Conversations For Change: Inclusive Communities Welcomes Actor Kal Penn

Inclusive Communities, an organization providing educational opportunities to confront prejudice, bigotry and discrimination, hosted its first installment in the Jane H. & Rabbi Sidney H. Brooks Conversations for Change Series on March 21 at the Holland Performing Arts Center. The fireside chat featured actor and former White House staffer Kal Penn.

The event was free to the public thanks to a gift from Miriam Brooks, daughter of the couple who advocated for dialogue to bring together individuals of different backgrounds. 

Inclusive Communities Co-Executive Directors Cammy Watkins and Maggie Woods shared an optimistic sentiment in a joint statement: 

“For a first-time event, we hoped that it would be impactful and inspiring, while still giving off the energy that people have come to know of an Inclusive Communities event. We are happy to have been able to provide this unique opportunity to Omaha and neighboring cities, as well as Iowa.”

During the conversation, Penn detailed his experiences in Hollywood, navigating a breakthrough role in a large studio film and offering alternatives to an offensive depiction of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Additionally, he shared his experience getting tapped as President Barak Obama’s liaison to young Americans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and the arts community.

“If there’s one lesson I learned working in the White House, it was the power that individuals have,” Penn said during the chat. 

The local business community supported the inaugural event, with several sponsoring the chat including Nebraska Furniture Mart, Omaha Steaks, Cox Communications, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska, the University of Nebraska System and KETV. Small, locally-owned ventures, Rowena Bennett’s Queerarchy and Sara Dappen’s Bangin’ on Wax Cuffs, were given an opportunity to present gifts to Penn.

“The role of businesses as the driving force of social change and creating positive social impact has become more vital,” said Inclusive Communities Communications Manager Ang Bennett. “Events like Conversations for Change assist businesses in reflecting on how they can become more diverse, more equitable, and more socially aware.”