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ETSU's fifth annual Equity and Inclusion Conference will be held September 28-30, 2023. This year's conference theme is "Beyond 'Checking a Box:' Building and Sustaining Campus-Wide Engagement for Belonging."


The conference is open to anyone who wishes to attend. Community members as well as higher education professionals and students from other institutions are welcome and encouraged to join us. ETSU employees may utilize their education benefits to cover the cost of registration. If you elect to use this option, please be sure to select the appropriate ticket type when registering.

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Keynote Speaker: Dr. Imani Perry

Thursday, September 28 at 7 p.m.
D.P. Culp Student Center Auditorium

Critically acclaimed author Dr. Imani Perry will serve as the keynote speaker for East Tennessee State University’s fifth annual Equity and Inclusion Conference. Dr. Perry is renowned for her work that explores the intersections of history, race, law, and culture. Born in Birmingham, Alabama, in the aftermath of the horrific 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, Dr. Perry’s life and work have been deeply imbued with a commitment to justice and progressive change. 

Dr. Perry’s academic and literary contributions, including her National Book Award-winning work “South to America: A Journey Below the Mason-Dixon to Understand the Soul of a Nation,” explore how the South shapes American history and culture. Her numerous accolades, including awards for her exploration of the life of underrecognized Black artist Lorraine Hansberry, firmly position her as a significant figure in contemporary literature and academia.

“If there were one impact I’d like my work to have, it would be that people would cease talking about African American history and culture in terms of deprivation or inadequacy and actually acknowledge its depth and complexity and beauty,” Dr. Perry said.

Tickets are $20 and available online or at the door. 

The cost of admission is included for all conference registrants. 

A headshot of Dr. Imani Perry
A headshot of Gene Yang

Keynote Speaker: Gene Yang

Friday, September 29 at 4 p.m.
D.P. Culp Student Center Ballroom

Gene Luen Yang writes, and sometimes draws, comic books and graphic novels. As the Library of Congress’ fifth National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, he advocates for the importance of reading, especially reading diversely.  American Born Chinese, his first graphic novel from First Second Books, was a National Book Award finalist, as well as the winner of the Printz Award and an Eisner Award. His two-volume graphic novel Boxers & Saints won the L.A. Times Book Prize and was a National Book Award Finalist.  His other works include Secret Coders (with Mike Holmes), The Shadow Hero (with Sonny Liew), New Super-Man from DC Comics (with various artists), and the Avatar: The Last Airbender series from Dark Horse Comics (with Gurihiru).  In 2016, he was named a MacArthur Foundation Fellow.

Free and open to the public

About the Conference

ETSU's annual Equity and Inclusion Conference features keynote speakers and presenters from across the country, focusing on topics such as Appalachian identity, culture, race, and accessibility. This year's conference theme is "Beyond 'Checking a Box:' Building and Sustaining Campus-Wide Engagement for Belonging." The conference is open to the public. For disability accommodations, call the ETSU Office of Disability Services at (423) 439-8346. 

Registration Fees

Regular Conference

Before September 22: $75 (Register)
After September 22: $125

Student Rate: $25 (with valid student ID)

Keynotes Only

Dr. Imani Perry: $20 (Get Tickets)
Gene Yang: Free

The conference is open to the public. ETSU employees may utilize their education benefits. If you elect to use this option, please be sure to select the appropriate ticket type when registering. 

Student Conference

Free with valid ETSU student ID.
$25 with valid student ID (non-ETSU)


A colorful painting of various people standing in front of the ETSU bell tower. To illustrate the conference theme, one individual is portrayed as having made a hula hoop out of the frame of a checkbox. Another is playing with a check mark.

Featured Artist
Jason Flack

Presentation Element
Artist Jason Flack
The artwork illustrating this year's conference theme was created by Jason Flack.

Jason is an “Urban Folk” expressionist & pop-artist, community leader, and speaker and a  native of Johnson City, Tennessee. His work has been heavily influenced by personal life experiences as well as many cartoons, comic books, and music. He has been drawing for over 30 years and painting for over 10. Jason has entrenched himself in an all-things-art lifestyle,  being a part of local art advocacy and bridging the gap between self-taught and academia. He was called to start painting after the sudden death of his twin sister, Jessica, in 2010.

His work elicits energy by using bright colors surrounded by bold black lines. Since the beginning, he has used painting as therapy to direct grief into movement and thoughtfulness and to hold a mirror up to society. He is influenced by the work of many artists including Barry McGhee, Margaret Kilgallen, Ed Roth, Genndy Tartakovsky,  Keith Haring, & Jean-Michel Basquiat.

In the summer of 2021, his painting titled, The Black Nanny won Best in Show at the Kingsport Art Guild’s Appalachian Art Show. In November 2022, he was the recipient of the Network of Advocates for Promising Practices in Education Award (NAPPE) for the 10th annual FL3TCH3R Exhibit at the Reece Museum. He is also a recipient of the Art Alliance Mountain Empire Art Achievement Award for 2023. Jason’s work can be found all over downtown Johnson City, TN, in private exhibits, and in the Reece Museum permanent collections including the Sammie Nicely Collection. You can follow him on Instagram (@artbyjasonflack), and he can be reached by email: