Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Reclaiming, Redefining and Reconciling Our Identity Through Art by Kimani Fowlin

In our work and in our living, we must recognize that difference is a reason for celebration and growth, rather than a reason for destruction. It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences. ⁃ Audre Lorde

Audre Lorde reminds us of how important it is to embrace difference and celebrate it in our humanity and through our art. In this surreal moment in time where there is so much divisiveness and fear mongering it is essential to embrace and honor difference, which may offer new perspectives within the artistic arena.

We must create artistic space for true diversity that demonstrates the spectrum of new voices in our network of artists. Programs like the Field Leadership Fund (FLF) are opening up doors to allow for more artistic, racial and gender diversity by funding a wider array of under-resourced and marginalized artists who are continually excluded from urban art scenes. FLF provides resources and professional development opportunities for these artists. Now more than ever, in this dysfunctional, social and political climate, it is urgent these doors remain open. We must not allow this flawed system to lock many of us out.

We must envision an equitable arts community that we want to create. We must believe, act and refuse to be silent. If we don’t take a stand and demand equal artistic rights, space and appropriate compensation, then we might find ourselves indefinitely stuck in the same perpetual pattern. To quote Audre Lorde once again, Your silence will not protect you. So let’s voice the disparity and inequality in our field and become empowered by this declaration.

It seems like every season we have the hot new buzzword: right now it happens to be Equity. Unfortunately, there are organizations that take advantage of and benefit from this word for funding purposes, but do not further equity in the community. That's why it is crucial that we have programs like FLF that work to diversify the communities that have access to artistic wealth. FLF is creating a platform for diverse artists and, honestly, it’s long past overdue. As an FLF Advisory Council Member, I am proud to be a part of this movement toward a more equitable arts sector.

Our efforts are not without their fair share of adjustments and reassessments. A great strength of FLF is our coalition of diversified artists. They are spearheading this campaign in guiding the programs to serve artists who have been excluded from the funding conversation. We are creating the space needed to become more inclusive within the art world. For this first run of FLF we are supporting twelve talented emerging artists to overcome barriers and share their work to take their rightful place in the artistic community. We have just begun to crack the code of equity and learn to change the course for the future. With the lessons learned from this first cohort we want to continue to support artists and create a more equitable permanent arts scene that we envision.

Kimani Fowlin is an internationally recognized dancer, choreographer and educator. Kimani is an assistant professor of dance at Drew University. Work abroad includes performing and teaching in Russia as part of the Fifth International Festival of Movement and Dance on the Volga; performing in Ghana for Panafest; and choreographing and performing in Greece with funk R&B band Milo Z. Kimani is dedicated to creating art with a purpose -- social justice is at the core of her dance making.  To serve the youngest among us, she is co-founder of Boom!Beep!Bop! (A children’s dance class rooted in the African Diaspora).  She has collaborated with author, activist Renee Watson; playwright Nina Angela Mercer; international visual artist Justin Randolph Thompson; National Black Theatre artistic director, Jonathan McCroy; and LMA specialist Frederick Curry. She has also performed and/or choreographed for Ronald K. Brown, David Rousseve, Adia Whitaker, Youssouf Koumbassa, Andrea E. Woods, Harambee Dance Company, Antibalis. Kimani received her MFA from the University of Wisconsin.  She has been on the Mason Gross Dance faculty at Rutgers University for over eighteen years, and teaches dance residencies throughout New York City for BAM, DreamYard Project and Community Works. She also serves as an advisory council member for the Field Leadership Fund (FLF) in NYC Kimani shares Field Leadership Fund's core principle "that advancements in diversity among leadership will lead to a more equitable arts sector in New York City and beyond." 

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