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It All Starts With Me(ek) Campaign Brings Discussions Of Diversity To Campus

Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

The Ole Miss Meek School of Journalism has been at the forefront of promoting diversity through their “Diversity Rocks” campaign over the past several years. This year, with the help of public relations professor Robin Street, they will take their commitment to the issues facing society with the “It Starts With Me(ek)” campaign.
With the tagline “Just Pause. We have more in common than you think,” the program aims to bring people of all backgrounds together to find common ground to help improve relations in the Ole Miss community. 
After the continued success of the “Diversity Rocks” program, Street was approached by Dean Will Norton and Dean Charlie Mitchell of the Meek School to head up this new program due to the continued tension throughout the state and the country. Hesitant at first, Street ultimately agreed, knowing that she had to step up and do her part to help. Originally inspired by three individuals, Street has been at the forefront of promoting diversity in the Ole Miss community. 
“Three people in my life inspired me, first in 2011. That year, I learned that several young men across the country had killed themselves after being bullied because they were gay,” Street said. “My stepson is gay, and I started thinking, ‘what could I do here to help?'” 
Race relations have played a large role in Street’s life, stemming from her father George’s work as the Director of University Relations and the role he played during a pivotal time in Ole Miss’ history. 
“He was an Ole Miss administrator in 1962, and the riots over the admission of James Meredith broke his heart and changed his life forever. He spent the rest of his life grappling with how to resolve racial issues,” Street said. “He also suffered from depression, which began my lifelong interest in championing mental health.”
Street’s childhood was also molded by her family’s housekeeper, who taught her important lessons that have stayed with her throughout her life. 
“Virginia ‘Tot’ Taylor, the African American woman, was our family’s housekeeper. My mother was ill during my childhood and ‘Tot,’ as everyone lovingly called her, became my surrogate mother,” Street said. “I loved,  and still love, her deeply. She taught me about patience and kindness. I can still remember, her home had photos of Jesus and Dr. Martin Luther King in it.” 
The “It Starts With Meek” event gave students the opportunity to submit stories focused on diversity. Students had a chance to submit print and broadcast stories, personal essays and even snapchat geo-filters. The competition concluded on April 7, and winners will be announced on April 19. Street discussed the importance of involving aspiring journalists in a program like this. 
“All the programs and panels are designed to help our future journalism, PR and IMC professionals learn how critical it is to accept and embrace people who may not be like you,” Street said. “Our message is that we should all just pause before we assume we know everything about another person based solely on that person’s race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or mental health.”
The week-long event will also feature several panels to allow the community to interact with people from many different backgrounds. Panels will include UM students, faculty and alumni providing stories about their experiences. Topics will consist of religion, sexual assault, gender, stereotypes and more, and Street is looking forward to the insight the panels will provide. 
“I personally am most excited about the panel discussions where members of a certain public discuss how other people stereotype them and how they really are nothing like those stereotypes,” Street said. “Our campaign is simply asking all of us to pause and think before we judge another person, or assume we know everything about that person.”
“It starts With Meek” will begin on April 19 and run through April 25. A full list of events, times and more information can be seen on the event website, www.itstartswithmeek.com

Steven Gagliano is a writer for HottyToddy.com. He can be reached at steven.gagliano@hottytoddy.com
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