The Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival just saluted our diamond anniversary! For 50 years, KCACTF has been a place where hundreds of colleges and universities come together to celebrate, encourage and recognize the artistic work of our future generation of theatre makers; our students. In retrospect, there is much to be proud of, but like any diamond, it still has its flaws.
We know that we have areas that need growth, change, and rethinking. We have been talking for some time about how to make certain our organization continues to reflect the rich mosaic of the world we currently live in and want to serve. Now, we are ready for action.
The vanguard of this action is a reformed initiative. Our effort in this area was previously called Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI). We have recommitted to this vital work with a new name: Representation, Equity, and Diversity (RED).
In order to seek change, we must scrutinize our current systems, structures, and objectives This includes examining the words we use to describe our actions. Why are the words Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion arranged in that order? What do they mean, and how do we support these ideals? Under this examination, the word “inclusion” was deconstructed. Inclusion implies that someone is being “let in”. To be included, you are other. What word implies belonging? That word is “representation”. By stating our intention to create representation, we are committing to accurately reflecting the whole constituency we serve.
E Pluribus Unum; Out of many, one. Though this is the essence of our greater ideals in this country, we have not always lived up to them. The fierce urgency for our organization to model these ideals is now magnified. We are the artist-educators training the next generation of storytellers in an era of cataclysmic divisiveness. We must ensure that every storyteller and every story will have uninhibited access to being heard, supported, celebrated, and recognized within KCACTF. We must practice equity with intentionality, , ensuring access for all and not just access for enough. We must unequivocally state and demonstrate that the rights of any individual or a group are neither more nor less important than the rights of another. We will be a levee, standing as a counter force to the rising tide of sexism, ageism, genderism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, classism, xenophobia, racism, segregation, colonialism, and white supremacy in this country. With equity, we will seek to practice justice.
The following are the first steps we are taking to create equity towards the diversity in our organization:
- The Establishment of RED Coordinators in every KCACTF region
- The Establishment of a National RED Coordinator as a member of the National Executive Committee
- Standardizing and publicizing the pathways to regional and national leadership.
- Assembling the selection, scholarship, and award panels at Regional and National festivals that will create equitable representation of race, gender, gender identity, ability, and sexuality. At least 50% of any panel will be comprised of historically marginalized identities.
- Revising the KCACTF mission statement and strategic plan to give greater focus on representation, equity, and diversity.
- Seeking out a representation, equity, and diversity expert to lead the National Committee in strategic planning and implicit bias training.
- Committing to funding the ASPIRE Arts Leadership program on an annual basis.
Each of these endeavors are either currently active or are in the process of completion. This is only the beginning. While we look forward to the next fifty years, we understand that it will take a constant diligence to organizational self-evaluation, an unapologetic commitment to equity, and a greater degree of personal and artistic empathy to ensure that our organization continues to become the more perfect diamond we hope to be. With past now prologue, we will strive for a more equitable future. Our students, all our students, will be the only priority that matters.