Pan African Conference discuss equity gaps

Minnesota State University, Mankato’s 46th annual Dr. Michael T. Fagin Pan African Conference closing ceremony summarized some key topics when addressing inequalities. 

This year’s theme was Closing The Equity Gap In Education: Moving Beyond Conversation Toward Identifying Best Practices.

One of the main objectives made during the conference was to ensure that all students, no matter where they choose higher education, have an equal opportunity to be successful.

The three day long event started Wednesday and went through Friday as many keynote featured speakers shared their knowledge and personal experiences. 

The keynote speakers included J. Luke Wood, Justice Alan Page, and Stephanie Burrage among others.

Topics during the closing ceremony included equality versus equity, the inequities that came with COVID-19, and equity-mindedness and advancing outcomes for black students.

The concept of equity and connecting it to ways education institutions can implement better teaching skills was one of the main messages.

“Asking ourselves if we are doing everything we can as educators, and as human beings to ensure our black students can be successful. Oftentimes in our work what we have found, and in most institutions, the honest answer is no, we are not doing everything we should be doing,” Luke Wood, Vice President of Student Affairs & Campus Diversity and Dean’s Distinguished Professor of Education at San Diego State University, shared. “We have to recognize there are many groups that experience disproportionate impacts.” 

Continuing to recognize the disproportionate impact on students of color was voiced throughout the event as well as the aftermath of the dual pandemic and or racial pandemic. 

“All of this conversation is happening during a dual pandemic. COVID-19 brought disproportionate infections, unemployment, and loss of life in the black community,” Wood said. “The community that was most likely to lose loved ones were black children.”

This year’s conference, being entirely virtual, was held via Zoom. MSU has functioned as a hybrid style of teaching both online and in-person since the pandemic hit in March 2020. 

“The education system in the United States was already highly inequitable with opportunity gaps,” Kenneth Reid, Director of African American Affairs, shared during the conference. “Although we may see a light at the end of the tunnel on the COVID-19 pandemic, the educational equity crisis is just beginning and these conversations need to continue.

Moving beyond conversations into practices was a crucial aspect of the conference.

Henry Morris, Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, voiced, “While we are improving our students’ success, we also need to improve the success of our BIPOC and domestic students of color. We need to put our energy and support to have students be successful and put additional resources needed to those students who have historically been purposely marginalized.”

Morris’s hope was that attendees learned and left the conference committed to make Mankato State a better place for everyone. 

Demonstrating African music and dance, the Titambe West African Drum and Dance group was also featured during the conference, encouraging those to join and participate from their homes.

Write to Julia Barton at

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