Mokah-Jasmine Johnson, activist from Jamaica, speaks about her new book "The Spirit of an Activist" at her book release at Cine Athens on February 21, 2018. (Photo/Jason Born)

On Sept. 8, the Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement held its first Diversity, Culture and Inclusion Workshop at the Athens-Clarke County Library.

The event featured presentations by AADM President Mokah-Jasmine Johnson and other co-facilitators. Their goal was to create better working environments and raise awareness about the importance of diversity.

“Our main goal is to create a better working environment to where you can eventually go into an establishment in downtown Athens, and you see that it is more diverse and inclusive,” Johnson said.

AADM was first launched in January of 2016 in response to alleged issues of discrimination by bars and businesses in the downtown area.

Attendees of the seminar were educated on theories, biases and issues such as microaggression and code switching, or the process of alternating between two different languages in one conversation.

Annika Karlsen, a third-year Ph.D. student in human development and family science at the University of Georgia, was one of the co-facilitators. Karlsen studies racial prejudice and prejudice-reduction intervention.

“When we’re talking about the fact that discrimination and racism happen on an institutional level at businesses in downtown Athens specifically, and there’s a whole other group of people that feels like it’s not a real problem, that disconnect makes it hard to start the conversation and to make progress,” Karlsen said.

Throughout the seminar, several events were mentioned in reference to the training, such as an when two African-American men were removed from a Starbucks in Philadelphia back in April. Closer to home, the recent controversy over the use of force against a 10-year-old child in Athens was mentioned.

One of the elements AADM emphasized was for people to make a difference on an individual level.

“Get connected,” Karlsen said. “There are a lot of organizations in Athens that are working on inclusive efforts, that are working on anti-discrimination efforts.”

One of the attendees was Audey Lee, a home-visitor social worker with Children First. Lee made recommendations for small efforts that they believe can influence big change.

“Read, listen to podcasts, make an active choice to listen to diverse voices and unfold that into the media that we expose ourselves to every single day,” Lee said.

Johnson is hopeful that those who attended the seminar will take away insights that can be applied to their day-to-day lives.

“I want [people] to take away that fact that they do have privilege and [to ask themselves] what they can do to use their privilege to make a more cohesive society to where everyone can benefit,” Johnson said. “People have to start thinking about the role that they play in this systematic discriminatory environment.”

Johnson plans to host four AADM workshops per year, each of which will feature a consistent curriculum but host different speakers, topics and issues concerning diversity, inclusion and culture.

Those interested in learning more about the movement and AADM’s events are encouraged to visit the AADM website.

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