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Diversity Agents 20.12.2021

Arlene Tucker: Greetings from Diversity Agent 2.0 course coordinator

Photo of a piece of paper where participants of Diversity Agent 2.0 course have co-created Safer Space Guidelines.
Diversity Agent 2.0 course's co-created Safer Space / Brave Space Guidelines.

It is hard to believe that when we first started the Diversity Agent 2.0 course, we were wearing t-shirts and now I’m wrapped in wool as the ground is covered in snow. A lot of things have happened since mid August - emotionally, mentally and physically. Our group of ten up and coming Diversity Agents have found their way to each other and we are building solidarity and support through our meetings, lectures and workshops. Even though our course happens virtually, I feel that we have successfully created an environment where we can speak deeply, constructively and honestly about racism, our personal histories and our shared hopes for a more equitable society.

In general, we have weekly meetings which take on various forms. As our aim is to connect and widen our perspective and understanding of how to dismantle structural racism and promote equal voices for all, we have reached out to experts in the field within Finland as well as abroad. Ceyda Berk-Söderblom and Sepideh Rahaa gave a lecture on 'From personal cause to collective act’ which was much more conversational and in my opinion had many healing aspects as we could all share our own experiences and why we have chosen to do this kind of advocacy work. Other meetings were much more hands-on and gave us tools on how to work with consent and decision making. For that, we reached out to Jerry Koch-Gonzalez from Sociocracy in the USA. Wisdom shared from Shadia Rask, Laila Mehta, colleagues at Culture for All Service and Globe Art Point have all left a heavy mark on our minds and have given us more impetus and motivation to take action.

The process of strengthening and advancing antiracist tools is embedded in our continuous task to read, listen and exchange knowledge and thoughts. At times, we have felt overwhelmed with all of this information and it relieves me to hear comments such as those from actress and culture worker Paula Folqués Diago, when she said that now all the lectures and articles that were given to her to read are making sense as she prepares the online clinic for an arts or cultural organization with her working partner Lisa Kalkowski, a producer and theatre educator. I agree with Paula, especially with the tight schedule and demanding nature of this kind of work, it can feel unbearingly overwhelming. For that reason, I designed monthly check-in sessions with each participant or working partner to be included in the course. This way, we can really give space and time to hear if one’s needs and expectations have been met. If they need more support, we will find a way for that too. I am extremely grateful that visual artist and Diversity Agent Kemê Pellicer, the Globe Art Point’s supporting artist is by my side in these check-in meetings as well as many other aspects of the course.

One of the most fruitful things about this course so far is that as we discover together, we get to practice and put these new skills to work. For example, on the first day of our course we started writing our ‘Safer Space / Brave Space Guidelines’ together on a shared Google document. From our Sociocracy workshop we could then in a non-hierarchical way decide how the document will be edited and finalized. Theatre manager Irina Duskova and musician Tal Riva Theodorou have bravely and so thoughtfully taken on the challenges of editing a multilayered document of requests on how to create a healthy and positive working group environment. This skill of using consent coupled with my very brief sessions on Nonviolent Communication (NVC) has helped us create a way of speaking clearly, listening actively and acting with intention.

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 antiracist 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. 

There is so much to celebrate and so much to look forward to! We just had a “Pikkujoulu / Hanukkah / Being Together” party at Globe Art Point’s office on Malminkatu 5 in Helsinki. Most of the participants live in the capitol region, but there are a few of us based in Tampere or Joutsa. As COVID restrictions wax and wane, we try to take with precaution the moments we can meet face to face. We have found that even though we have built such a strong virtual family, our rare in person moments only solidify our bond.

Wishing everybody a peaceful transition into 2022!


The text was first published in Culture for All Service's newsletter. Check out more information on subscribing our newsletter in English here, in Swedish here or in Finnish here.

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