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Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion

Alumni panelists exemplified the activism and leadership of Coretta Scott King while sharing their personal and professional journeys as women of color at the 5th annual Coretta Scott King luncheon on campus, hosted by the Center for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion’s (DEI) Director Fillette Lovaincy and Vice President Dr. Keith Lezama Jr.

Emmanuel’s Center for DEI welcomed back Bridgette Wallace ’92, founder of {G-Code}, a community organization that provides a career launching pad for young women interested in code or data analytics, Isis Ortiz-Belton ’09, a vice president and portfolio manager with Eastern Bank and Akyanna Smith-Gonzalez ’15, a public programs manager with She+ Geeks Out, an organization that supports women in tech and provides Diversity, Equity and Inclusion training for tech companies. 

All three panelists described how they “pivoted into their purpose” – following their unique learning pathways into political science, math and education – but supported diversity, equity and inclusion in their community every step of the way. 

Lezama Jr. started by sharing a quote from Scott King that spoke to her efforts and those efforts of each alumni panelist: “the greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.” 

Like Scott King, they have remained committed to seeking equality for historically marginalized communities and used their platforms to inspire change: whether it’s using their knowledge and experience to help create professional pathways, being role models to show future generations they can succeed in any field they set their mind to, or acting as pillars of strength and perseverance through adversity. 

For Wallace, providing equal opportunities to those who don’t have them remained a constant thread throughout her career path, and she used her daughter’s experience as inspiration to drive her work forward. 

“What were the ingredients that helped her to get to where she is? She had community, a supportive family, if I didn’t know the answers I could pick up the phone and call people – I think a lot of people take for granted [having] those resources – I wanted to ensure that my daughter was not a one-off, that I created opportunities and space not just for her, but for other people who were interested in pursuing a career in tech,” said Wallace. 

In Ortiz-Belton’s career path, she did all she could to ensure she was “being a connector,” no matter where she went. 

“Growing up and not seeing many people that looked like me in the spaces I was entering was difficult. I wanted to make sure – whether it was my niece or most of you in the room – that you saw it was possible to be where I am today and that journey can be attained, that you deserve a seat at that table,” she said. 

Smith-Gonzalez emphasized the importance of having strong female role models too, something she said she benefitted from during her time at Emmanuel College. 

“Having strong women in your corner is so imperative I can’t even explain it – the humility that shows through the work they do [and] their ability to hold the personal and professional symbiotically,” she said. 

Role models like Scott King act as reminders to carry on through roadblocks and adversity as well, she added. 

“I think a lot about her will and perseverance to continue with her leadership and civic engagement work in the light of her husband’s assassination. That makes me think about how we as people continue to persevere in our personal missions, even when something so debilitating or daunting happens,” said Smith Gonzalez. 

Now after following in the footsteps of Scott King and so many role models before them, Wallace, Ortiz-Belton and Smith-Gonzalez have returned to Emmanuel to fill in that role and guide the next generation. With their example set in place, future Emmanuel graduates are in good hands. 

As DEI Director Fillette Lovaincy put it: “they’re ours [and] today’s Coretta Scott Kings.”