Realizing that Studio Players has not yet truly done the work necessary to increase the diversity of our audiences, membership, talent pool, volunteer base, and board, our new Diversity & Inclusion Committee has convened to identify practical and systemic roadblocks to diversifying and to create strategies that will allow us to overcome these challenges through better practices.
We have been partnering with leaders from other diverse organizations to build bridges and begin the work of making our theatre a place where everyone feels not only welcome, but invited.
Many thanks to Alicia Wheavers (Unidentified Stages), Wil & Ghana Hylton (Adinkra House Salon Series), and Maxine Lyle (Soul Steps) for already volunteering their time to help us understand how we can work better to serve and represent all of the communities in Montclair and the surrounding areas. We look forward to future discussions during this time and to building on these and other new exciting partnerships as we begin to return to our various stages in the future.
Detailed Committee Work Summer 2020
Diversity & Inclusion Committee
It is 2020, and (yet again) the summer has been defined by the senseless killing of several BIPOC at the hands of the police. As the issues at the heart of the national (and now world-wide) #BlackLivesMatter movement are again thrust into the headlines, we are forced to look at a lack of diversity and inclusion within our own organization and ask the hard questions. Thus, the board has convened The Diversity & Inclusion Committee to dig deeper, have honest conversations, identify issues, and create strategies to overcome this challenge.
- Elizabeth Quinones (co-chair)
- E. Dale Smith-Gallo (co-chair)
- Danna Boshak
- Laura Byrne Cristiano
- Beatriz Esteban-Messina
- Amy Fox
- Alicia Hayes
- Derek Simmons
- Michael Smith-Gallo
- Kenneth LaBoy Vazquez
- Lonzelle Wilson
Committee Mission Statement:
Realizing that Studio Players has avoided the work necessary to increase the diversity of our audiences, membership, talent pool, volunteer base, and board, The Diversity & Inclusion Committee has convened to identify practical and systemic roadblocks to diversifying and create strategies that will allow us to overcome these challenges through better practices.
Objectives: (The Diversity & Inclusion Committee will…)
- Conduct regular panel discussions with members of our own theatre community and leaders of more diverse arts institutions to learn how to better diversify our organization.
- Work with representatives of diverse local arts organizations to identify issues in messaging and perception that inhibit our desire to diversify.
- Identify ways to partner with these diverse arts organizations in order to build bridges between our organization and the communities that we wish to reach.
- Create strategies—both simple and complex—to increase the diversity of our organization and create a space where all people feel not only welcomed, but invited.
Questions to Address:
While the population of Montclair, NJ, is only 59% white (and just over 32% Black/African-American), and the population of Essex County is even more diverse (roughly 42% white/40% Black/African-American), these numbers are not reflected at any level of our organization. The committee therefore must ask itself:
- How does our current programming prevent us from becoming a more diverse organization?
- What systemic practices do we have in place that inhibit our ability to diversify?
- What are other organizations that have successfully diversified doing that we are not?
- How can we partner with these organizations in order to more successfully reach the communities that they serve?
- What strategies can we adopt now to increase diversity and how can those strategies evolve as we continue to grow?
- We all enter the meetings with the understanding that we are all products of our society and we can all improve on these matters. Mistakes may be made, and we can only grow if we are held accountable for them.
- We all enter the meetings with the intention of “listening to understand” not “listening to respond.”
- To help in this endeavor, all discussions with experts will be conducted by one moderator, and all other members will remain in the room with their cameras and microphones off. At the end of the meetings, a short Q&A session will be held allowing all members to ask follow-up questions if the guest is comfortable with that.
Meetings Held by the Committee:
- June 18, 2020: Initial Committee Meeting. Guidelines were created for all participants and a course moving forward was created.
- July 2, 2020: Panel Discussion. The committee held a panel discussion with six BIPOC that have previously worked with Studio.
- July 9, 2020: New Member Orientation. After the panel discussion, four members of the panel opted to join the committee, thus broadening the voices in the room.
- July 15, 2020: Discussion with Alicia Whavers, Founder of Unidentified Stages in West Orange.
- August 6, 2020: Discussion with Wil & Ghana Hylton, founders of the Adrika House Salon Series in the South End of Montclair.
- August 11, 2020: Discussion with Maxine Lyle, founder of Soul Steps, a step dance company in Newark
- August 20, 20202: Regrouping Session #1 (discussing what we have learned and where to go next.)