Incite/Insight Winter 2018 Incite Insight Winter 2018 - Page 22

21 I n c i t e /I ns i ght Board Perspective W i n te r 201 8 Representation and Advocacy through EDI (Equity, Diversity and Inclusion) - Forward Momentum C ommunity possesses a complexity in any manner of the application, particularly when applied to a national organization. While our varied educational interests and arts vocations brought us together for the Divisions- Collisions-Coalitions American Alliance for Theater & Education (AATE) 2017 National Conference, the wide-ranging experiences that led each of us to New Orleans challenged the notion we could build community in a brief period of space and time. However, that was the mission of the Community Conversations sessions - how do we build a network of action and support when faced with challenges within our own organizations and regions in our hometowns? How do we honor the diverse backgrounds, thoughts, needs and identities and provide a space for those who share similar identities, while still addressing the shortcomings of representation and equity that we see in our fields? The answer was affinity groups, though the formation of these were not the final outcome. The first step was to allow a natural creation of affinity groups happen based on how one identifies, whether by race, ethnicity, culture, gender, sexual orientation, faith, physical or neurological diversity, socio-economics, or diversity of thought. Our challenge to everyone was to begin the conversations - how this identity shapes day-to- day realities back home in the workplace and neighborhoods. Once established in these groups, we invited each to find an intersection with another affinity group. We asked everyone to engage in difficult, possibly uncomfortable conversation because we cannot move towards equity, justice and inclusion if we continue to use vague and generalized language. We cannot avoid issues which may be controversial or difficult to work through and process. We asked everyone to focus on the verb, not the adjective - examine the actions that occur in the moment and not the interpretations of those actions which are shaped by judgment and perception. In order for anything positive to emerge, we truly believe one must invite various views and perspective before challenging them. As noted by Maya Angelou in her poem, The Human Family, “We are more alike, my friend, than we are unlike.” Finally, we also noted we must embrace failure. Yes, there are times when one will say something and words have failed the intent. There are times when our own ignorance will surface and there needs to be space for that to happen. We will try and we will fail, but that cannot stop the work. We ask students to take risks in theatre - we have to do the same to make social change that leads to greater equity for all. We have all experienced moments where we failed another and through difficult and uncomfortable conversations, we learned to be mindful and aware. 22 In c it e / In sig h t Some voiced that our organization is still perceived by others to lack representation. Failure is an opportunity for change. We acknowledge the task at hand is complex and, at times, fragile, but it is also filled with richness and beauty. We all have a place in this world and like the many roles we embody in any given time, we need to acknowledge when we are to be the voice and take action and when we are to listen and be present and supportive to those who take the mantle of leadership and action. AATE is no different. For a moment, consider how often, as artists and educators, we lead and follow so gracefully in our classrooms working with our students. We find ourselves in a dance where at any given moment they take the lead and vice versa and when we allow another to cut in. In order for AATE to represent who we truly are, we need to acknowledge when it is time to lead, time to follow, and time to let another cut in. Upon returning from the conference, each of us were asked to allow these dialogues regarding identity and intersections to inform the work each performs, whether artist, educator or administrator. Ultimately, each of us needed to mindfully take steps to ensure our work helped support greater diversity