DENTON (UNT), Texas — Veteran CNN anchor Don Lemon, who in 2011 released a memoir to discuss his homosexuality, as well as racism, homophobia and colorism in the African-American community, will give one of three keynote addresses at “A Journey to Freedom,” the University of North Texas’ 13th Equity and Diversity Conference Feb. 1 (Friday).
The theme of the conference was chosen to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. On Jan. 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued an executive order, based on his constitutional authority as commander-in-chief of the armed forces, that proclaimed all slaves in Confederate territory to be forever free. The Proclamation immediately resulted in the freedom of 50,000 slaves in 10 Confederate states, and paved the way for hundreds of thousands more slaves to be liberated as the Union Army advanced in the Confederacy until nearly all slaves were free by the summer of 1865.
The conference, open to 500 participants, is aimed at students, educators and professionals who are committed to equity and diversity in higher education and in the workforce. It will include sessions on addressing unconscious biases and stereotypes and identifying barriers against more inclusive environments for those with disabilities, among other topics. Registration is free for students, $50 for UNT faculty and staff members and $150 for others, with group rates available for six or more people.
Registration is available online through Jan. 25 (Friday).
The conference will take place at the Silver Eagle Suite of UNT’s University Union, which is located one block west of Welch and West Prairie streets at 1155 Union Circle.
Lemon will focus on diversity during his keynote address at 10 a.m. He joined CNN in 2006 and is the host of the prime-time weekend edition of CNN Newsroom. The breaking news stories he has covered as a correspondent include President Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration, Hurricane Gustav in 2008 and the 2007 collapse of the Interstate 35 Mississippi River bridge in Minneapolis. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for his coverage of the capture of the Washington, D.C. sniper in 2002, when Lemon was a correspondent for NBC News, and has received Emmys for reporting on real estate in Chicago, the AIDS epidemic in Africa and Hurricane Katrina.
His memoir, “Transparent,” was published in May 2011. Lemon will sign copies of his book during the conference’s luncheon.
Other keynote speakers for the conference are Valeisha Butterfield-Jones, co-founder and chair of the Women in Entertainment Empowerment Network, and Cuc Vu, chief diversity officer for the Human Rights Campaign.
Butterfield-Jones will speak at 2 p.m. She began her career working for HBO and business magnate Russell Simmons, eventually becoming the executive director of Simmons’ Hip-Hop Summit Action Network. In 2007, she founded Women in Entertainment Empowerment Network, a coalition of women working in and for the entertainment industry who serve as mentors to young women wanting to follow in their footsteps.
Formerly the national director of diversity for the Alzheimer’s Association, Butterfield-Jones served in the Obama administration as the deputy director of public affairs for the International Trade Administration at the U.S. Department of Commerce, and was the National Youth Vote Director during the Obama for America reelection campaign.
Vu will speak at 3:30 p.m. As chief diversity officer of the Human Rights Campaign, which is the nation’s largest civil rights organization working for equality for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender population, Vu began Equality Forward, which engages LGBT people of color in partnership with more than 100 organizations. Vu joined the Human Rights Campaign after working more than 10 years for the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations and the Service Employees International Union as an advocate for women and immigrants. Still deeply connected to the immigrant community, Vu is a founding member and president of the Mi Familia Vota Education Fund and a founding member of the Civic Participation Campaign, two national nonprofit organizations focused on increasing the civic participation of immigrants in the U.S.
More information about the conference and the keynote speakers, including their photos, is on the Division of Institutional Equity and Diversity website.