Social Justice Book & Lecture Series

Photo credit: Brandon Parigo, UMKC Strategic Marketing and Communications

The Division of Diversity and Inclusion’s Social Justice Book and Lecture Series brings to campus thought leaders from across the country and various fields to explore issues of social justice with our students, faculty and staff. The objectives of the series are to:

  • Foster a sense of community on our campus through shared literature and relevant dialogue.
  • Prompt participants to think critically about the historical context of social justice issues while focusing on current social justice challenges and the interdisciplinary thought and leadership skills necessary for solving such challenges.
  • Provide a platform for further reflection, dialogue and action within our campus and greater communities through related coursework, gatherings, and exposure to local, regional and national social justice projects and initiatives.

UMKC’s General Education Curriculum, as well as, many other courses on campus that challenge students to examine their views and values while considering personal, political, economic, environmental and social concerns are enhanced through Social Justice Book and Lecture Series content. For a classroom discuss guide, contact

Picture of Dr. Vandana Shiva2021: Dr. Vandana Shiva

Vandana Shiva is one of the world's most respected environmental activists and feminists. A trained physicist, she received her Ph.D. at the University of Western Ontario, and since the 1970s, has been a vocal figure in the conservation movement.

A leader in the International Forum on Globalization (IFG) along with Ralph Nader and Jeremy Rifkin, Vandana Shiva fights actively for changing practices in agriculture and the way humans view food. Emphasizing the need for sustainable agriculture, she is an opponent of genetic engineering, and a supporter of getting women across the globe more involved in planting and farming. In fact, in 1993, Shiva received the Right Livelihood Award (often known as the Alternative Nobel Peace Prize) for her work "placing women and ecology at the heart of modern development discourse." Vandana Shiva is also the recipient of the United Nations Environment Programme's Global 500 Award and the Earth Day International Award of the United Nations.

She is the author of many books including Earth Democracy: Justice, Sustainability, and Peace, Manifestos on the Future of Food & Seed, Staying Alive: Women, Ecology, and Development, Who Really Feeds the World, and the upcoming Oneness vs. The 1%.




Panel on Ibram X. Kendi's Book - How to be an Antiracist

Cecilia Belser-Patton is the Principle and Culture Curator of JUST Systems, a capacity building and sustainability consulting firm that specializes in Restorative Practices, including Diversity, Inclusion & Equity development; Restorative and Social Justice framework and implementation, curriculum development and strategic systems change. As a veteran educator, the core compass in which she views the world is a strong conviction in restorative practices, racial, educational and health equity and social justice. JUST Systems provides lectures, workshops, organizational development, transformative leadership coaching, and grassroots strategy development designed to build equity and create systems change. She is committed to equity, cultural proficiency, urban education, student, familial & community empowerment, and is active in her community building justice on all fronts,which is exemplified in her roles as the Missouri Jobs With Justice Champions Organizer and the Inclusion & Equity Director for Healthcare For Missouri (MIssouri Medicaid Expansion).

She advocates strongly for everyone's ability to empower and advance themselves through awareness, organization, mobilization and action. An educator, organizer and professional development facilitator, she is also a professional thespian, who describes herself as an “artist, activist, advocate and self-empowerment actualizer.” An active member of The Cultural Competency Collective of Kansas City, as well as a member of its’ Leadership Team & Planning Council, Cecilia-Ananya is the Co-Chair of The City of Kansas City’s Health Commission Education Committee is also an active citizen volunteer of Open Table, SURJ-KC, NAACP and the Race and Equity Institute KC Project. She is President of Uzazi Village’s Council of Elders, and is the Diversity and Inclusion Chair of Women In Technology and board member of Communities In Schools-KC and Black Archives of Mid America. Cecilia is MOST proud of the work that she does with Kansas City youth, as an advocate, volunteer and Steering Committee President of Anytown KC, a youth leadership development institute.

Gwendolyn Grant is President and the CEO of the Urban League of Greater Kansas City. In addition to providing leadership and direction for advancing all Urban League programs and its mission, Gwen is engaged in numerous civic and community organizations, including the Missouri Coordinating Board for Higher Education and Workforce Development, Founder of the COVID-19 Collective Impact Collaborative, Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce Tax Incentive Reform Task Force, Park University Advisory Council, President of the Kansas City Public Schools (KCPS) Buildings Corporation Board, KCPS Superintendent’s Business/Economic Development Advisory Council, Citizens to Abolish Poverty Education Committee, Black/Brown Coalition, YMCA QALICB Inc., Board of Directors, YMCA System Wide Diversity and Inclusion Council, and more. Ms. Grant is a Ruckette on KCPT’s RUCKUS show – a weekly political free-for-all that looks at the news of the day and the issues that face Kansas City in a lively roundtable format. The first female CEO in the affiliate’s 100-year history, Gwendolyn is a strong and passionate advocate for social justice and economic empowerment for African Americans and women. She is the recipient of numerous honors including the National Urban League’s Whitney M. Young Leadership Award for Advancing Racial Equity, William Jewel College Yates Medallion for Distinguished Service, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference Community Service Award, and the National Urban League Association of Executives Academy of Fellows designation.

Dr. Rodney Smith, Ed.D is the inaugural Vice President for Access and Engagement at William Jewell College. In this role, he leads the institution’s endeavors relative to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. Smith is also Co-founder of Sophic Solutions, LLC, a Kansas City-based change management consulting firm. Sophic supports businesses of all kinds in their efforts to become anti-racist organizations. The firm specializes in a four-part process they’ve the coined the 4 P’s to Operationalizing Equity. They specifically help organizations to enact equity in their Pedagogy, Policies, Practice and People.

Additionally, Dr. Smith serves as a Graduate-level Adjunct Professor in the School of Education at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, where he specializes in courses that address racial and ethnic diversity. Over the span of a 25-year career, Smith’s scholarly interests have taken aim at the effects of race and racism on American society.

Smith is a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. and a native of Georgetown, South Carolina. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Morris Brown College and, both, a master’s degree and a doctoral degree from Tennessee State University.

Mr. Ajamu Webster has more than 30 years of experience in structural engineering. This experience has allowed him to work in several project areas from water and wastewater to facilities. His areas of emphasis include analysis and inspection, structural design, rehabilitation and renovation. Mr. Webster’s role have included preliminary and final design, project management, construction management, quality assurance reviews, project scheduling, and business development. He has built long-term relationships with clients in both the public and private sectors. As a licensed professional engineer in multiple states, Mr. Webster is known for his experience in rehabilitations and renovations of various building types. His knowledge of various materials used in multiple structure types; how these materials interact and affect each other allows him to effectively manage the structural design. Mr. Webster’s commitment to the industry is exemplified by his active participation in several professional organizations and board commitments. Former Mayor Mark Funkhouser appointed him as a Park Board Commissioner with the City of Kansas City, MO Parks and Recreation and as Chair of the City of Kansas City’s New Tools Committee. His most recent appointment is to the EDC Board by Mayor Sly James. He is also a member of the American Concrete Institute (ACI) and the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).

Professor Mikah Thompson is an Associate Professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law. She teaches the following courses: Civil Procedure I, Evidence, Race and the Law, and Employment Law. Professor Thompson’s research centers on the intersection of evidentiary law and critical race theory. She also writes on the pedagogy of legal education with a particular emphasis on techniques for infusing cultural competence into the first-year law school curriculum.

Prior to joining the faculty, Professor Thompson was the Director of Affirmative Action and Title IX Coordinator for the UMKC campus. In that role, she coordinated the university’s response to internal complaints of discrimination, harassment and gender-based violence. She also handled the university’s response to complaints of discrimination investigated by local, state and federal administrative agencies and served as the campus’ ADA Accommodations Coordinator.

Professor Thompson is a certified mediator in the states of Kansas and Missouri and frequently provides continuing legal education in the areas of employment law, professional responsibility, and implicit bias. She earned her law degree from Washington University in St. Louis.
Picture of Dr. Robin DiAngelo2019: Dr. Robin DiAngelo

Dr. Robin DiAngelo earned a PhD in Multicultural Education from the University of Washington in Seattle in 2004 and earned tenure at Westfield State University in Massachusetts. She is currently an Affiliate Associate Professor of Education at the University of Washington and has taught courses in Multicultural Teaching, Inter-group Dialogue Facilitation, Cultural Diversity & Social Justice, and Anti-Racist Education. Her area of research is in Whiteness Studies and Critical Discourse Analysis, explicating how whiteness is reproduced in everyday narratives. She is a two-time winner of the Student’s Choice Award for Educator of the Year at the University of Washington’s School of Social Work. She has numerous publications and books, including: Is Everybody Really Equal?: An Introduction to Key Concepts in Critical Social Justice Education, co-written with Özlem Sensoy, and which received both the American Educational Studies Association Critics Choice Book Award (2012) and the Society of Professors of Education Book Award (2018). In 2011 DiAngelo coined the term White Fragility in an academic article which influenced the national dialogue on race. Her book, White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard For White People To Talk About Racism was released in June of 2018 and debuted on the New York Times Bestseller List.

DiAngelo has been a consultant and trainer for over 20 years on issues of racial and social justice and appointed to co-design the City of Seattle’s Race and Social Justice Initiative Anti-Racism training (with Darlene Flynn).

DiAngelo shares, “I grew up poor and white. While my class oppression has been relatively visible to me, my race privilege has not. In my efforts to uncover how race has shaped my life, I have gained deeper insight by placing race in the center of my analysis and asking how each of my other group locations have socialized me to collude with racism. In so doing, I have been able to address in greater depth my multiple locations and how they function together to hold racism in place. I now make the distinction that I grew up poor and white, for my experience of poverty would have been different had I not been white” (DiAngelo, 2006).

She is the author of this year's Social Justice Book and Lecture series selection: White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard For White People To Talk About Racism

This event has sold out! Please sign up for the waitlist here. We will contact individuals on the waitlist on the first come first serve basis if seats open up. Thank you!

White Fragility Reader's Guide
Erica Armstrong Dunbar2018: Erica Armstrong Dunbar

Erica Armstrong Dunbar is the Blue and Gold Distinguished Professor of Black Studies and History at the University of Delaware. She has been a recipient of Ford, Mellon and Social Science Research Council fellowships and is an Organization of American Historians Distinguished Lecturer. She is the author of this year's Social Justice Book and Lecture series selection: "Never Caught: The Washingtons' Relentless Pursuit of their Runaway Slave Ona Judge."

View photos of the lecture here.

Never Caught Lesson Plan

Never Caught Resource Guide
Wesley Lowery2017: Wesley Lowery

Wesley Lowery is a national reporter who covers law enforcement, justice, race and politics. He previously covered Congress and national politics. Prior to joining the Washington Post in February 2014, he worked as a breaking news and local politics reporter for the Boston Globe, and has also reported for the Los Angeles Times and the Wall Street Journal. In 2014, he was named the National Association of Black Journalists' "Emerging Journalist of the Year." Follow him on Twitter @WesleyLowery.

View photos of the lecture here.

View video of the lecture here.

Thank you to our sponsor Shook, Hardy and Bacon.

Visit the Shook, Hardy & Bacon Website here
Reyna Grande2016: Reyna Grande

Reyna Grande is an award-winning novelist and memoirist. She has received an American Book Award, the El Premio Aztlán Literary Award, and the International Latino Book Award. In 2012, she was a finalist for the prestigious National Book Critics Circle Awards, and in 2015 she was honored with a Luis Leal Award for Distinction in Chicano/Latino Literature.

The Distance Between Us: A Memoir

Thank you to our sponsor Shook, Hardy and Bacon and REACH Healthcare Foundation.

Visit the Shook, Hardy & Bacon Website here

REACH Healthcare Foundation Logo

Visit the Reach Healthcare Foundation Website here.

View photos of the event here!

Dr._ Steve_Perry2015: Steve Perry

Dr. Steve Perry, MSW, Ed.D., is the founder and principal of what U.S. News and World Report has cited as one of the top schools in the country, Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Hartford, Connecticut. Capital Prep has sent 100% of its high school graduates, who are predominantly low-income, minority, first generation graduates, to four-year colleges every year since its first class graduated in 2006.

Push Has Come to Shove: Getting Our Kids the Education They Deserve Even If It Means Picking A Fight (2011)
Rebecca_Skloot2014: Rebecca Skloot

Freelance science writer, Rebecca Skloot, founded The Henrietta Lacks Foundation, a nonprofit providing financial assistance to individuals who have made contributions to science without personal benefits, knowledge or consent.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (2010)
WesMoore2013: Wes Moore

Wes Moore is an author, businessman and U.S. Army veteran. Moore hosts a show on the Oprah Winfrey Network and founded STAND! For Baltimore youth involved in the criminal justice system.

The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates (2010)
ColinBeavan2012: Colin Beavan

Colin Beavan is a a nonfiction writer and Internet blogger, who attempted to live a “zero impact” lifestyle in New York City for one year.

No Impact Man: The Adventures of A Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet and Discoveries He Makes About Himself and Our Way of Life in the Process (2009)
EricScholosser2011: Eric Scholosser

Eric Scholosser is an author and investigative journalist who is focused on a range of topics including the fast food industry, marijuana, migrant workers, the pornography industry, nuclear weapons and the prison system.

Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal (2001)
JonathanCohn2010: Jonathan Cohn

Jonathan Cohn is an author and journalist focused on U.S. public policy and political issues such as social welfare and health care.

Sick: The Untold Story of America’s Health Care Crisis & the People Who Pay the Price (2007)
MichaelEricDyson2009: Michael Eric Dyson

Michael Eric Dyson is best known as “a Princeton Ph.D. and a child of the streets who takes pains never to separate the two.” He is also a professor of sociology, a radio host and author of 18 books involving Malcolm X, MLK, Tupac, race, Bill Cosby and Black middle class, etc.

Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina and the Color of Disaster (2006)
Sis.HelenPrejean2008: Sis. Helen Prejean

Sis. Helen Prejean is best known for opposition to capital punishment and her first book Dead Man Walking (1993), accounts her spiritual advisory to death row inmate Patrick Sonnier.

The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions (2006)
SoniaNazario2007: Sonia Nazario

Sonia Nazario is best known for writing on social issues, including hunger among school children, children of drug addicts, as well as unaccompanied immigrant children.

Enrique’s Journey (2006)