their teachers and corporate volunteers to create diversity Action Plans that address challenges specific to their schools and/or school districts. An advocacy movement to tell the delegates stories will take place throughout the 2017-2018 school year. Follow us on Facebook to learn more about what students are doing to transform their schools and communities.
Couldn’t make it to Diversity Stride Walk but want to support ACoD? You can still make a donation here.
Special thanks to the Diversity Stride volunteers and fundraising teams from Brookdale Community College and Garden State Council SHRM as well as the following sponsors and exhibitors: PSEG, BASF, RWJBarnabas Health, New Jersey Natural Gas, L’Oréal USA, Provident Bank, and Berkeley College. Special thanks to Inserra ShopRite and Wegmas for supplying healthy snacks and water.
About the American Conference on Diversity
The American Conference on Diversity is dedicated to building just and inclusive schools, workplaces, and communities through awareness, education, and advocacy. The Piscataway, NJ, nonprofit organization was founded in 1948 as the National Conference of Christians and Jews. Today the programs, services, and initiatives of the American Conference on Diversity are among the most important work focused on creating a more inclusive society. It is the unfinished business of living in a highly diverse nation: educating and empowering our next generation of leaders, enhancing our workplaces, and helping to create inclusive communities. Visit www.AmericanConferenceonDiversity.org to learn more.