Own your identity, social justice advocate suggests

NEW ORLEANS (April 21, 2017) – Social justice advocate Jamie Washington encouraged students to own your identity and understand how that identity affects your capacity to lead.

Washington, addressing about 200 students during Freshman Convocation in Georges Auditorium on March 9, encouraged freshmen to accept their responsibility to lead by changing the way they see themselves.

Washington, president and founder of the Washington Consulting Group, a multicultural organizational development firm in Baltimore, Md., said, “For those of you do not yet see yourself as leaders, get over it. It is time to shift your image of yourself.

“Graduating positions you as a leader, so focus in on what I am doing here.”

He said everyone has multiple identities, among them being race, gender and sexual orientation. He said these identities are crucial to understand because they inform the way we see the world.  

Washington also said the challenge accompanied with being a leader is “no one will make you do anything.” He encouraged students to take advantage of all the opportunities at Dillard to set yourself apart. 

“There’s so many opportunities at Dillard to increase your awareness, your knowledge and your skills so that your actions in the future can be effective,” Washington said.

Washington conducted an exercise in which he asked the freshmen to stand in response to questions about their identities. Some of the freshmen did not stand because they were not comfortable with sharing particular parts of their identities.

He also said the responsibility of Dillard University faculty and staff is “to prepare next generation of leaders to engage and lead effectively within, across and about identities. If we did not, then we fail.”

Washington, a minister, earned a master’s in divinity from Howard University and a doctorate in college student development from the University of Maryland College Park. He serves on the several boards, including Many Voices: A Black Church Movement for LGBT Persons.