Speaking at a diversity-focused event at UNLV on Friday, Ambassador Attallah Shabazz, the eldest daughter of Malcolm X, connected the youth activists of today to those who led the Civil Rights and anti-war movements of the 1960s.
But Shabazz, an author, actress and diplomat — she was appointed ambassador at large by the former Prime Minister of Belize in 2002 in recognition of her work on international cultural affairs and project development —- also pointed out that over half a century since the death of her father, America is still grappling with many of the same issues of inequity.
“I thought by the time I reached this age, I would be in Jamaica, sipping mint juleps,” Shabazz said. “But I still have to march. I still have to insist. I still have to send flowers for funerals.”
Shabazz, the keynote speaker at the all-day Southern Nevada Diversity Summit, largely focused her remarks on the human side of activists before they became historical icons.
The summit also featured a panel with the presidents or acting presidents of UNLV, Nevada State College, College of Southern Nevada and the Desert Research Institute on protecting free speech and advocacy on college campuses.
When faced with visits from controversial speakers, acting UNLV President Marta Meana said that while public institutions may not be able to bar speakers from campus, they can make their own positions clear.
“If we can’t stop them, we sure can say we don’t stand for it,” Meana said.
Meana added that student safety is paramount, even before free speech.
The rest of the summit consisted of 22 small-group sessions focused on various topics around diversity in higher education, including how better to support first-generation faculty, who often face the same challenges of isolation and poverty as first-generation students.
Other topics included closing achievement gaps for students from minority groups. At many NSHE institutions, graduation rates for Latino, African American and Native American students lag several percentage points behind those of their white peers.