Friday, June 10, 2016


I love words.   They are powerful and personal.  They can create connections and community; and they can disrupt, disturb and deface.

Here are some words: equity, diversity, access, inclusion, social justice.*

In the arts and culture sector these words are trending hard these days.  A quick twitter search for #equity#artsequity, etc. is humongous.

That’s great.  People are really talking about big, tough issues.  People want the world to be better.  People will do the necessary and hard work to activate these words.  I hope.

The more we use these words though, the more they lose their power.

I was at a community forum recently and a brave/stupid soul asked the large group, “What do you mean by ‘equity’?”The entire room was gobsmacked (gob-smakt; adjective, Chiefly British Informal; utterly astounded; astonished)

For many of us, it’s hard to talk about these words and what they mean.  We are afraid of getting it wrong, of feeling stupid, of offending someone.  And on top of these fears, for many of us, the word equity has become a buzzword. It’s everywhere.

In part because we all have so much work to do.

In part because there’s a lot of money on the table right now for equity and diversity work.  And we all need some money to do the work we want to do.

To be transparent, The Field is right there too.  Doing the work, launching some programs, trying to get some money for the work we are doing.  Our very own Field Leadership Fund is building the skills, resources and power of a group of 12 amazingly ambitious next generation arts leaders.
(Watch out world.  They are in it to win it.)

In my gut though, The Field knows that these words, equity, diversity, access, inclusion and social justice have deep meaning and that the work to achieve them is long-term, it’s intentional and thorough and conscious.

The words are real and the work is real and hard. It is changing us.  And it will change you.
Join us in activating the words.  This July The Field is thrilled to co-sponsor the Undoing Racism workshop for artists and cultural workers.  This is a powerful workshop that focuses on what racism is, its history and how we can un-do it.  This knowledge builds our language muscles, builds our vocabulary, and builds our activism muscles. We believe that it is a vital opportunity to learn how to activate ourselves for the vital work of justice in the arts. (Join us at Undoing Racism here in July).

-- By Jennifer Wright Cook, Executive Director of The Field

* from Merriam Webster

  • equity: noun, eq·ui·ty \ˈe-kwə-tē\ fairness or justice in the way people are treated 
  • diversity: noun, di·ver·si·ty \də-ˈvər-sə-tē, dī-\ : the quality or state of having many different forms, types, ideas, etc.; the state of having people who are different races or who have different cultures in a group or organization 
  • access: noun ac·cess \ˈak-ˌses also ik-ˈses\ a way of getting near, at, or to something or someone; way of being able to use or get something ; permission or the right to enter, get near, or make use of something or to have contact with someone.
  • inclusion: noun in·clu·sion \in-ˈklü-zhən\  the act of including; the state of being included; a relation between two classes that exists when all members of the first are also members of the second; the act or practice of including students with disabilities in regular school classes
  • social justice.*a definition of this was not available in the free version of Merriam Webster online.  
Wikipedia had this to say.  Social justice is the fair and just relation between the individual and society. This is measured by the explicit and tacit terms for the distribution of wealth, opportunities for personal activity and social privileges… In the current global grassroots movements for social justice, the emphasis has been on the breaking of barriers for social mobility, the creation of safety nets and economic justice.”  [excerpt]

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