Sep 1, 2017 – The Call

Since Charlottesville

First they came for…you know the rest.

I have heard the phrase “since Charlottesville” uttered so often in the past few weeks, it makes me wonder if it has become as superfluous as “equity and inclusion” to members of the community directly affected by systems of inequity.

“Since Charlottesville” what?

“Since Charlottesville,” one realizes that there are those in our nation willing to commit acts of violence to protect a system that is already giving them privileges.

“Since Charlotteville”, one realizes that one should have listened to that POCI/Jewish neighbor, coworker, fellow board members, family members when they described the aggressions not to mention microaggressions they face as a normal part of living in our society.

“Since Charlottesville” stings.

One can hardly say “I told you so” at this point because it is likely that a POCI person has been saying this for many years but “Since Charlottesville” everything has changed? For our community members who are from marginalized communities, there is no “since Charlottesville.” There is life. There is everyday.

I have written many letters in my short time as the executive director of NEMAA pointing to the idea that communities, organizations, bodies that are strong in diversity and inclusion of many bodies and many voices at the table produce more effective outcomes. As artists and as creators we have a unique power as observers and reflectors to help tell stories. As social practitioners which some of us are, we can use our space, our projects to start or continue (in some cases) conversations that are about including a diversity of narratives and start the process of building bridges so that we might maintain and/ or create healthy communities; communities that function for the greater good, communities rooted in equity.

As my longtime friend, yogi and author Anu Bhagwati wrote a few days ago: “We have an enormous opportunity to learn, and to help change the way we have done things in this nation for far too long.”

I believe that we, the creative thinkers can lead the way.

We cannot use coded language to isolate and ostracize community members whom we don’t understand, who don’t look like us, or for those whom art serves a different purpose in their community than those with which we are familiar. Which is why uttering phrases like “make NE great again” or “make Art-A-Whirl great again” (yes, a NEMAA member made statements like this in recent months) is simply not acceptable in a creative community that should be open to difference and welcoming to communities new and old. Bigotry, bullying, and hate speech have no place in this artist community. It should not and will not be tolerated. I’d hope that no matter what one’s political preference may be, we can all come to consensus on this. As artists, as creators we can and should do better.

The trumpet has sounded (it’s been blaring away for some time, actually). Do you hear it? How will you respond?

Dameun Strange

NEMAA Executive Director

Back to top