The annual Images and Perceptions Diversity Conference brings people from diverse communities into one room to talk about commonalities, challenges and tools to have healthy conversations about diversity and inclusion.
Siham Awada Jaafar is the founder of the conference.
“I’ve been doing diversity training for over 30 years, and I still do diversity training for corporations, law enforcement, educational institutions and organizations,” Jaafar says.
Jaafar says the conference has been held for the past 19 years.
“I’m also Judicial Tenure Commissioner for the state of Michigan, as well as the president of the Wayne County Dispute Resolution Center,” Jaafar shares. “These roles really sort of just mash with everything that I’m doing because it is about coming on one platform and creating some kind of common ground for understanding, so those roles helped me in defining how we need to move forward in this conversation of images and perceptions.”
She says the diversity conference was created in response to negative stereotypes and misconceptions about Arab Americans after 9/11.
“It was a need to create that conversation and create a real safe platform for people to come in and talk about anything,” said Jaafar. “No fear was off the table. We wanted to address everyone’s questions and give them tools to be able to move forward.”
Jaafar says the program expanded to include other BIPOC and minority communities over the years.
“I found that so many communities had the same exact challenges. And it was not just unique to one community or cultural entity ethnic group or even within marginalized communities.”
The conference was held at the Ford Community and Performing Arts Center in Dearborn. Jaafar explains the conference is a way to bring people together to provide tools on how to have difficult conversations.
“You need to hear just different perspectives. You need to be able to make your own decisions as to you know, what you feel is correct for you, and being able to hear these different perspectives from individuals that you may not be in contact with on a daily basis.”