A Statement on a Statement

Posted by Ms. Ruby Lopez Harper, May 25, 2016 0 comments

Statement: a definite or clear expression of something in speech or writing. 

I am a mother of three beautiful bi-racial children; what that also means is that I am a woman and I am Mexican. I am a Libra. I am an employee of Americans for the Arts. I am a warrior. And I get a little scared sometimes. Once I got over the initial shock of being asked to write a blog about the newly released Statement on Cultural Equity—I panicked—full anxiety attack panic. Then I took a breath and I said yes. I was honored and humbled and terrified. What if I felt the "wrong" thing? What if I said the wrong thing? What if I didn't believe in or resonate with the statement despite knowing what was going into the writing of it and why it was happening? After getting the invitation to write a blog, I read the statement over and over—reflected on it and about it—spoke with friends and family about my struggles with inequity—workshopped phrasing and concepts and ideas...then on a flight to New Mexico—I opened my laptop to write…

Being a Libra, I always felt a strong gravitational pull towards balance (you've all seen the scales, right?), especially when it comes to justice and fairness. I'm like a dog with a bone—equitable everything in my world was important. I was raised to treat everyone equal—to respect everyone equal—to welcome everyone equal—to provide, to support, to acknowledge—and I also have been driven by a determination that wages war against inequity and injustice in the best way I know how—with everything I have and everything I am.

I have been watching and discussing issues of discrimination and exclusion in society and I have found myself continuously boiling the meat off the bones working to find the basis of the problem that can then be dissected to find a reasonable solution that would allow us to just be decent to each other.

"It costs nothing to be a decent human being."

This is certainly not the first time I have mulled over the foundational structure of inequity, especially in the arts, since that's where I breathe. In my time, over the years, I have asked the tough questions, I have made clear the accusation, have been accused and have worked to open doors, open minds and open hearts. Inequity and injustice in the arts just blew my mind—the arts hold our souls together, how can we deny that experience to anyone? How dare it be used to create an "us" and "them"—that continues to be such a perversion to me...art is free and freeing—art is...

I cheer on my artist friends, many of whom fall into "underrepresented" as defined by the statement. Sometimes I drag them, kicking and screaming into spaces they belong. Kicking and screaming because they don't feel welcome and I am compelled to show them that they are welcome if for no other reason than I say so. I stand shoulder to shoulder with them and do what I can to make sure voices are heard and bias, both explicit and implicit, is exposed, considered and mediated; all in the interest of creating equitable space for all—space for everyone—because that matters to me, matters to me in a way that I think I only just have begun to connect with, only just have begun to own. I have worked hard, make no mistake, worked VERY hard to be where I am and no one ever handed me an opportunity, no matter what they may think. BUT first to be real in this work, I have to be able to own the privilege I have had in my life in being able to find myself at places and in situations that others can’t access. While I don't "speak for all people of color," I do feel strongly that I have to use that place and that presence to speak my truth and to pave a way for others, whatever "others" means.

The Cultural Equity Statement to me is strongest in two acknowledgments—1. We must continuously address and change the systems of power that result in inequity and injustice and 2. We must hold ourselves accountable. These two lines become an affirmation—one of many "compass point" statements or quotes that I can use to guide my daily life. These two lines speak to me and resonate with me in their purpose and intentionality. It is up to me to define the HOW I participate in these two commitments and participate I will. But the WHEN is unwavering—the when is NOW. These two statements give me strength and hope and a reason to keep raising my voice and keep raising my hand and keep raising my fellow humans regardless of race, ethnicity, age, ability, sexual orientation, gender, socioeconomic status geography, citizenship status or religion—this is my new battle cry—this is my new guide—this is my new song—my new armor—

Sadly, I only wish it wasn't so new...I only wish this struggle wasn't still so very real...I only wish this wasn't the world my children inhabit because they may someday be affected by the very exclusion I, and so many others, are working so hard to change—then heaven help the offender...and heaven help me....and heaven help us all— 

My wish, my only wish—my hope, my dream—is for my children—for everyone's children—ladies and gentlemen, the future of our species—that they benefit from the painful and uncomfortable work we, as a society, embark on...again...and that this time, this time stronger than any other time, that this time is THE time that we make change happen and STICK—I want to see this change before my time on this planet is done. That is my wish...I encourage you to read the statement and find yours...and join me, and all those who have been fighting the good fight, in standing together to address and change the systems that result in inequity and injustice and join me in holding ourselves accountable—join me in making the change happen.

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