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Retention of African Americans in Knoxville Initiative Workshop

Lili’a Uili Neville, communications director in the Office for Diversity and Inclusion, used her 2015 Community Engagement Incentive Grant for a community-campus workshop to develop solutions for keeping African Americans in Knoxville.

“The City of Knoxville and the Commission for Blacks share a common goal,” said Neville, who also co-chaired the commission.  That goal, said Neville, is to retain “talented professionals and foster a more diverse community.”


Lili’a Uili Neville

Prior to the workshop, the commission used information from evaluations obtained from a panel consisting of City of Knoxville Mayor Rogero, the Knoxville Urban League President, the UT Vice Chancellor for Diversity, and a Community Development Leader to develop a framework for the hands-on, solutions-oriented event they titled Engaging Your Community: Retention of African Americans in Knoxville.

Members on the event’s planning committee included the president of Knoxville’s NAACP chapter and UT Knoxville and UT System representatives. The executive director of the Knoxville Police Advisory and Review Committee for the City and a CEO for a management-consulting firm participated in the planning process as facilitators of the workshop from Leadership Knoxville.

University and community members worked together during the one-day workshop, the only event of its kind that allowed community members to meet, discuss, plan and execute efforts that address the issue of African American retention and identify barriers that deter diverse young professionals from Knoxville.

“The solutions developed at our workshop can hopefully highlight the benefits that Knoxville offers and how African Americans can find their connection with the city,” Neville said.

After the workshop, the Commission for Blacks met regularly to synthesize a summary report based on discussions and evaluations at the workshop.

Neville said the Commission for Blacks and its partners are committed to long-term efforts and ongoing collaborations stemming from the retention workshop.

“We can conclude that every effort towards the retention of African Americans in our city must be taken on in partnership with stakeholder organizations,” said Neville. “The barriers to retaining diverse professionals in Knoxville are multi-faceted and thus the solutions must have multiple dimensions and partners to enact change.”

The summary report was published by the Commission for Blacks in June 2015 and distributed to workshop attendees and community partners.