by Satina Richardson 

UAB School of Optometry faculty and staff will do one action daily to further their understanding of power, privilege, supremacy, oppression, and equity during the 21-Day Diversity and Equity Challenge. The challenge began on June 19 in recognition of Juneteenth.

Juneteenth commemorates the emancipation of enslaved people in the US. The holiday was first celebrated in Texas, where on that date in 1865, in the aftermath of the Civil War, enslaved people were declared free under the terms of the 1862 Emancipation Proclamation.

Faculty and staff will choose one article, video, chapter from a book, movie, etc. to experience daily during the challenge. Prompts fall into eight categories of activities: read, listen, watch, notice, connect, engage, act, and reflect. Activities are recorded in a provided tracking tool. The school’s version of the 21-day challenge is adapted from similar programs and simplified to encourage participation.

The following is an example prompt:

Reflect: Spend some time observing social interactions today–in your personal life, in a class, or in your workplace. Whose voices tend to be the loudest? Whose voices tend to be ignored? Who seems to have the most power/clout to shape agendas? What are the patterns you noted? What does this make you think?

Keshia Elder, OD, MS, FAAO, UAB School of Optometry director of diversity, equity and inclusion and the school’s Diversity Committee are leading the 21-Day Diversity and Equity Challenge.

“Through this challenge, I hope that we are not only able to get into the daily habit of learning about equity and justice, but that but we are able to engage in more meaningful relationships and understand each other better,” Elder says. “These lessons will positively impact how we engage with our student population as well.”

Last year, the UAB School of Optometry community committed to actively and purposefully living for integrity, respect, accountability, diversity and inclusiveness every day.

“This challenge will enhance our commitment and help others within and outside our school move in a similar direction,” Kelly Nichols, OD, MPH, PhD, UAB School of Optometry dean, said.

Other schools on the UAB campus plan to participate. Nichols has also invited schools of optometry across the nation to implement a similar challenge. She and Elder said this program is the first of many diversity exercises that the school will introduce in the coming year.