• Kenneth Crooks, Jr.
    Executive Director Emeritus

  • As times change, what previously was a ‘dialogue about race’ has evolved into a holistic approach to diversity in our community and beyond.

    One Columbus, has also evolved, strengthening its core mission: striving to inspire, motivate, promote diversity, and ensure that each member of the community is respected and valued. Recognizing and appreciating diversity is an obligation to which each of us must be committed. If we accept and act on this challenge, then Columbus will truly become a ‘One Columbus’.

Diversity Conference

The Inaugural One Columbus and Columbus State University Regional Diversity Conference

The Inaugural One Columbus, Columbus State University Regional Diversity Conference was landmark event for Diversity in Columbus in 2012. The first collaboration of CSU and One Columbus, the Inaugural Conference was a prominent event for  Columbus and it was well received by the community. It attracted people from diverse backgrounds, including Black, White, Hispanic, Asian and many other minorities including representations from throughout the Columbus region.
Held at CSU’s Cunningham Center and attracting almost two hundred participants, the event set the stage for many more years to come. The theme of the inaugural conference was “The Challenge of Diversity in Community Development”.

The Conference saw the coming together of many different segments of the Community and also marked the beginning of an ongoing collaboration between One Columbus, Columbus’ longest standing and most prominent diversity organization, and Columbus State University.

Professor Thee Smith, Keynote Speaker

Professor Thee Smith of Emory University delivered this year’s keynote theme. Aimed to unite common goals in Columbus to foster a harmonious community and building engagements, the conference was a great success in bringing together all of the community in an informative, challenging and thought provoking forum.

Prof. Thee Smith is a diversity-training expert like no other; he specializes in conflict transformation and social change. As well as being the author of distinguished publications such as “Conjuring Culture: Biblical Formations of Black America” and co-editor of “Curing Violence; Essays on Rene’ Birard”, he is also the founding member of Colloquium on Violence and Religion (COV&R), and is the founding director of the Atlanta Chapter of the National Coalition Building Institute. NCBI is an international consulting and training organization based in Washington, D.C. that specializes in diversity training, prejudice reduction and intergroup conflict resolution. His address and following training had a profound impact on the conference attendees.

The inaugural conference opened on Thursday evening, March 22nd with a reception and keynote speech at 7:30pm. It then continued on to Friday morning, March, 23rd with registrations opening at 8am and the event kicking off for the second day at 9am.

The Conference opening address was given by the CSU Provost Dr. Tom Hackett; followed by an engaging address by Columbus Mayor, Teresa Tomlinson. Mayor Teresa Tomlinson’s address was a poignant point for the conference and for the community as the Mayor, among other issues, addressed the importance of diversity engagements for the Columbus community, and the Mayor’s Commission on Unity and Diversity.  Florence Wakoko of CSU and Rose Espinola of One Columbus presented the Mayor with a gift of a plaque in appreciation for her continued support of diversity issues in Columbus.

Mr. Jorge Vega, One Columbus Chair, long time Columbus Resident and attorney at Hatcher, Stubbs, Land, Hollis & Rothschild also welcomed the opening of the Conference in citing the vision of the ongoing Diversity Conference and sharing his grandfathers inspiring story.

Before moving onto the keynote address, Professor John Studstill of Columbus State University gave a talk about Columbus and diversity in our region, this was followed by our charismatic keynote speaker and trainer; Professor Thee Smith.

Professor Thee Smith challenged us to view our perceptions of and challenge our perspectives of other people in a safe environment. With Prof. Thee’s expertise we worked towards promoting a positive standpoint from which to diminish barriers to foster harmonious communities.

Prof Smith described that no matter how hurt a community becomes, healing can occur and the community can be better for it. Following the seminar by Professor Thee the conference was split into groups for dialogue sessions.

The dialogue groups had a heartfelt effect on the attendees of the Conference, with a vast majority listing them as the most meaningful activity to them over the conference. Within the groups, questions were put forward and active and engaging group dialogues took place.  Groups  were challenged with new concepts, including the concept of being an ‘ally’ to ourselves and to others; to ask ourselves; “what we require of people to be our ally?” and  “What can we do to be allies for other people?”

The One Columbus – Columbus State University Regional Diversity Conference was another event that is in line with One Columbus’ core interests of encouraging multi-cultural dialogue at every level of the community, as an educational program to emphasize diversity. Columbus State University, as a key academic institution in the region and in sharing these goals and core interests, was an excellent partnership to achieve these objectives.

Dr. Florence Wakoko, Sociology Professor at CSU, runs Student Study Circles on diversity. She is also and active member of CSU Diversity Committee and worked directly with One Columbus on the Conferences’ planning and implementation. The CSU Diversity Advisory Committee purpose is to cater to the diverse student populations at CSU and promote diversity in the CSU student community. On closing of the event, Dr Wakoko described the relationship as a marriage; ‘This is a marriage, a partnership between us, and the beginning of much more for years to come”


The vision of the conference is an ongoing annual event for the community, with set goals and guidelines so that we can pick up from where we left off from the previous year and review what we have learned, expand on this and grow from our experiences, year after year. Watch this space for information on next years Diversity conference, it is sure to be a well-anticipated event!

To get involved or get more information about next years conference, email:

Or phone One Columbus on: 706 315 0162

Many thanks to: the Planning committee:

Lee Brantley
Ken Crooks
Henry Holt
Adam Johnson
Jorge Vega
Florence Wakoko
Conference Coordinator: Rose Espinola
Intern: Jim Tyler
CSU Diversity Advisory Committee

Many thanks to our supporters: Fort Benning, Equal Employment Office, Mayor’s Commission On Unity and Diversity, Southern Anti-Racism Network (SARN), Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) – Columbus Area Chapter, Dr Paula Walker, Dr Floyd Jackson.


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