Posted On Aug 26, 2020, 15:25 PM
Over the past two years, I have served on O-pa’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility (IDEA) committee. When I was recruited to the committee in 2018, I had no idea what I was undertaking. The committee formed in 2017 and I had assumed they wanted my perspective as a Mexican American female. Shortly after joining, it was clear that I needed them more than they needed me.
We have not done the best job at publicly sharing everything that we are doing within our organization that supports IDEA. Our patrons want to know, and while I could sit here and share a list of accomplishments with you, or share our strategic plan, I’d rather do something different.
On behalf of the committee, I’d like to share my internal and personal experience with you.
I attended biweekly committee meetings feeling overwhelmed with new vocabulary, an intense strategic plan and shared stories from colleagues that made me think twice about how much I really “knew” about IDEA principles.
We moved quickly to implement trainings and events. We formed a book club, hosted viewing- parties, lunch and learns, and participated in staff outings relevant to our mission.
Some of our events were informative and fun while others were emotionally taxing. The work that we are doing is not comfortable or easy. It requires vulnerability, trust and the will to learn.
Local and national professionals visited the Holland Performing Arts Center to facilitate trainings required for our staff and volunteers. The results were measured by surveys, but nothing spoke louder than the real-time aha moments.
During the training with Keisha Johnson of Women of Color in the Arts, the following thought dawned on me:
If I get pulled over, I’ll grab the paperwork out of my console, maybe I will get a ticket, and then I’ll be on my way. I don’t have to fear for my life because of the color of my skin.
When discussing the results of our accessibility audit, I thought:
When I attend a show at the Holland or Orpheum Theater, I never think twice about parking, walking to the venue, or finding a seat where I can see the ASL interpreters.
During the ally training with Inclusive Communities, I wondered:
How many times have I referred to someone as “she” or “he” and unintentionally offended them?
Like I said, I needed the committee more than they needed me.
I remember watching the documentary “Out of Omaha” on a weekday evening with coworkers. The discussion that followed was heavy but necessary.
The time we went to Joslyn Art Museum to visit their traveling exhibit 30 Americans; the room with the noose was so eerily quiet.
The day we visited The Durham Museum and explored RACE: Are We So Different?” I flipped through the pages of a children’s book that celebrated skin color, thinking every child needs to read this book.
The lunch where I learned that nearly every machine in my house was invented by a Black person.
The tears that I shed at home watching “American Son” on Netflix because I knew I needed to watch it privately instead of with the staff.
So, to our patrons asking, we’ve been hard at work. We recognize and respect the importance of IDEA principles. It is part of our work every day.
While I am proud to serve on the IDEA committee, I am even more proud of the inclusive, safe community that we have built within our workplace. We know that we have a tremendous amount of work to do, and we are a community dedicated to making it happen.
Thanks for reading and allowing me to share my personal experience with you. To learn more about O-pa's commitment to an inclusive workplace, and to stay up to date on our initiatives, visit our IDEA page here: https://o-pa.org/about-us/idea
. Come back for the next blog which will be posted monthly.