Occasionally, literal life-threatening chaos intervenes (you all know).
When it doesn’t, I make it a point of honor not to miss the nearly-annual Social Media Weekend conference, curated by Professors Linda Bernstein and Liz Borod Wright and hosted, chaired, and originated by Sree Sreenivasan, most recently chief digital officer at Columbia University and currently Chief Digital Officer at the Metropolitan Museum (their first ever).
I’ve dubbed the conference MCLE for self (Mandatory Continuing Life Education) not only because world-beating innovations are consistently introduced on the absolute bleeding-edge intersection of technology and global communication – which has evolved in the 21st century to a near-mandatory skillset, let’s not play – but also because such an atmosphere fires momentum to carry critical conversations further forward than you’d have ever originally thought they could surge.
That happened for me personally when a brief convo with the conference’s penultimate speaker – @ReignOfApril, originator of #OscarsSoWhite, whose powerful message that people are seriously – finally - paying full attention to what she started is manifest in the diverse brilliance the Tonys celebrate this weekend – inspired me to find a “next level” of purpose for #RepresentationMatters, which you all know I first tried to use to highlight what the patterns of discrimination via implicit bias look like in real life.
(When Sree high-fives your hashtag after you’ve reframed it, you run with it. Seriously, I think the man is at least a half-century ahead of the rest of us.)
April gave full credit to the activists on whose shoulders she felt she stood (we all know them, those of us fully cognizant of this issue’s urgency) —
RT @RoseHorowitz31: “I stand on the shoulders of Viola Davis, Harry Belafonte,” says @ReignOfApril. Reach people in new ways #socialmedia
while at the same time being careful to emphasize that “diversity” encompasses not only a black-white binary or even just inclusion issues centered on race/ethnicity (‘cause we’ve had that conversation before, if you all know what I’m talking about, and I think you do), but mandates a discussion about ability and disability and differences in orientation as well – basically, the inclusion of ALL people struggling & suffering as a result of the disproportionate representation of “mainstream” culture to the exclusion and marginalization of everyone else.
RT @VianeyAlderete @CarinZissis “I have kids. I want them to be able to see themselves reflected on screen.”
RT @NoBadLanguage “ Everybody should be able to see themselves reflected onscreen.”
When a nakedly obvious dearth of diverse talent is sharply observed in a given field, a frequent attempt at diverting (ha) a spate of objections frequently centers around a perceived lack of available talent – which ought to make anybody looking at this year’s spate of Tony nominations laugh, just to highlight one example.
To the oft-offered “We can’t find anyone qualified” objection, the resounding (and roundly repeated) response is “How hard did you look?”
RT@meela_suleiman: Here. For anyone who said #OscarsSoWhite was only b/c there aren’t any ppl of color to choose from.
RT @BeaFrey: .@TheAcademy is 90% white & 70% male, and majority doesn’t watch all films they vote on.”
RT @smwknd: “One time you can explain it away as a fluke; two times, it’s a pattern.” @ReignOfApril on #OscarsSoWhite | #smwknd
And – again – that riposte does not come only from the creative (read: visual representative media) community:
And April maintains she’ll keep on saying it as long as it needs to be said:
@NoBadLanguage #OscarsSoWhite is going to be an issue until it’s no longer an issue @ReignOfApril #smwknd
There are numerous theories as to why lack of inclusiveness in ALL professional and life areas, not just the most visually representative of media, even remains a continuing problematic conversation in a given culture, let alone an ongoing struggle verging at times on the near-Titanic. Some of those theories aren’t pretty.
Other relevant conversations are subtle and instructive, offering concrete frames for resolution like “inclusion” – and well do we know the extent to which framing also matters - versus more abstract concepts like “diversity”, which, by virtue of their comparative lack of concreteness, make them vulnerable to derails like “But … we don’t understand what you want us to dooooo” (we’ve all heard that one at least once).
It’s an axiomatic challenge to promote good news instead of bad; we all understand the latter statistically travels faster and hits harder (at least at first).
I’m inspired to give this a try, though – all of you who know me know I was going to Pollyanna it, LOL - since in some spaces it feels like even though near-Sisyphean challenges are discussed, the primary energy is to generate potential solutions around them as opposed to be utterly defeated by them. This felt – still feels - like that.
Es una conversación de la inclusión. Miro adelante a nuestro movimiento hacia adelante.
C’est une conversation de l’inclusion; je me réjouis de notre aller de l’avant.
We move forward.