10 THINK-ACTION STEPS when thinking about diversity

Posted by Sobha Kavanakudiyil, Apr 08, 2016 4 comments

I have been involved in many deep discussions regarding diversity and often leave the conversations thinking, what can I do?

I realized that I needed to start by making  PERSONAL CHANGE—TO LISTEN AND NOT JUST HAVE AN AGENDA. Based on conversations, interactions with people, and my own person soul searching I’ve arrived at what I call the 10 Think-Action Steps regarding diversity:

  1. Diversity is not just about Race. 
  2. Race is NOT just a black and white issue #alllivesmatter.
  3. Asking questions is a sign of growth; don’t be afraid to learn. 
  4. Accept moments of uncomfortable-ness as you realize your own unconscious bias.
  5. We need to make positions of leadership more diverse.
  6. We should prepare our students to be inclusive.
  7. We should create a culture where our differences are considered contributions rather than hindrances.
  8. Check your own privilege.
  9. Socioeconomic status impacts diversity but does not define it.
  10. Be honest with yourself regarding  how you feel about many of these topics.

Growth takes time.
Growth takes care.

Growth takes patience. 

Here are a few steps I have been a part of to harvest that growth.

1. The Graduate Program in Educational Theatre at The City College of New York has the Harlem Children’s Theatre Festival and this year it will be on May 7th from 10am-1pm. One of the adaptations, written by three of our esteemed candidates, was based on the book Out of My Mind written by Sharon Draper. In the adaptation, a young man with cerebral palsy wants to be part of a quiz team but the administrators/teachers at the school are dismissive because they question his cognitive abilities. This young man’s strength, perseverance, and commitment to working hard is truly remarkable. We were lucky to find and cast the perfect actor, who himself has cerebral palsy; a young man who truly knows this struggle, and the importance of this story and the discussions that go along with it. This actor’s presence is truly an inspiration and his contributions to the rehearsal process have been insightful. 

2. This year I’ve had the fortunate opportunity to Co-Chair wonderful conferences and at all of them I am proud to say that we have taken steps in thoughtfulness toward diversity. These ideas also represent the work of many people–to make change it is important to have a team with various perspectives, backgrounds and abilities.

NEW YORK CITY ARTS IN EDUCATION ROUNDTABLE
I am part of the New York City Arts in Education Roundtable’s Diversity Task Force. For a year this group had numerous discussions on the topics of diversity, equity, and inclusion. These discussions led to a one-day conference entitled A Day of Learning: Equity and Access for All. Having a safe space for people to begin what can be a very personal and fraught discussions was an essential first step to make progress both within our own organizations but also in the larger arts in education community. Based on my discussions and discoveries at the conference I wrote a blog for the Roundtable called “From Here To Diversity: Where Do We Go From Here?”. In the post I talked about my own personal struggles that have stemmed from an identity crisis, and not fully understanding as a young person where or how I fit in to certain circles. I focus in on what I learned as an individual and started to think about what I can do to make a difference.

I’m also a Co-Chair for the New York City Arts in Education Roundtable yearly Face to Face Conference. For many years the committee that selects which sessions will be presented at the conference was made up of a small group that represented a small fraction of the organization’s membership. Over the last four years we have made a point to expand the selection committee to include members who work in different boroughs and art forms, in addition to having educators of different races and ethnicities. The variety of voices in the process has helped to insure that topics addressed at Face to Face are diverse in content. This year there will be sessions that cover various topics of diversity including: creating theatre for children on the Autism Spectrum, thinking about unconscious bias and its impact on the creation of devised theatre, restorative practices in the schools, working with court involved youth, intergenerational work, and how to move beyond discussions of diversity in order to take action. (I will be presenting this one with my colleague Michael Wiggins and the session is called “Moving Beyond ‘I Have a Dream.’”)

NATIONAL AATE CONFERENCE 2016 IN BOSTON, MA
This year the American Alliance for Theatre and Education (AATE) has made its conference theme, “Engaging Diversity: The Intersection of Theatre, History and Activism”. I am proud to be a Co-Chair of this conference this year. There will be many exciting sessions dealing with issues of diversity, inclusion, and activism, including one called: “The Tip of the Iceberg: Considering Beyond What We See,” (I will be presenting this along with my colleague Joe Salvatore). Also we have a very exciting keynote speaker, Ali Stroker, who has a very inspiring story as she made history as the first actress in a wheelchair to appear on the Broadway stage. In addition, AATE has an initiative to diversify the voices participating in the conference called Add-A-Voice. Please take the time to read more about this exciting initiative that makes attending the AATE Conference much more accessible.

So what steps can YOU take?

There is so much more work to do but I hope these examples can help as you bring diversity to your own work.

A simple way to start may be to remember:
“I can see myself in all things and all people around me.”
Sanskrit Phrase

4 responses for 10 THINK-ACTION STEPS when thinking about diversity

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2. Discover new places to network.
3. Focus on the strengths everybody brings to the table.
4. Stand up to discrimination.
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