Last week, I was delighted to be invited to speak at Arts Connect International’s Arts Equity Summit in Boston, Massachusetts, an initiative bringing together artists and influencers examining equity both in and through the arts. Sam and I were privileged to hear contributions of speakers such as Hyppolite Ntiguirwa, Kaisha Johnson and Marian Brown, executive director of Arts Connect International, alongside sharing the ‘Fireside Keynote Chat’ with Aysha Upchurch, Antonio Cuyler, Kim-Marie Spence and Jennifer Bailey. The summit provided new international connections and an opportunity to discuss how we move beyond representation of culturally diverse communities, to facilitating progression routes and recognition of the work and legacy of pioneers.
Whilst in the states I took the opportunity to visit Lynn Ditchfield in Martha’s Vineyard. Serendipity recently worked with Lynn, contributing a paper for her forthcoming curriculum guidebook on immigration. It was fantastic to hear more about the work Lynn is doing in capturing and sharing the stories and perspectives, ensuring that they have a voice in educational programmes, whilst studying the impact that they have on young people’s education.
On returning to the to the UK, I have reflected on the stories shared by these inspiring artists and activists, and also considered the role that Serendipity’s own work might play in providing a platform for representation and access to opportunities for artists and practitioners.
For example, Urban Jazz Dance Company, will return to Let’s Dance International Frontiers (LDIF) this year with their new work Deaf’s IMPRISONED. The piece will reflect on the treatment of Deaf people in the criminal justice system, who are often denied access to sign language interpreters, have their hearing aids taken away, are denied access to counselling and mental health services and are subjected to physical and psychological abuse, frequently trapped in isolation. It is a call for action that everyone deserves the opportunity to have a voice. The company and their artistic director, Antoine Hunter, are part of the vanguard opening a dialogue around fair treatment, equal access and human rights.
Similarly, Ronald K. Brown/Evidence: A Dance Company’s repertoire for LDIF will feature Come Ye, set to the music of Nina Simone and Fela Kuti, the piece pays tribute to activists and those fighting for their lives, to live in peace. The company themselves striving to ensure the legacy and representation of dance from the African and African Caribbean diaspora on the stage, whilst supporting emerging talent.
These are just two of the many events that will feature as part of LDIF19, and I hope that in the dialogue throughout the Black Dance: A Contemporary Voice, Biography with Brenda Dixon Gottschild and the many performances throughout the festival, we will have the opportunity to consider and action equity.
For myself, equity is about empowerment, providing tailored tools and opportunities that enable individuals and communities access to resources and a voice. It is essential that we give underrepresented communities a voice, grow networks that offer connection and collaboration, whilst celebrating the creativity that comes from bringing diverse perspectives together.