We Need to Talk: Conversations on Racism for a More Resilient Las Vegas

Crowd clapping with someone holding up a sign that shows, "We need to talk"

This virtual educational series will feature university and community experts discussing issues on race and seeking solutions for a more inclusive society.

Host: Claytee White
Director, UNLV Oral History Research Center

Episode 18: We Need To Talk About Being Queer in Las Vegas (April 9, 2:30 p.m.)

What is the queer community like in Las Vegas? How have anti-trans, anti-drag and book banning legislation impacted life in Las Vegas? Our diverse panel of experts will share their experiences on LGBTQ+ life in our beautiful city and discuss the issues the queer community is facing.

Location: Greenspun Hall, Auditorium, First Floor

Guest Host

Kevin Sebastian, Teaching & Learning Librarian for Online Education, UNLV Libraries


  • Antioco Carrillo (‘00 & ‘03, Social Work), Executive Director, Aid for AIDS of Nevada
  • AJ Huth, Director of Public Affairs & Civic Engagement, The LGBTQIA+ Center of Southern Nevada
  • Dennis McBride (‘77 & ‘82), Las Vegas Queer Historian
  • Lukas Serrano, HIV Patient Manager, The LGBTQIA+ Center of Southern Nevada

Full interview with Dennis McBride

Episode 1: Introduction (Sept. 17, 2020, 5:30 p.m.)

Guest Panelists

  • A.B. Wilkinson, Associate Professor of History, UNLV
  • Brenda Williams, President & Founder, Westside School Alumni Foundation
  • Kevin Wright, Assistant Director for Student Diversity, UNLV

Episode 2: We Need To Talk About Criminal Justice (Oct. 1, 2020, 5:30 p.m.)

Guest Panelists

  • Frank Rudy Cooper, Director for the Program on Race, Gender & Policing, UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law
  • Greg McCurdy, Security Consultant and Retired Assistant Sheriff, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department
  • Tyler D. Parry, Assistant Professor of African American and African Diaspora Studies, UNLV

Episode 3: We Need To Talk About Communication (Oct. 14, 5:30 p.m.)

Guest Panelists

  • Ricardo Torres-Cortez, Journalist at the Las Vegas Sun; UNLV Hank Greenspun School of Journalism Alumnus
  • Ashton Ridley, KUNV-FM Radio Manager at the UNLV Hank Greenspun School of Journalism and Media Studies; UNLV Department of Communication Studies Alumnus
  • Nissa Tzun, a UNLV School of Social Work and Journalism School graduate student and member of the Forced Trajectory project.
  • Emma Frances Bloomfield, Assistant Professor, UNLV Department of Communication Studies; Co-Director of the UNLV Public Communication Initiative 

Episode 4: We Need To Talk About Economics (Oct. 29, 5:30 p.m.)

Guest Panelists

  • Nicholas Barr, Assistant Professor of Social Work, UNLV
  • Alex Dixon,  President, West Region Purestar
  • Alvin Odom, Senior Manager – Diverse Markets, Charles Schwab Bank
  • Shanta Patton, Western Regional Vice President, National Association of Real Estate Brokers

Episode 5: We Need To Talk About Health Care (Feb. 4, 5:30 p.m.)

Our first episode will feature conversations on disparities in access and delivery of health care for people of color.

Guest Panelists

  • Keith E. Whitfield, President, UNLV
  • José Melendrez, Executive Director Office of Community Partnerships, UNLV School of Public Health
  • Melva Thompson-Robinson, Director, UNLV Center for Health Disparities Research

Episode 6: We Need To Talk About Education (Feb. 11, 5:30 p.m.)

Guest Panelists

  • Laurents Bañuelos-Benitez, Teacher, Mojave High School
  • Kenneth Brown, English Teacher, Sierra Vista High School
  • Iesha Jackson, Assistant Professor, Teaching & Learning, UNLV College of Education
  • Kenneth J. Varner, Associate Professor, Literacy Education, UNLV College of Education

Episode 7: We Need To Talk About Where We Go From Here (Feb. 18, 5:30 p.m.)

Guest Panelists

  • Harriet Barlow, Executive Director, The Intersection, UNLV
  • Sondra Cosgrove, Professor, History, College of Southern Nevada & Executive Director, Vote Nevada
  • Jayce Farmer, Assistant Professor, Public Policy & Leadership, UNLV
  • Minister Stretch Sanders, Community Activist

Episode 8: We Need To Talk About Las Vegas' Westside Neighborhood (Feb. 25, 5:30 p.m.)

Guest Panelists

  • Chase McCurdy, Artist
  • William McCurdy II, Clark County Commissioner, District D
  • Erika Vital-Lazare, Professor of Creative Writing and Marginalized Voices in Dystopian Literature at the College of Southern Nevada

Episode 9: We Need To Talk About Anti-Asian Hate (May 27, 5:30 p.m.)

This episode will feature discussion about the history of discrimination, prejudice and violence that Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities have experienced in the U.S. The episode will also feature a look at Reflections: The Las Vegas Asian American & Pacific Islander Oral History Project.

Guest Host: Mark Padoongpatt, Ph.D
Associate Professor of Asian American Studies; Interdisciplinary Studies
Director of Asian & Asian American Studies, UNLV

Guest Panelists

Episode 10: We Need To Talk About AAPI Inclusion (Nov. 3, 2:30-4 p.m.)

The Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community represents one of the fastest growing populations in Las Vegas and Southern Nevada. Yet, Asian-Americans have long encountered prejudice and discrimination with their experiences often going unnoticed and their accomplishments dismissed. This panel discussion will cover why understanding and learning more about AAPI history, achievements and aspirations is vital to creating a more inclusive society. 

Topics will include defining inclusivity, the AAPI community’s positive impact in Nevada, and ways to combat anti-Asian hate sentiments. A live session will take place in the Greenspun Hall Auditorium in addition to streaming live.

Guest Host: Mark Padoongpatt, Ph.D
Associate Professor of Asian American Studies; Interdisciplinary Studies
Director of Asian & Asian American Studies, UNLV

Guest Panelists

  • Kathy Sisolak, Nevada’s First Lady
  • Jean Munson, NEW Leadership Nevada Program Coordinator, UNLV’s Women’s Research Institute of Nevada
  • Craig Valdez, Chair of the Clark County AAPI Community Commission
  • Radhika Kunnel, a co-founder of the South Asian Women's Alliance

Episode 11: We Need To Talk About Antisemitism (Nov. 15, 2:30 p.m.)

A recent rise in hate crimes targeted toward Jewish communities in Las Vegas and around the country have spurred a need to discuss how we can address and counter antisemitic rhetoric and behavior. Topics will include antisemitic speech across the political spectrum, Holocaust education programs, and the history of Southern Nevada’s Jewish community.

Guest Host: Michael Kagan, J.D.
Director, UNLV Immigration Clinic
Joyce Mack Professor of Law, William S. Boyd School of Law, UNLV

Guest Panelists

  • Former U.S. Rep. Shelley Berkley
  • Rabbi Felipe Goodman, Temple Beth Sholom
  • Jolie Brislin, Regional Director, Anti-Defamation League

Episode 12: We Need To Talk About American Indian Lands (March 8, 2:30 p.m.)

UNLV acknowledges and honors the Indigenous communities of this region, and recognizes that the university is situated on the traditional homelands of the Nuwuvi, Southern Paiute People. This discussion will address the history of American Indians in the Southwest region. The conversation will focus on issues related to land ownership, housing, cultural celebrations, politics, education, and healthcare within tribal communities.

Guest panelists

  • Alfreda Mitre, Councilwoman, Las Vegas Paiute Tribe and former Senior Tribal Policy Advisor, EPA Region 8
  • William Bauer, Director, American Indian & Indigenous Studies; Professor, Department of History, UNLV

Episode 13: We Need To Talk About The Eastside (April 19, 2:30 p.m.)

The hub of Las Vegas’ diverse Latinx communities, the Eastside is a neighborhood rich in culture and its historical significance is now being acknowledged in county and city circles. Though often the subject of negative rhetoric and stereotypes, the Eastside is undergoing an economic resurgence. Projects are underway to invest in the community and preserve the culturally diverse Latinx history that makes Las Vegas and Southern Nevada unique. Panelists will discuss their connections to the Eastside Las Vegas neighborhood and why the Latinx community’s history is significant to understanding Nevada’s past, present, and future. 

Guest panelists

  • Ivet Aldaba, D.P.P., Lecturer, UNLV School of Social Work
  • Serafin Calvo, Director of Community Services and Engagement, North Las Vegas
  • Jose Contreras, Senior Management Analyst, City of Las Vegas’ Office of Community Services, City of Las Vegas
  • Nathalie Martinez (‘21), former Latinx Voices Project Student Oral Historian

Episode 14: We Need To Talk About Critical Race Theory (September 20, 2:30 p.m.)

Critical race theory is a topic we’ve heard about in the media and in political campaigns. What actually is critical race theory? It seemingly appeared out of nowhere and took over the airwaves, but where did it come from? Is it really a concept being ingrained into our school systems, or have politicization and controversy skewed its original meaning? Our panelists will help us understand why critical race theory became a hot-button issue, what critical race theory can teach us, and help us define what critical race theory is and isn’t.

Guest panelists

  • Christine Clark, Professor of Teaching and Learning, UNLV College of Education
  • Patrice Leverett, Assistant Professor of Counselor Education, School Psychology, and Human Services, UNLV College of Education
  • Jayne Malorni, Education Program Lead, Nevada Department of Education

Episode 15: We Need To Talk With Tyler Merritt (October 26, 2022, 2:30 p.m.)

Tyler Merritt is a Las Vegas native, graduate of Las Vegas Academy, and creator of The Tyler Merritt Project. He is author of I Take My Coffee Black: Reflections on Tupac, Musical Theater, Faith and Being Black in America and the new children’s book, A Door Made For Me. His video essay, “Before You Call the Cops,” was released in 2018 and has had more than 100 million views and was named the top 20 videos by NowThisPolitics. The same video went viral again in 2020 after the murder of George Floyd. TV host Jimmy Kimmel aired the video on his show May 20, 2020.

Episode 16: We Need To Talk About The CROWN Act (January 18, 2023, 2:30 p.m.)

On June 4, 2021, Nevada became the 12th state to pass the CROWN Act, banning discrimination in employment and educational opportunities based on hair texture or protective hairstyles. These include braids, locs, twists and bantu knots. The CROWN Act, which stands for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair, was created in 2019 by Dove and the CROWN Coalition, in partnership with former California State Sen. Holly J. Mitchell. 

The UNLV Libraries has partnered with Demecina Beehn, a part-time instructor in the UNLV Department of Art who is a Curator of Special Projects & Programs from MGM Resorts Art & Culture, to develop an exhibit, “Wearing My Crown.” The exhibit features photography and multimedia by UNLV students of various textured hairstyles protected by the CROWN Act.

This discussion will highlight hairstyles featured in the exhibit. Panelists will share stories about their own hairstyles and how we can continue dismantling discrimination against individuals with natural hair.

Guest Panelists

  • Dina Neal, Nevada State Senator
  • Erica Vital-Lazare, Professor of Creative Writing and Marginalized Voices in Dystopian Literature, College of Southern Nevada
  • Ingrid Ruffin, Associate Dean and Division Director for Research and Education, UNLV University Libraries

Episode 17: We Need To Talk With Muslims of Southern Nevada (September 6, 2023, 2:30 p.m.)

The post-9/11 generation has grown up familiar with anti-Muslim political rhetoric, federal immigration restrictions referred to as “Muslim travel bans,” and other forms of discrimination. While this fear, prejudice, and hatred of Muslims can lead to hostility and intolerance, there are individuals and groups working to break down these barriers and build community in Southern Nevada.

This We Need To Talk discussion will examine this history of Islamophobia and share the experiences of several Muslim-Americans who are working to dismantle stereotypes, advocate for justice, and build mutual understanding. 

Guest Panelists

  • Ahlam Hamdan, ('23, Clinical Mental Health Counseling) Founder of LV Community of Hope 
  • Athar Haseebullah, Executive Director of the ACLU of Nevada
  • Fateen Seifullah, Imam, Masjid As-Sabur, Las Vegas

Live streaming provided by UNLV TV.

Additional Resources

This companion guide to the panel series, We Need To Talk, is hosted in collaboration with Special Collections & Archives and the Oral History Research Center.


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Additional funding for this series provided by UNLV University Libraries Advisory Board Members Sara Mason, Geri Tomich, and Jerrie Merritt (Bank of Nevada).

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