Keith Boykin

April 12, 2017

Inaugural ‘Salukis United in Diversity Conference’ set

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Television commentator and best-selling author Keith Boykin will speak at Southern Illinois University Carbondale in April, one of the highlights of the inaugural four-day Salukis United in Diversity Conference.

A variety of activities are planned during the April 19-22 conference, designed to bring the campus and community together to highlight and strengthen SIU’s diversity and inclusivity.

The celebration begins on April 19 as faculty and graduate teaching assistants make presentations and discuss diversity from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Student Center’s Ohio Room. Afterward, the Chancellor’s Diversity Council will host a “Meet and Greet” event in the Mississippi Room, giving everyone a chance to get acquainted with the council and discuss their thoughts about campus diversity.

Students will gather at the Student Center at 4 p.m. on April 20 to participate in a Unity March and Celebration as a show of support for international and underrepresented students, faculty and staff. Students are encouraged to wear shirts that illustrate their diverse backgrounds, according to conference organizer Naomi Tolbert, a political science and international affairs major who is also vice president of cultural experiences and diversity for the Honors Assembly, a student trustee on the SIU Board of Trustees and a McNair Scholar.

“This will be an inspirational Saluki celebration of the differences we have and a time to embrace them and come together,” Tolbert said.

The walk will conclude in the area around the Shryock Auditorium steps for a campus-wide celebration featuring remarks by Interim Chancellor Brad Colwell, a barbecue and music provided by a disc jockey.  

There will be Safe Zone workshop sessions at 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m. on April 21 in the Mississippi Room at the Student Center, giving everyone the opportunity to learn about LGBTQ issues and how to help foster an inclusive and affirming campus. A documentary focusing on race relations will be shown at 5 p.m. in the Student Center’s Delta Room.

Boykin will speak at 5 p.m. in the Student Center Ballrooms on April 22, followed by an awards ceremony and reception at 6 p.m. Boykin is the founder and first board president of the National Black Justice Coalition and the author of four books, all Lambda Literary Award nominees. The most recent publication is “For Colored Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Still Not Enough,” the winner of the 2013 American Library Association Stonewall Award for Nonfiction.

A St. Louis native, Boykin is a graduate of Dartmouth College and earned his law degree at Harvard Law School. He served as special assistant to the president and director of specialty media for President Bill Clinton, the highest-ranking openly gay person in Clinton’s White House. He spoke at the Millennium March on Washington and has appeared on numerous national news and media programs, including “Anderson Cooper 360,” “The Tyra Banks Show,” and the “Montel Williams Show.”

While there is no cost to attend Boykin’s lecture, you must register in advance at

The awards to be presented following Boykin’s lecture will recognize groups and individuals on campus for their efforts in the past year to enhance and strengthen SIU’s diversity and inclusivity.

Tolbert said conference events – all free and open to the public – will serve several purposes, including building Saluki pride, encouraging community engagement, and identifying and recognizing the efforts various units and organizations at the university are making to enhance diversity and inclusivity. The conference also is designed to give students, faculty, staff, administrators and community members opportunities to interact and address any issues or concerns.

“The week’s fun and interactive events will address different aspects of diversity, providing knowledge, intercultural interactions and opportunities to enhance communication and inclusivity,” Tolbert said. “The goal is to get as many members of the campus and community of all backgrounds involved as possible in order to broaden the scope of understanding. We also want to create a foundation for future diversity events and initiatives.”

Salukis United in Diversity Conference sponsors include the Office of the President, Office of the Chancellor, the Office of Diversity, the Diversity Council, the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, Student Affairs, the Student Center and University Housing.