By: Tonya Jackson
The Inclusion Spotlight grew out of conversations Dr. Lusharon Wiley had with colleagues regarding the fascinating people in our community, people known locally and nationally. The seeds of this discussion grew and as Dr. Wiley says, “made me want to focus on who are the people in our neighborhoods and what’s a way we can hear their stories so that we can all learn from them.”
When asked which speaker has surprised her the most, Sr. Wiley readily responded, “Elizabeth MacQueen. She is the sculptor who did the memorial to the four little girls killed in the Birmingham bombing in 1963. It was her openness, her enthusiasm, and somewhat shyness that drew me to her. She is unassuming, yet she comes from a background of privilege. She is an everyday person who has been so honored for us to have reached out to her.”
In the past, the Inclusion Spotlight has featured Civil Rights icon Rev. H. K. Matthews, UWF instructor Dr. Keya Wiggins, Gulf Breeze Mayor Beverly Zimmern, and Deborah Watts, Cousin of Emmett Till and Co-Founder of the Emmett Till Legacy Foundation. What does the future hold for this program? “I’m always excited every year as I bring together wonderful people from the University community to brainstorm about what’s next. So I, like everybody else, get excited because I really don’t know what the twists and turns will be as we move toward our next year of the Inclusion Series. Certainly I’d like to see it continue; I’d like to see it expand, and would welcome people to give me some suggestions about who they would like to hear more about.”
Who is the next person featured in the Inclusion Spotlight? “We are just honored to have Attorney Aaron Watson as our next Inclusion Spotlight speaker. What’s exciting about him is that he has done a whole lot. He comes from a background that so many of us have come from and so to see him be outstanding in his field and to understand the need to take charge, and as Dr. Freeman Hrabowski said, ‘have the grit and determination to move forward.’ He is certainly that person. And my hope is that all of us can learn from him, I know we will because he’s already an example. Always so open. Always willing to give back. What a true hero for Northwest Florida.”
I reached out to Aaron Watson and despite his busy schedule, he shared what attendees can expect from his presentation. “I want to talk to the dreamers. If you have a dream, you’ll be able to relate to me. I’ll also be sharing the power of talking to strangers and networking. If you have a dream, whether you’re younger or older, reach out and talk to a stranger. To get here, I took every opportunity to listen to successful people and gathered my tools for success. Some of my biggest rewards have come from talking to a stranger.”
Currently, the Inclusion Spotlight is held twice a year and allows the community to get up close and personal to everyday people making a difference every day. If you would like to take Dr. Wiley up on her offer and share your thoughts about who she should spotlight, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The next Inclusion Spotlight is Tuesday, March 8th, 6:00 pm at the University of West Florida in the Commons Auditorium. This free event is open to the public.