Commitment to Diversity

I commit to promoting diversity in all aspects of my life and work.  One of the stories I love the most about diversity comes from the creation of the Apple computer.  Steve Jobs gathered together a diverse group of people, from all walks of life, all careers, inclusive of race and gender.  This was his mandate -- that the computer be both useful and beautiful.  In order to have something truly functional and beautiful, much diverse opinion and action must go into it.  

 

This metaphor can be extended to all areas of life and work.  For example, when I teach, I've noticed that the more diverse my classroom, the more interesting the discussions. I begin by asking people to examine their own intersectionality. Sometimes people can only come up with one a few categories at first in terms of race, class, gender, and ability. But as they break themselves down, they begin to notice that perhaps they have more intersection than they thought. Intentionally recognizing our own diversity is the beginning of a pathway to deeper understanding and better learning. Now, this is not to say that because someone can say where they land in terms of diversity fixes everything. It doesn't. There's much work to be done and it must be done every single day, every single class, and move toward a fuller understanding and a healing of humanity.

 

In addition, when I choose WHAT to teach, I make certain that I am choosing  diverse material from around the globe and underrepresented voices here where I live.  And when I choose what to MAKE and who to work with, I choose diverse people, diverse material.  Directing gives many choices in this regard and I always want to challenge myself on every front.  I know that there is a crisis of representation in the theatre and media, as well as in writing and technology, and I don't believe this is right.  I believe we all have the right to see and hear many kinds of stories, to see and hear from many kinds of minds.  

 

Growing up and working in West Africa gave me a unique perspective on life and culture.  I want all people to experience and know the vast literatures and performances that exist inside of us and outside of us.  Truly, I believe that if we understood one another better, connected more through art, performance, literature and sharing of these, this world would be a better place.  Because of this belief, I dedicate my life's work to this cause.

 

Courses Taught that Demonstrate Diversity Initiatives

 

  • Performance Studies (engaging students in community projects that promote racial healing)

 

  • Applied Theatre (specifically theatre for social justice focusing on advocacy)

 

  • Ancient and Global History (Indigenous Peoples, African, Asian, South American, Island Peoples)

 

  • Communication and Culture (focusing on race, class, gender and sexual identity)

  • Global Cinema (course in film focusing on introducing film through a range of cultural perspectives)

  • Field Documentary in Ghana (taking students to Ghana to partner with NGO's and create films that explore the issues the NGO is focusing on)

 

Specific Diversity Initiatives in Creative Scholarly Work

 

 

  • Lines explored and continues to explore issues of race and ethnicity in the city of Grand Rapids

 

  • Grains of Hope explored the lives of refugees in West Michigan.  Grand Rapids is the #5 city in the U.S. for refugee resettlement.

 

 

  • Check Your Privilege at Western Michigan University, worked diligently with a diverse group of students to study and create a piece of theatre about issues of diversity and inclusion at the University.

  • ​Intimate Violence at W&L, a film that explores intimate partner violence and its current state in the U.S., interviewing more than 50 diverse individuals about the subject

  • The Violence that Binds Us at W&L, a play that explores the stories of survivors of intimate partner violence with a wide range of diverse voices.

 

Program Development for Creating and Maintaining Diversity

 

  • 20 years of teaching and working with the ENTRADA program at Calvin College

  • Three years of development at Washington and Lee University in the AIM program

 

  • Creation of "ADAPT. theatre that changes" (website coming soon), an equity and educational theatre company dedicated to social justice and diversity.