(WBNG) - February is Black History Month and each week 12 News will bring you a story about people from our community who have and continue to make a difference.
We first spoke with Dr. Karen Jones. She is Binghamton University's first Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
Why is Black History Month important? For Dr. Jones there are multiple reasons.
"We're all created equal, however we've not had equal opportunity," said Jones.
She said that Carter G. Woodson, given much of the credit for starting what has now grown into Black History Month, was disturbed that history textbooks appeared to ignore America's black population
"Black History Month is an acknowledgment of the contributions that blacks and African Americans have made to this country, to the founding of this country. Often times what you see is that it's not in our history books. So for many who happen to identify as black, as African American, if you didn't get that educational foundation in high school its often in college."
Jones said for some, college can be the first time you meet someone with a different background from yourself and that opens the door for deeper conversations.
"Education provides that opportunity to raise questions, to think critically, to be informed about new things that perhaps we didn't know."
Bridging the divide between differences is where she comes in.
"Roles like mine are important because we help the institution to think strategically about how do you make certain that everyone is involved, how do you make certain that everyone has a seat at the table, how do you make certain of whose voice is included."
Jones said words can often be empty and she's proud that with Binghamton University, not only is the sentiment there but action to go along with it.
Her overall message is that change is difficult, but starts with conversations.
"When you're talking about diversity, you're really talking about how are you conveying a sense of compassion, understanding, and respect. So we may not agree, we may not every like each other, but there's a responsibility for all of us to be respectful towards one another."
To learn more about Dr. Karen Jones click here.