By Anon, Jun 9 2015 01:28PM
DWord was billed as 'new possibilities for cultural diversity'. Not totally sure what it meant, but I was hooked.
As for the day itself, I was impressed by the planning, seamless, well organised delivery of this event. This was a charming get together of nice, smart arts folk, people with a genuine desire to see a more equitable arts sector. Plus lunch was provided by LEON, purveyors of trendy ‘naturally fast food’ and throughout the day there were copious amount of green tea, chocolate biscuits and cakes. What was not to like?
TED style format (15 minutes per speaker) and speaker-led discussion groups were a welcome alternative to the hackneyed and uninspiring diversity themed events of what seems like the past 100 years. The combined experience and backgrounds of the guest speakers were an excellent means to ensure that my dreaded but customary afternoon desire to fall asleep at events like these was nowhere in sight.
'Honesty' (e.g. speaking frankly) was highlighted as an important theme of the day. And true to this sentiment an early speaker revealed a fundamental dislike of the ‘D’ (i.e. diversity word). In doing so the speaker cited many dreadful and depressing consequences caused by this ubiquitous word, followed by a heartfelt desire to have it removed from the lexicon of arts speak.
So I reminded myself not everybody thought the D word was a heinous construct
Roger Wilkins, American Civil Rights Leader and Professor of History believes ‘
‘We have no hope of solving our problems without harnessing the diversity, the energy, and creativity of all our people’
Desmond Tutu is of the view that
‘We inhabit a universe that is characterized by diversity’.
Maya Angelou instructed
‘It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength’.
Further in the spirit of honesty, regret was expressed at the fact that a number of senior professionals from the arts sector who it was hoped would attend had not. These non-attenders were described as 'gate-keepers' and 'good people'. Apparently when these good gate keeping people were asked why they would not attend responses suggested they feared being harangued for their record on diversity, and therefore would not take the risk of attending. We were not told who the ‘good people’ were so I cannot comment on their record on diversity. Nevertheless, I am not as disappointed in their failure to attend or sympathetic to their stance. Diversity and discussions this subject prompts will always involve a degree of challenging, possibly some uncomfortableness and usually disagreement. Those are the rules. However, it's not like these people are being asked to discuss diversity every day of their working lives. Therefore, to be asked to take part in day covering a subject of fairness, equality and inclusivity at such a well organised day with such lovely, smart people would hardly have been such a terrible thing. Furthermore, should one feel disappointed if these people do not want to come? If they do not want to engage openly in the conversation it will continue without them. I cannot think of one person whose presence is essential to bring about the changes being universal sought through diversity. These issues are important and relevant whether good gatekeeping people are in the room or not.
I was left thinking about the comment made by American business leader Max De Pree that comes to me when I convince myself something is not worth my efforts. He writes,
“Sometimes we think we're a little too gifted to show up, you know. But none of us truly is...By avoiding risk we really risk what's most important in life---reaching toward growth, our potential, and a true contribution to a common good.”