By Re’nesia Mills and Evelin Rivera-Cabral, Staff Writers
Like many in attendance for Ron Stallworth’s presentation at the Centennial Campus Theater, Jacquelyn Gaiters-Jordan, Dean of the Math and English Division, was excited to share her takeaways of the conversation and discuss how the topic of diversity continues to be a work in progress for the institution.
One thing that impacted Gaiters-Jordan during the presentation, was that Stallworth highlighted the idea that society views being the first minority to take on an important role or complete a task as an accomplishment.
“We should be way past the point of seeing being the first black anything as a great accomplishment,” Stallworth said.
When asked how the college has made the change to focus more on diversity, Dean Gaiters-Jordan says that hiring Keith Barns, Executive Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, was “one of the good things that we’ve done.”
“I think that was a tremendously positive step in the right direction,” she said.
For Gaiters-Jordan, her vision for PPCC to be a more diverse community doesn’t stop there.
“We’re off to a good start…we need to be consistent, we need to continue the courageous conversations that we are having, we need to continue to bring people like Mr. Stallworth, we need to continue to equip our instructors to help students in navigating those crucial conversations and mitigating those debates in the classroom. We need to continue to recruit faculty, staff, from all nationalities. We really need to diversify how we look so that all students or more students can see themselves reflected in people who have either imagined, presumed, or have real power,” she said.
Gaiters-Jordan grew up in Bronwood, Georgia and this made her feel a deeper connection to Stallworth’s story because she lived in the South where white supremacy and racism were the rule.
In 1984, Gaiters-Jordan had an experience which many could not even begin to imagine being a witness to. She was eighteen years old when she and her former boyfriend drove straight through a KKK rally in the middle of the day.
“They were throwing things, screaming racial slurs, and surrounding the vehicle as we drove through. It was a surreal moment. Thinking about it now, it still gives me chills,” she said.
She attributes time and her life experiences as the source to letting go of the “fear” of speaking up. Gaiters-Jordan strongly believes in the importance of speaking up to demonstrate your strength, especially for those who feel silenced in today’s world.
“Just insist on being heard. If you think ‘I should say so and so’ you probably should say it. And don’t be afraid, cause just think what caused me to be able to speak out more and more in different situations. You have to think, what is the alternative. If I don’t say this, then this won’t change, nobody knows that there needs to be a change, and things will keep going the way that they are. Question the ‘if I don’t say this, what are the consequences and does that outweigh the benefit or is it something worth risking saying it?’” she said.
Throughout the eighteen years that Gaiters-Jordan has been working at PPCC, she believes the institution as a whole has done a great job when it comes to hiring staff of different racial backgrounds and providing students with faculty and administration who represent different backgrounds of all kinds.
Gaiters says of the college, “I think Pikes Peak Community College has made significant strides, but I think as an institution overall we still have work to do.”