Last week I joined 500 dancers, presenters, service organizations, agents and dance companies at Dance/USA’s 2103 annual conference in Philadelphia, PA. In addition to conducting two racial equity trainings and providing on-site consultation to service groups and professionals, I was treated to fantastic performances from the Lady Hoofers, Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers, PHILADANCO and several other Philadelphia dance companies. But I have to admit that for me, the highlight was the opportunity to engage artists and others involved in the dance community on the issue of race. One participant, Merian Soto, agreed to share the insights from her experience with the Racial Equity training below.
I wanted to thank you for your extraordinary Racial Equity Training workshop. The workshop and workshop materials are designed very effectively to insure full participation as well as sharing a wealth of information concerning the insidious nature of racism, It’s micro and macro manifestations, history, strategies for achieving racial justice, and imagining a future without racism. Tammy Johnson is an excellent workshop leader with clear command of her materials. Her calm and non- judgmental attitude and clear statement of goals and ground rules for the workshop allow for participants to discover their own truths within, to take personal responsibility.
The workshop impacted me on various levels. I was surprised at how for a good many of the participants the information was new. It is important for the privileged to be aware of the insidious nature of racism and to remain vigilant and proactive in recognizing it and taking action to effect change. I loved Tammy’s emphasis on outcomes. Good intentions are fine but it’s the outcomes that really matter.
I learned a lot as an educator from the way the workshop was structured. Having us speak of our individual identities created a space for reflection on our highest/most truthful aspirations and sense of identity.The exercises built a sense of community. Also, I very much appreciated all the class materials.
Ms Johnson’s racism timeline that highlights its effects on dance is a powerful bit of research that should be more widely available.
From the very beginning, and at various points in the workshop, participants experienced aha! moments. At the end of the workshop many of us expressed a desire for more workshops of this nature. Actually, we spoke about longer workshops, perhaps a day-long workshop or weekend workshop. I certainly am interested in continuing to engage with this work.
Once again, thank you for your powerful work and generosity of spirit.
Artistic Director, Merian Soto Performance Practice
Professor, Temple University, Esther Boyer College of Music & Dance