The College of Business at the University of Nevada, Reno, along with the Northern Section of the Nevada Chapter of the American Planning Association, explored racial and social inequalities in business via an online series held from November through February.
The In the Black Speaker Series brought together expert guest speakers, the Nevada business community and students at the University to share their thoughts about inequalities in business and provide insight into the struggles of the Black community. Topics discussed left long-lasting impacts on attendees.
"I really appreciated these events and am glad that I was in a position to receive an invite to them," Serene Townsell, business student and member of the Black Business Student Association, said. "The presenters were excited to share actionable steps with the audience. I left each meeting inspired and ready to dive deeper into explored topics."
In the first session: Creating Equitable Communities, Kenneth Evans, president of the Urban Chamber of Commerce of Las Vegas, Nevada, provided a general overview of the issues Black business owners face in starting and operating a business and what we, as individual communities, can do to support Black business development and entrepreneurship.
In the second session: The Black Wealth Gap, Shaundell Newsome, small business advocate and founder of Sumnu Marketing, discussed systemic issues, their impact on social activities, and how closing the Black wealth gap can positively impact communities.
“Kenneth Evans and Shaundell Newsome’s presentations motivated me further and allowed me to better grasp the tangible steps that can be taken to achieve an equitable society,” Townsell said.
In the third session: Exploring the Strength of Diversity through Understanding, Inclusion and Expansion, Christine Adelaja, MBA and academic advisor with the College of Business, presented an overview of the need for hiring a diverse workforce and how to encourage diverse thought and retention of employees.
In the fourth session: Race, Place and Health, LaVonna Blair Lewis, teaching professor of public policy and associate dean of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the University of Southern California Sol Price School, discussed the intersection of race, place and health in planning and public policy.
“From Christine Adelaja and LaVonna Blair Lewis, I learned more about the work of researchers,” Townsell said.
“Knowing that I have these Black women role models doing such incredible work within my reach is a boost of confidence,” Townsell said.
The College and the Nevada APA also hosted an In the Black round table where past speakers and participants came together to discuss and apply what they learned in earlier sessions.
Panelists and participants discussed several major themes that emerged, developed actionable items to support minority groups and businesses, and talked about how the power of their dollar and how the groups they support can go a long way.
“This series was designed to explore how to support businesses already at a disadvantage and leverage the playing field,” Stallar Lufrano-Jardine, In the Black Speakers Series host and advisor of the BBSA, said. “Participants shared that they plan to support Black small businesses, approach others with an open mind, spread awareness, listen more and educate others.”
The events clearly linked back to supporting students at the University and provided BBSA students with extra support, resources and potential mentors.
"This series was a chance for enrichment in fields of study that are likely outside that of the participant," Townsell said. "These special lectures were a way for me to expand my knowledge and gave me a jumping-off point for conducting further research on my own. It's surprising how much research is out there waiting to be continued and applied."