Social Justice Events and Readings

Justyce looks to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for answers. But do they hold up anymore? He starts a journal to Dr. King to find out.

This title wil be part of the “DIVERSITY READS BOOK CLUB” PLATO Spring Semester
  • An incisive look at race and how we should be talking about it.
The story is told from multiple first person points of view; the two main narrators are Alma Rivera, a 30-something housewife from Pátzcuaro, Mexico, and Mayor Toro, a teenage social outcast and first-generation American whose parents were originally from Panama

The Diversity Committee has compiled a list of events and recommended readings related to issues of inequity, diversity and injustice in the greater Madison area to promote a culturally inclusive learning environment in PLATO.  We hope to develop additional materials and welcome your suggestions. Contact Committee Co- Chairs Kathy Michaelis ( or Rick Orton ( for the Diversity Committee meeting schedule.


Intersectionality/White Privilege Training

  • Saturday, Feb 2nd, 10:00-2:00
  • Madison NOW
  • Brix CoWorking, 30 West Mifflin, 6th Floor

Participants will gain tools for understanding, identifying and calling out white supremacy, and for taking meaningful action to challenge racism and enhance their allyship to people of color. They will additionally gain an understanding of white fragility, including how to recognize it in their day to day lives, how to check it in their own behaviors and combat its dangers.


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Olbrich Botanical Garden's

Rainforest Rhythms Series

@ Bolz Conservatory

Indonesian Dance of Illinois

  • Saturday, February 23, 2019
  • Performances at 10:30 a.m. & 1:30 p.m.
  • Tickets available at the door starting an hour before each performance.
  • Adults (13 & up) - $5
  • Child (12 & under) - $3
  • 2 & under - FREE
  • Admission includes entry to Olbrich's tropical Bolz Conservatory

Indonesian Dance of Illinois (IDI) is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to promoting the Indonesian cultural arts in the community. Founded in 2008 by I Gusti Ngurah Kertayuda, the group introduces the Indonesian performing arts through dance and music in theatres, festivals, schools, workshops, and community events throughout the Midwest.

Indonesian Dance of Illinois is honored to showcase cultural dances and music inspired by the enchanting rainforest of Indonesia at Olbrich Botanical Gardens.

The Rainforest Rhythms Series

The Olbrich Botanical Garden's Rainforest Rhythms series celebrates cultures in rainforest (tropical and sub-tropical) regions around the world with authentic performances of music and dance. The series offers performances for all ages and includes free admission to Olbrich’s tropical Bolz Conservatory.

While exploring the Bolz Conservatory before or after the performance, pick up an I Spy activity sheet and search for unique plants in the Bolz Conservatory! Families will have fun learning about plants related to the culture highlighted during the day's performance

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Annual Spring POWWOW, 2019

  • Grand Entrance 1 pm and 7 pm
  • Doors open at 11 am
  • Saturday, Apr 27th, 2019
  • Madison College Truax Campus
      • Redsten Gymnasium
      • 1701 Wright Street, Madison, WI
  • General Admission: $5.00
  • (Elders 55 and over are Free); 
  • (Children 5 and under are Free)


Contact: Katie Ackley

Phone: 608-616-3487



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Recommended Reading

The Diversity Committee hopes to make additional recommendations in the future - we welcome your suggestions. (Contact

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Dear Martin by Nic Stone

Justyce McAllister is top of his class and set for the Ivy League – but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. And despite leaving his rough neighborhood behind, he can't escape the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates.

Justyce looks to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for answers. But do they hold up anymore? He starts a journal to Dr. King to find out.

Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up – way up, sparking the fury of a white off-duty police officer beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. Justyce and Manny are caught in the crosshairs. In the media fallout, it's Justyce who is under attack.

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So you want to talk about race

by Ijeoma Oluo

National Book Review:  Review by Jenny Blatt

An Incisive Look at Race and How We Should be Talking About It 

Let me say at the outset: this book is for everyone — white or black or any color in between. If you are white, it will make you see nuances of racism that you were probably not aware of, including within yourself, your loved ones, and coworkers. If you are a person of color, it will give you ways to respond calmly, rationally, and intelligently, even when dealing with the well-meaning “I’m not racist” white friend or coworker.
Each chapter is framed as a question which Oluo unpacks thoroughly and rationally. These are questions that typically come up in daily interactions, whether they are raised explicitly, implicitly, or only in our heads. And, since the last US election, they have also been popping up all across social media, over dinner-tables, and even in workplaces. Some of the questions seek to define loaded words/phrases and their implications: racism, intersectionality, police brutality, privilege, affirmative action, cultural appropriation, micro-aggressions, and so on. Some of them address the constant arguments you might come across on social media, like “why can’t I say the “N” word?” and “I just got called racist, what do I do?”
With each question, Oluo is consistent in her approach of first explaining why it matters, debunking some of the common beliefs/misunderstandings around it, describing its symptoms and impacts with facts and data, explaining why it needs to be discussed/addressed, instructing how to adjust one’s own frame of mind in approaching any related conversation, and providing practical checklists of what to say/do and remember/consider for an effective response.
Oluo’s primary underlying theme is that we are dealing with systemic racism built over centuries rather than individual acts of oppression. Throughout she points out how this racism is built into all aspects of our culture, our institutions, our movements, and our everyday social behaviors and, more importantly, how we can know for sure when something is about race. Whether we consider ourselves “racist” or not, we are part of a racist system. In fact, it is often our advantages that keep us from seeing the disadvantages of others. And, no matter how well-intentioned we might be as individuals, our complacency with that system makes us all complicit.
She does not shy away from raising discussion points that might make some uncomfortable. There is no ambivalence or soft-pedaling. These talks are difficult, requiring introspection, empathy, and a voluntary rewiring of our brains if we are to make any progress. She reminds us how talking about race is just not something we do in “polite” company, which is why we do not have the skill or the practice to do it properly. But conversation — both with people of other races as well as with people of our own race — is the only place we can begin if we want to come together and make change happen. Also, our unexamined thoughts and behaviors are the ones that do the most harm without our even knowing it.
That said, conversation is not the only thing we can or should do. Oluo also shares how we can leverage our privilege(s) to take specific actions against systemic racism — in our neighborhoods, communities, schools, workplaces, local government, etc.

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The Book of Unknown Americans

A novel by Cristina Henriquez, Alfred A Knopf 2014

The story is told from multiple first person points of view; the two main narrators are Alma Rivera, a 30-something housewife from Pátzcuaro, Mexico, and Mayor Toro, a teenage social outcast and first-generation American whose parents were originally from Panama

The book received predominantly favorable reviews. In the Los Angeles Review of Books, Daniel Olivas said the book "is as disturbing as it is beautiful, a testament to the mixed blessings our country offers immigrants, who struggle against bigotry and economic hardship while maintaining just enough hope to keep striving for something better...a narrative mosaic that moves toward a heartrending conclusion."[3] In Bustle, Claire Luchette described The Book of Unknown Americans as a "powerful novel...about love: familial love, two kids' first love, love of friends, neighbor, and country."[1] In The Guardian, Sandra Newman felt the "strength of the book is in the quiet details", but criticized Henríquez for spending "too much time on the periphery of her story, making points that feel at once too vague and too obvious."[4] Reviewing the novel in The New York Times, Ana Castillo found the novel "unfailingly well written and entertaining, [but] more often than not the first-person accounts don't seem quite authentic."[5] 

The novel was chosen as one of The Best Books of 2014 by[6] The Daily Beast named it the 2014 novel of the year.

This book will be part of the DIVERSITY READS BOOK CLUB, a PLATO spring course.

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Braiding Sweetgrass: indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge and the teachings of plants 

by Kimmerer, Robin Wall . Minneapolis, Minnesota : Milkweed Editions, 2013. Edition: First edition.

Called the work of "a mesmerizing storyteller with deep compassion and memorable prose" (Publishers Weekly) and the book that, "anyone interested in natural history, botany, protecting nature, or Native American culture will love," by Library Journal, Braiding Sweetgrass is poised to be a classic of nature writing. As a botanist, Robin Wall Kimmerer asks questions of nature with the tools of science. As a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, she embraces indigenous teachings that consider plants and animals to be our oldest teachers. Kimmerer brings these two lenses of knowledge together to take us on a journey that is every bit as mythic as it is scientific, as sacred as it is historical, as clever as it is wise. (Elizabeth Gilbert). Drawing on her life as an indigenous scientist, a mother, and a woman, Kimmerer shows how other living beings offer us gifts and lessons, even if we’ve forgotten how to hear their voices.

Available at Madison Public Library in print and audio editions

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