Two-Day Virtual Gathering on April 22 and 23: "Creating Change: Moving Toward Equity, Justice and Anti-Racism in the New Jersey Arts Community"
New Jersey Theatre Alliance and ArtPride New Jersey, the states two largest arts service organizations are partnering on a two-day virtual gathering April 22 and 23 titled Creating Change: Moving Toward Equity Justice and Anti-Racism in the New Jersey Arts Community.
Two of the headliners of the arts symposium are New Jersey-based and OBIE Award-winning actor and playwright Nikkole Salter and Non Profit expert Vu Le from Seatttle.
Salter and Le spoke to WBGO's Doug Doyle about the event that was designed by a steering committee chaired by Donna Walker-Kuhne, Senior Advisor for Community Engagement at the New Jersey Performing Arts Centre (NJPAC).
Salter is excited about the opportunity to speak at this special arts symposium.
"I'm always happy to talk with artists but I think it's especially special because it's actually my local community sponsoring this event. To be an artist in New Jersey is often looked at in the field as being some kind of adjacent stepsister to New York or something, when actually if you follow the resident theater movement, it was actually designed to bring the arts to all Americans across the nation and to give them access to the American narrative both as witnesses and participants. I'm really appreciative of the people in this part of the country who are looking to take ownership and step into their power as contributors to the American narrative."
Salter's keynote talk will focus on the importance of speaking truth to power and reckoning with history to inform the future.
"I'll start by saying representation matters, but our way of thinking in our culture often limits representation to some kind of quota. There's really no ecosystem that thrives in homogony. But when we think of adversity, we think about race, maybe about gender, as though that's the final piece of what having a diverse sort of bio-microbe is going to be for our world. It's not. We have to tear down our systems that are based on our misperception of nature that it's actually a hierarchy. It has never been a hierarchy. It's always been ordered, but it's never ranked. We have developed a system because we believe that our nature is competitive and not symbiotic. So, to really get at the problem is to uproot our very way of thinking."
Salter's plays include In The Continuum (NY Outer Critics Circle's John Gassner Award for Best New American Play, 2006; Helen Hayes Award, 2007), Repairing a Nation, Of Great Merit, Carnaval, Lines in the Dust, Lion Head and Freedom Riders.
Meanwhile Vu Le, founder of the popular, irreverent, and influential blog "NonProfit AF." Le's virtual discussion will explore some of the current practices in the nonprofit arts sector that can reinforce oppressive systems, and begin to offer alternative models.
"I love our sector. I think the pandemic has demonstrated the need for our sector to be strong. I really appreciate everyone who has been working so hard to lift up families and build communities during these critical times. At the same time, I think that in many ways we perpetuate some of the injustice and inequity we've been fighting with the way we do fundraising for example. We don't talk enough about where wealth came from. A lot of wealth came from slavery and colonization, from terrible things, from tax evasion and we help people avoid thinking about these things. We write them a hand-written thank you note when they give a little money. And we're like maybe you should give all the land that you stole back. These are the more difficult conversations we need to have."
Le is a writer, speaker, vegan, Pisces, and the former Executive Director of RVC, a nonprofit in Seattle that promotes social justice by developing leaders of color, strengthening organizations led by communities of color, and fostering collaboration between diverse communities.
"We are at this crossroad where we have to recognize like do we want to keep going? Do we want to continue lying to ourselves about how effective we are? And also do we want to talk about capitalism and how we've been entangled with it. It is about the bottom line. So many nonprofits are about getting as much money to their organizations as possible, and not thinking about how this affects the entire ecosystem."
Creating Change is supported by the Grunin Foundation as a Spotlight Sponsor. Additional support is provided by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, Princeton University's Lewis Center for the Arts, and PSEG.
You can register and purchase tickets to participate at https://njtheatrealliance.org/creating-change-2021.
To watch the Zoom interview with Nikkole Salter and Vu Le click on https://fb.watch/4YARwfBorF/.