Meet Syreeta Greene, AFI’s New Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
AFI is excited to welcome Syreeta Greene, our new Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion to help further our mission and continue the essential work of elevating diverse voices that have been historically underrepresented and marginalized. With a Doctorate in Education and a Masters of Social Work, Greene has 20 years of experience in higher education and is poised to spearhead all diversity and inclusion efforts at the American Film Institute.
AFI spoke with her about what a typical day is like for a DEI Director, the ways her position as evolved during COVID-19 and how the AFI community can work together to support greater diversity and inclusivity in our ranks.
AFI: Can you tell us a little about your background and what inspired you to pursue your career path?
Syreeta: I started my career in higher education immediately after undergrad as an academic advisor at the University of Southern California. Helping and supporting others has been at my core, and student affairs has been the vehicle that has allowed me to serve others. In serving others, I have developed an acumen for advocating for and empowering diverse populations that have been historically marginalized and not adequately served within higher education. This focus has afforded me the opportunity to work in a number of progressive roles where support and advocacy were key functions, as well as develop work within the academy to fill information voids among colleagues.
AFI: For those who aren’t familiar with what a Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion does, what is a typical day like? What types of programs or initiatives will be under your purview?
Syreeta: The work of a DEI advocate or strategist consists of understanding the ways in which an organization operates, auditing its policies, processes, traditions and culture, and providing feedback and a strategic plan on how to improve, change or dismantle systems of oppression or roadblocks to true diversity and inclusion within the organization.
Programs and initiatives should be tailor-made for an organization based on its needs. Generally speaking, I will be focused on the entire infrastructure and modes of operations of AFI as it relates to DEI, as well as facilitating a workshop series sometimes offered to the entire community, while at other times it will be focused on certain populations such as AFI Fellows, staff, faculty.
AFI: With COVID and working from home, how have you had to adapt your approach? What are the pros and cons of working remotely in your position?
Syreeta: My approach is different in that the personal connections and building of rapport are done virtually instead of dropping by an office or meeting a group in person. There’s a lot more reading and understanding AFI through documents than getting a “feel” for it in the environment. Pros are I have time to really dig into documents and process the information to formulate more thoughtful questions and cons are it’s more of a challenge to get a feel for AFI organically.
AFI: How can AFI staff, Fellows, faculty and alumni – and members – support you and our continued work together to achieve greater diversity and inclusivity at AFI?
Syreeta: Be open. Be honest. Be ready to do interpersonal, reflective work to be part of the change you want to see. We all need to balance extending grace in the midst of providing necessary constructive critiques.
AFI: What is your favorite holiday movie? What is your favorite movie of all time and why?
Syreeta: DIE HARD is a Christmas movie. Case closed. I actually did not have a favorite holiday movie until I saw JINGLE JANGLE, which is now my favorite holiday movie. I love movies, but do not have an all-time favorite, because I love too many movies and will stop to watch movies any time of the day or night. Some of those are THE COLOR PURPLE, GLADIATOR, COMING TO AMERICA, THE FAST & THE FURIOUS (the first one, I did a bit street racing back in the day), and LOVE JONES. Favorite genres of mine include documentaries for sure, epic action movies like GLADIATOR, action movies with fast cars, and Black-centric rom-coms.
AFI: Is there anything else you would like to share with the wider AFI community?
Syreeta: I’m excited to be at AFI and work with an amazing group of people.