RICHMOND, Virginia — The Virginia National Guard Equal Employment Opportunity office hosted a Diversity and Unity Day April 24, 2019, at the Virginia National Guard Sergeant Bob Slaughter Headquarters at Defense
Supply Center Richmond, Virginia. Brig. Gen. K. Weedon Gallagher, the Assistant Adjutant General for Strategic Affairs, was the presiding officer at the event.
Speakers included representatives from the Virginia Museum of History & Culture, Blacks in Government and the Asian American Society of Central Virginia, as well as Dr. Phil Nash, an expert in cross-cultural communications.
The purpose of the event was to educate Soldiers, Airmen and civilian employees on the diverse backgrounds members of the Virginia Department of Military Affairs possess.
“There is a responsibility to ensure everyone’s culture, ethnic and racial background in our agency is celebrated and represented at the Unity/Diversity Day,” said Karen Guadalupe, the Virginia National Guard State Equal Employment Manger.”
Chris Van Tassel, a program manager with the Virginia Museum of History and Culture, spoke about the Scots-Irish coming to America and their impact in Virginia. He included entries from a 203 year-old diary by a man named James Byrd which chronicled his six-week trip across the Atlantic Ocean to his new
life in America.
Alice Mercer of Blacks in Government explained more about her organization and its mission and encouraged more participation. BIG has been a national response to the need for African Americans in public service to organize
around issues of mutual concern and use their collective strength to confront workplace and community issues.
Zeistina Khan, the community relations director for the Asian American Society of Central Virginia, explained more about the makeup of her organization, its diverse membership and its role in the Richmond area. The AASoCV raises awareness and recognition of Asian heritage and promotes cultural diversity through various celebrations and community events throughout the year.
Nash was the featured speaker and he illustrated the importance of diversity and inclusion in the military, civilian and college academic setting.
“Stereotypes are very strong in our society,” Nash explained. “That’s why knowledge is so important. That’s why it’s great that you’re here.”
Nash discussed ‘cultural competence,’ which he described as a toolkit, and encouraged the attendees to learn about each other.
“I’m hoping to give you a toolkit so that no matter where you stand on any issue, no matter where you stand on the political spectrum, you will be more effective and you will be a change agent to bring us together as Americans,”
he said. “I think of cultural competence as Diversity 2.0. Diversity is looking around the room and seeing people of this background and that background. It’s good to recognize the differences in people. But you are also going to work with these people so you need to develop the tools to connect with them.”
“I think we’d have a lot better world if people started thinking, ‘Hey, you’re not different from me. I have pieces of me in all of you and pieces of all of you are in me,'” he said. “It’s really amazing how we are all so connected.”