INTRODUCING DIVERSITY AGENTS FROM CLASS OF 2022: ARTICLE BY ARLENE TUCKER
As times call for more awareness and more action, it is extremely fitting that the continuation of the Diversity Agent course will run from September 2021 to February 2022. In this current Diversity Agent 2.0 course we have a range of voices, a group of ten diverse artists and cultural workers. The connector is the shared aim of working on an anti-racist agenda.
We have in a short amount of time co-created a safer space, a brafer space where we can talk about hard and uncomfortable issues whilst building on top of the skills we have in our own medium to bring it back to the community. With the help of our guest lectures, workshops, and group meetings we have been able to learn, unlearn, reflect and implement how we would like to make an impact on ending racism and discrimination.
Looking inwards for collective change
A recurring theme that has been coming up in our course is how personal diversity and anti-racism work is. Laila Mehta suggested we start our meeting by asking all the participants, “When did you know you cared about equity and/or diversity? When did you know you wanted to take action?” We use Nonviolent Communication (NVC) developed by Marshall Rosenberg in our course as well as Decolonizing Nonviolent Communication as seen by Meenadchi. In both NVC viewpoints, they set the foundation to being aware of one’s own embodied pain as a catalyst to better understand and empathisize with another’s.
Diversity work is personal, political and takes commitment from individuals and the larger community. Personally, I cannot nor do I want to do this work alone. With that said, I am all the more grateful to have a growing network of Diversity Agents to tackle these issues with. Diversity Agents address a range of challenging and crucial issues such as structural racism, lack of equity and accessibility. As change makers and organizers, Diversity Agents offer ways to reflect, to develop tools and to implement ways we can work towards a more equitable society. For example, Diversity Agents would assist your organization in developing an equality plan or conduct diversity training on how to make your community more inclusive and accessible.
Up-and-coming Diversity Agents
In this second edition of the Diversity Agent course special attention is given to recognizing structural racism, ending discrimination and introducing anti-racist practices. The course encompasses lectures, meetings and a diversity training clinic in collaboration with a local arts and culture organization. Now I proudly present the ten Diversity Agents students in the current Diversity Agent course.
Jaana Denisova – “I am a translator, executive master in EU studies, and cultural producer. I am originally from Kazakhstan, but I had lived most of my life in Russia before relocating to Finland. Here, I have been working with the topics of diversity, equity and inclusion through my contribution to the project “Agents of Change: Mediating Minorities” and to the collective Tampere Intercultural Art. Being a Diversity Agent will help me deepen my knowledge and give me a toolkit to do my part in working towards a change in the status quo –in terms of structures, practices, and attitudes.”
Paula Folqués Diago – “I believe that when you are a Diversity Agent, you are one from the moment you get up in the morning until you go to sleep. I think the cultural field needs more experience working with foreigners and people from under-represented groups. Otherwise, prejudices will prevail and the problem cannot be resolved. Giving people different experiences could help them shed these prejudices. We should help the cultural institutions to find ways to recognize, where their approach to minorities fails and to offer them tools with which to work this issue.”
Irina Duskova – “I’m a theatre manager and producer, originally from Lithuania. Obtaining Diversity Agent skills will help me personally understand my position in Finnish society and worldwide, understand my own privilege within the field of arts and beyond and be more inclusive on the personal level and implement appropriate vocabulary into my daily life. Professionally it will help me develop new opportunities to work in more socially oriented projects, add skills for my existing projects and give me the possibility to enrich my services and bring more value to my clients, therefore bringing more financial opportunities for myself.”
Svenja Fassbender – “Currently I work as cultural producer at Mad House Helsinki and Helsinki Photo Festival. The role of a cultural producer is a multidisciplinary role and I am working with different kinds of people with different backgrounds everyday. Empathy and good social skills are cornerstones of this position. Nevertheless, I too can find myself in situations where I unknowingly and unintentionally offend others (e.g. through making hasty assumptions about the other person). This course would allow me to get a better understanding of other people’s realities and to identify and eliminate possible racist structures and practices in my own way of working, the organizations I’m working for and in daily life.”
Lisa Kalkowski – “I would like to deepen my knowledge and learn new tools. Since I come from a highly privileged position, I see the need for myself to deepen my understanding of what diversity work really means. Even though I have been working with these topics already quite actively during the last years, I would like to prepare myself for being ready to completely transform the work structures I am part of or actively create myself. Also I see this as a great opportunity to share good practice – which means for me also to learn and get inspired as well as hopefully also to give something to the group. Being a diversity agent is in my opinion the most crucial skill to be the best possible culture producer and theatre teacher. I would actually like to be able to actively create structures that focus on diversity from the very beginning, in every project that I lead or contribute to.”
Olesia Kova – “I am a cultural producer from Tatarstan. I am the only person with an immigrant background in our company. I hope being a Diversity Agent will have an impact and influence me to promote cultural diversity not only in our company but in the contemporary art industry in Finland and abroad. To make the arts and culture field anti-racist, fair and open to all we need to have a better introduction to diversity education in schools, free educational material for children and adults, diverse workforce, multicultural and multilingual workforce, travel programmes and exchange programmes, for example. There are thousands of measures that can be taken to make the art field more inclusive, depending on the scale.”
Yunjia Liu – “Along my music journey, I have experienced living in five different countries: China as my home country, Australia, England, Germany and now in Finland. The identity shift from being a native to a foreigner has brought quite some new experience, and each country reflects it in different ways. There have been moments when multicultural environments were so enjoyable, when the world seemed to be so small and people were so tightly connected with each other regardless of how they looked and what language they spoke. However, the experience of being a target of racism in other situations, the process of raising my awareness from unconscious to conscious, to learning how to deal with the situations and fight against them has been a big lesson.”
Adriana Galbiatti Minhoto – “Born in Brazil and living for seven years in Finland, I work as head of communications for a cultural center Ninho ry. I am passionate about heritage culture in childhood and enthusiastic in building a more diverse and inclusive community. My inspiration is to disseminate the importance of heritage culture in childhood for minority communities in Finland. This is because growing a family abroad might lead to the weakening of one’s connection to one’s cultural roots and identity, among other causes, due to racism. By taking the Diversity Agent 2.0 Course, I want to improve my knowledge in the culture sector, as well as in diversity, equality, racism and inclusion, to be able to be a changemaker for these communities.”
Nuura Naboulsi – “Growing up in Finland and navigating the world as a queer kid of one immigrant parent has meant that I have reflected on patterns of inequality from early on. I am constantly looking for ways to develop new tools and practices to do my share in building more equitable realities for minorities. My perspective is based on first hand experience and theoretical understanding, and I would like to be more engaged in practical hands-on development of tools of anti-racism and inclusivity. I am involved in different communities and activities where these practices are sorely needed, and I would like to share the learnt knowledge from this course in those contexts.”
Tal Riva Theodorou – “I am a viola player originally from Israel. I have extensive experience on stage as an orchestra musician and as a chamber music musician. One example of applying my skills would be to have more diversity in orchestral and chamber music repertoire, integrating more compositions from different cultures and countries, unlike the present situation where most of the music played comes from European background. In a situation where I work as an organizer in a festival I would try to influence the diversity of the artists that are taking part in the festival and the compositions that are presented. I would also make sure that the work environment is prejudice-free, by providing information and holding workshops on topics like diversity and anti-racism.”
We eagerly await responses from the organizations we reached out to about conducting online clinics. These diversity clinics will focus mainly on recognizing and tackling discrimination and finding tools to put anti-racist work into action. In the meantime, we will continue with our group work and sharing reflections.
In the new year we will be meeting with Caroline Suinner and Meriam Trabelsi of Ruskeat Tytöt, Koko Hubara as well as Emmi Lahtinen and Marjo Mäenpää of Cupore. As we work in tandem with the different perspectives and time, I know that our upcoming conversations in 2022 will only help shed light on the present as we pave a path towards the future. For a more detailed overview of what has been achieved so far in the Diversity Agent 2.0 course, please go here.
As inspiration to receive what one deserves, I share Ceyda Berk-Söderblom’s words from her speech given at Art, Culture and a Diverse Finland seminar on October 14, 2021. The seminar’s programme was based on the final report of the Working Group for Cultural Policy, Immigrants and Promotion of Cultural Diversity and the follow-up work to the report. The seminar was co-organised by the Ministry of Education and Culture and the Arts Promotion Centre Finland (Taike).
Berk-Söderblom states, “I demand action and accountability from the Ministry of Education and Culture, which with its report encourages all arts and cultural institutions of this country to be more inclusive.
I demand action from everyone to rebuild an arts ecosystem where we all have fair and equal access to the information, resources and opportunities vital to professional fulfillment and full artistic and cultural expression.”
Jaana Denisova also beautifully states with a pact she has made with herself: “I am beyond grateful to be a part of the Diversity Agent 2.0 course. I will take this knowledge and experience with me wherever I go, and do my best to do my part in bringing about a change in the status quo – in terms of structures, attitudes, the way we treat people. It is a long and bumpy road, but we are getting there.”
We invite you to think about what you demand? Why do you demand it and what steps do you suggest for it to come to fruition?
About the course partners
Culture for All Service has partnered with Globe Art Point (G.A.P) to bring the Diversity Agent 2.0 course to a wider audience across Finland. The course is financed by the Ministry of Education and Culture and is coordinated by Culture for All Service, an organization that supports the Finnish art and culture field in issues regarding equity, inclusivity, accessibility and diversity in all its activities and in the recruitment of new staff. Culture for All Service and G.A.P. support people belonging to different minorities, regardless of e. g. gender or gender identity, ethnic background, potential disabilities, religion or age.
Visual artist and Diversity Agent Kemê Pellicer is Globe Art Point’s supporting artist. She has been working with Arlene Tucker to provide the best support possible for the Diversity Agent 2.0 course students.