For more than 50 years, the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival has been a place for students and faculty from hundreds of colleges and universities to join together in celebrating, encouraging, and recognizing the artistic work of the next generation of theatre makers: our students.
Seeing flaws in our structure and missed opportunities for growth as we reached the half-century mark, KCACTF decided to prioritize accessibility, equity, representation, and diversity for the benefit of all our students and faculty. We began by reflecting on the areas that needed rethinking, and held regional and national discussions about how to ensure that our organization could better reflect the rich mosaic of the world in which we live and wish to serve as educators. We began under an initiative originally called Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI), and later recommitted to this vital work under a new name: Representation, Equity, and Diversity (RED).
In order to seek change, we must scrutinize our current systems, structures, and objectives, including examining the words we use to describe our actions. Why are the words Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion so often arranged in that order? What do they mean, and how do we support these ideals? Under this examination, the word “inclusion” was deconstructed. Inclusion implies that someone is being “let in”. To need to be included, you are seen as Other. What word implies belonging? That word is “representation.” By stating our intention to create representation, we are committing to accurately reflecting the whole constituency we serve.
E Pluribus Unum: out of many, one. Though this is the essence of our greater ideals in this country, we do not always live up to them. The fierce urgency for our organization to model these ideals is now magnified. We are the artist-educators training the next generation of storytellers in an era of cataclysmic divisiveness. We must ensure that every storyteller and every story will have uninhibited access to being heard, supported, celebrated, and recognized within KCACTF. We must practice equity with intentionality, ensuring access for all and not just access for enough. We must unequivocally state and demonstrate that the rights of any individual or a group are neither more nor less important than the rights of another. We will be a levee, standing as a counter force to the rising tide of sexism, ageism, genderism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, classism, xenophobia, racism, segregation, colonialism, and white supremacy in this country. With equity, we will seek to practice justice.
We recognize that this work will not be completed quickly; that change and growth are slow processes which do not always move forward. We recognize that some changes require resources to implement that may not immediately be available, but that we will make finding and securing those resources a priority. We further recognize that there are still many individuals who do not understand or support our purpose, but we will not be deterred from our work.
The following are the first goals we set to create equity towards the entire spectrum of diversity in our organization. Each of these endeavors are either currently active or are in the process of completion:
- The Establishment of RED Coordinators in every KCACTF region
- The Establishment of a National RED Coordinator as a member of the National Executive Committee
- Standardizing and publicizing the pathways to regional and national leadership.
- Assembling the selection, scholarship, and award panels at Regional and National festivals that will create equitable representation of race, gender, gender identity, ability, and sexuality. At least 50% of any panel will be comprised of historically marginalized identities.
- Revising the KCACTF mission statement and strategic plan to give greater focus on representation, equity, and diversity.
- Seeking out a representation, equity, and diversity expert to lead the National Committee in strategic planning and implicit bias training.
- Committing to funding the ASPIRE Arts Leadership program on an annual basis.
This is only the beginning. As we look forward to the next fifty years, we understand that it will require constant diligence to organizational self-evaluation, an unapologetic commitment to equity, and a greater degree of personal and artistic empathy to ensure that our organization continues to become the more perfect diamond we hope to be.
Working together, we will continue to strive for a more equitable future.
Jenna Lourenco [email protected]
Jessica Barkl [email protected]
Region 1 Chairs of Representation, Equity & Diversity (RED)