Photo Credit: Nicole Washington
June 5, 2022–I am celebrating my birthday today and joyfully welcoming another year around the sun by expressing gratitude:
For my beautiful and talented daughter, whom I love and cherish.
For my family, for their love, support, and encouragement.
For my friends. You all know who you are. You are all precious and so important to me.
For my Buddhist practice. It has enabled me to live a life of joy, determination and purpose.
For the talented team with whom I work. Your tremendous efforts are having a transformative impact on expanding access to the arts.
For the clients who have entrusted me to help manifest their vision. Thank you for paving the way.
For the students that I have the honor to teach. Your enthusiasm and desire to learn fuel my study and growth as a professor.
For the readers of Arts & Culture Connections. Thank you for your words of encouragement and the inspiration that have kept me writing weekly for five years.
I also have had the awe-inspiring opportunity to witness the continued professional growth of the arts administrators I mentor. I have watched from the sidelines as they have magnified and expanded what it means to be a Champion for the Arts.
Most important, I am grateful to have absolute conviction about my life’s mission as a Champion for the Arts: To help build anti-racist arts organizations and cultural institutions that have belonging, equity, diversity and inclusion as the bedrock of everything they do.
There is no denying that our nation continues to wrestle with racial, social, environmental, economic, and cultural issues; many of which are at critical junctures. But Champions for the Arts are undaunted. We have witnessed and experienced the life-changing power of having access to the arts. Consequently, we see these challenges as the gateway to a new era that values and promotes equality, inclusion, belonging and respect for the dignity of all people.
My birthday wish, as well as my vision for the future, is that anti-racist arts institutions and their administrators will become role models not only for the arts, but also for their counterparts in education, public service, business, and healthcare institutions.
My second birthday wish is that each of you will discover or renew your mission as Champions for the Arts to push open the gates to our envisioned (and hoped for) future.
There will always be barriers; reasons to avoid the honesty, pain and struggle this new era demands. There will be naysayers who only see “impossible.” And there will be doubters about decisions, the impact, the effects, and the costs. Please don’t allow the challenges along your chosen path to deter or defeat you.
The world is depending on us, especially our youth, to be warriors willing to muster the wisdom, strength, fortitude and conviction to pry open the gates to an equitable, inclusive, just, humane, and compassionate future that honors and respects the inherent dignity of all.