Throughout Black History Month, Austin Community College District (ACC) asks influential and accomplished faculty, staff, and students to discuss what Black History Month means to them.
ACC's Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer (CEDIO), Larry Davis, started working at the college in July 2020. As CEDIO, Davis serves on the chancellor's cabinet, reports to the Office of the Provost, and leads ACC's internal initiatives to promote equity, diversity, and inclusion in instructional and student affairs.
Because ACC stands for what is right when it comes to creating opportunity and success for all who come here, whether as a student, faculty, staff, employee, or administrator. I have found many here passionately committed to equity, social justice, and equality who are making a good faith effort to transform our world into a much better one than what it presently is. I get to come to work every day and deploy my strengths and cultural wealth doing something I love. With collaborating and caring partners across all programs and divisions we get to inspire people to do the things that inspire them. It is a fantastic journey, good for the surrounding communities we serve, and the best part of all is trying to figure out all the multiple strategies we deploy in achieving our work.
It another small yet powerful step in which ACC can continue to demonstrate that we are for and welcome everyone. As an institution committed to social justice and achieving equity for all people, there are actions we take to back up our words and show a genuine commitment. Black and African people are not monolithic and have made significant contributions to civilization in every human aspect of life possible and deserve to be recognized, appreciated, and supported like any other human beings. When an institution of ACC's caliber, status, and potential commemorates the achievement of Black and African people it sends a strong and vibrant message that we count, contribute, and are an essential part of the human race.
Of all the personal things I am proud of most, it is of my wife's and our success in raising, developing, and empowering our son in becoming the wonderful man and human being he is. Through many experiences, good and bad, we steadily provided resources, parenting, coaching, and nurturing that allowed Matt to carve out a great life for himself. Excelling in education, including earning a master's degree, sports, community service, etc., he is living out of state and gives back to others through his current role in higher education advising and counseling.
Professionally, I am very proud of a strong track record in increasing success and equitable outcomes for students at the community college and university levels, respectively.
That faith coupled with persistent actions in that which is true and right always pays off, regardless of the current outcome. Of all the strategies, resources, options, and other choices I have made in my life to be somebody and make a difference only a very few things have consistently worked with sustainable and lasting results. My unwavering and unapologetic faith in God, the collective power and resilience of truly good people, and a relentless focus and leveraging on what is actually right about people, organizations, processes, and the environment I operated in made lasting positive differences under all of the circumstances I have experienced in my life. There were and are no exceptions to this lesson I have observed.
All of us are works in progress. As such, we're not perfect but we can still grow and truly contribute to the well-being of others and ourselves. We cannot do this if we have a "fixed mindset" and assume that we're right about everything and that everyone else must defer to our specific thinking and will. The best and greatest achievements in life come from at least hearing and seriously considering the different perspectives of others. There are blind spots in our thinking, habits, and behaviors that others can observe and help us notice and make appropriate corrections. We can provide the same care and support for them as well. Organizations that draw upon, appreciate, and use the perspectives of a well-diversified workforce consistently outperform those that stay homogeneous. There is truth and wisdom in the proverb, "For lack of guidance a nation falls, but in a multitude of counselors or advisors victory is won."
Even when extreme differences or competing needs between communities exist, there is common ground and positive cultural wealth differences that can be leveraged to build bridges. There just needs to be an investment of time, energy, and persistence in bringing those communities together. No shortcut exists for lasting bridge building. I invest the time, before any conversations begin, to learn as much as I reasonably can about the people on any side of a divided equation. Then when I begin a conversation, I focus more on listening for understanding of the competing side's needs, concerns, etc., first. Intentionally, while hearing both sides' perspectives, I diligently look for connections and win-win opportunities. Then, I share with each community what I've observed and noted intersections and opportunities for connecting and collaborating that could yield great mutual benefits for all. I am long-term orientated while pursuing quick and solid small victories to motivate both sides to "hang in" there with our mutual efforts until we finally achieve the desired outcome.
A desire to leave a better world for my son, his future partner, and our future grandchildren. As a proud American of African heritage, I am inspired by and practice daily the principles of Imani, Kuumba, and Ujima. Respectively, these mean "to believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggles; to always do as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it; and to build and maintain our community together and make our brothers' and sisters' problems our problems and solve them together."