Monday, February 28, 2011

Bmore Inclusive

Last Monday, nearly 30 people gathered in the offices of the Baltimore Community Foundation to talk about issues of race and inclusiveness and how they pertain to Baltimore's emerging arts, culture, and tech sectors. The conversation was a follow up to a session at January's Create Baltimore event.

Attendees were mostly in their 20s and 30s, and included visual artists, theater folks, business consultants, community organizers, tech gurus, bloggers, cultural institution representatives, activists, and even a poet or two. The discussion was lively, informative, and thought-provoking, and participants seemed eager for it to continue on an ongoing basis.

I'm working on drafting more comprehensive notes, but in the meantime, here are some of the main takeaways from our conversation.

There was consensus that:
  • There are many different types of diversity.

  • The dynamics of race are extremely important in Baltimore, but are too often not talked about.

  • Baltimore's arts/culture/tech landscape - including established institutions as well as emerging, DIY efforts - tend not to reflect the diverse makeup of our community.

  • This does not mean that there is any lack of art, culture, or ideas being created by people of color in Baltimore.

  • Individuals, institutions, and the community at large can benefit from a more inclusive approach to generating ideas, collaborating on initiatives and events, and co-creating projects, as well as engaging new audiences/supporters.

  • If an organization wants to be more inclusive, it must be intentional - i.e., ask itself why it wants to do diversify, what sort of diversity it seeks, how it will benefit, and what it risks by doing so.

  • Being committed to inclusiveness involves a willingness to step out of one's comfort zone, e.g. going to a type of event or a part of town where one might not usually go.

  • A big reason that people don't step out of their comfort zones is because they're unaware of events, performances, and opportunities outside their social sphere.

  • Communication through in-person and online social networks offers an effective way of spreading the word about events, performances, and other opportunities.

  • The Station North Arts District is considered a "neutral space" where artists, creators, and consumers of different backgrounds can meet and collaborate.
Attendees expressed a desire to continue this conversation, possibly through a regular roundtable series hosted by Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance, in partnership with BCF and/or others.

Some participants highlighted interesting events and projects, including (in no particular order):
Roots Fest 2011
Amplify Baltimore
Baltimore Heritage & The Reginald F. Lewis Museum: Preserving Baltimore's Civil Rights Heritage
Talking About Race Series
The BackList
Guardian: The Urban Social Dance Preservation Project

Want to be part of the conversation? Leave a comment.