The tenth annual CCI Experience Diversity Banquet on Friday, Feb. 23 provided poignant reminders of the need to foster greater understanding and empathy toward others. Actor, filmmaker, and humanitarian Cylk Cozart, the 2018 CCI Diversity Award recipient, delivered an inspirational keynote address that captivated those in attendance while focusing on this theme.
The lead-in for the keynote was provided by a special video featuring many of Cozart’s well-known friends and colleagues including: Kevin Hart, Louis Gosset, Jr., Martin Luther King, III, and Jon Voight. As a part of his speech, Cozart told stories of growing up in East Tennessee and of those that rejected him because of his race and those that showed him empathy. He encouraged the audience to find ways to show empathy to others and stressed that by walking in the shoes of another, greater understanding can be accomplished.
Past recipients of the CCI Diversity Award, Dr. Tom Kim (2015), internal medicine and hematology-oncology physician and founder of the Free Medical Clinic of America in Knoxville and Theotis Robinson, Jr. (2009), retired UT vice president for equity and diversity, looked on while Cozart received this year’s award.
The banquet program was organized by CCI DSLS Director Alice Wirth and CCI Diversity Student Leaders Society students who performed a number of skits focused on the banquet theme – “Rise Up.” It also included performances ranging from Scottish bagpipes, UT’s VOLT a capella team, a solo by Marlinda Chism, dance by Knoxville Women Dabke Ensemble, and an African Drum Team.
“The banquet is a learning experience for all of us,” said DSLS Co-President Justin Crawford. “From mapping out the program, to coordinating the decorations, to the skit rehearsals and beyond, we learned a lot about what it takes to pull off an event of this magnitude. It requires teamwork and communication, but the reward is great. It has been an honor to meet the past award recipients and get to know Cylk Cozart. They are inspirational leaders, and it is all made possible by the leadership of our director, Alice Wirth.”
Live and silent auctions helped raise funds in addition to the table sponsors’ support. See the banquet program for a list of sponsors. A total of $4,500 net of expenses was raised to help fund future DSLS field trips and scholarships. To learn more about CCI’s commitment to diversity and inclusion and the activities of CCI’s DSLS, see http://www.cci.utk.edu/diversity.