Project Authors: Jaida Dent, Ricky Costas-Hernandez, Mashiat Sultana, Robert Saffioti, Lauren Abadi
Diversity is critical to society. Diversity promotes the varied expression of diverse thoughts, facilitates powerful inter-cultural connections, and advances a more globalized, inclusive culture.
The battle for diversity has been raging for hundreds of years. People have gone from explicitly separated by the means of race to entirely integrated. In New York City for example, one can look around and see people of all races and ethnicities, proudly displaying their heritage.
A very important part of the American identity is people’s heritage. Although we are all Americans, our background truly matters. America is a country that was constructed by people of all colors- even when they were intensely divided. America was built on slave labor, and the labor of people from other countries. As a result of this, it would be foolish to exclude anyone from the American dream, due to the large number of people that contributed to the creation and proliferation of it.
In our project we explore the true meaning of diversity through an artistic lens. We studied inspirational artists such as Viktor Timofee, Nellie Mae Rowe, Louis Fratino, The Alphabet Rockers, and Madonna.
Through our exposure to this art we were reminded of the importance of diverse artists. Diverse artists create unique art that builds upon struggles faced by the groups these artists represent. In the exposure of all forms of art, all people’s stories can be told.
As a result of this, we learned of the power that art has in conflict resolution. Art is unparalleled in creating a message, as it forces the observer to consider its perspective wholeheartedly. In the appreciation of art, one can often come to a powerful conclusion- often perfectly understanding the artist’s purpose for the art. This is a powerful tool in the pursuit of diversity. We must seek to spread the plethora of diversity that is present in NYC to all parts of the world. Even places as close as Long Island and Staten Island are much less diverse than New York City, which exemplifies the lack of diversity present in places just minutes away.
In our presentation, we seek to represent the long struggle for diversity. Our three collages represent the beginning, middle and end of this very struggle. In our collages we presented art that we created in a Theater Image Workshop to convey three important themes to our work- Division, Protest, Unity.
Throughout our presentation we stress the idea that exposure to diverse art is critical in the pursuit of global diversity- as a means of spreading the message of the unparalleled importance of diversity.
The first part of the problem of diversity is separation. People of different cultural or societal upbringings are all apart from one another. Everyone seems to be non-accepting towards each other, and everyone is divided, and ultimately, society is fragmented because the people in it are fragmented, and for what? A divided society is much like fragmented glass: shattered, cracked, and ultimately doesn’t function well, all because of the people separated and unwilling to work with one another, all due to simple outside appearances. In the first image from the Theater Image Workshop, we represented the idea of division by placing ourselves spaced apart, two people in front and two people in the back. Moreover, we represented the divisive nature of this by presenting ourselves completely devoid of emotion, representing the complete lack of connection that separation promotes.
In order to reach a sense of community, there must be a willingness to fight and protest for a world that better resembles unity and inclusion than what we see today. In David LaMotte’s TedTalk titled, “Music Can Help Us Understand Peace and Conflict,” he states, “Peacemaking is not an effort to eliminate conflict, peacemaking is the art of approaching conflict in ways that are constructive rather than destructive.” He further elaborates that conflict is necessary in the journey to justice, as common emotions that are associated with the divided world we live in today (rage, despair, passion) can only be channeled through protest. In many instances revolving around injustice and hatred, such as the murder of innocent Black Americans by police, or the overruling of Roe v. Wade, which threatened the lives of women throughout the country, the aftermath of such events spurred the protests of people across the nation. However, many protests (particularly those in the name of Black Lives Matter), were immediately labeled as “riots” or “problematic,” for fighting against those who systematically abuse their power and domain. Yet, throughout history, protests have proven to be extremely successful in carrying the people’s voice and power across time and space to establish the rights of those who are disadvantaged. We symbolized the significance of protest and conflict by lining up in an arrangement of two people standing forward, and two people standing in the back. The two people situated in the front are standing with their fists in the air, depicting protestors in the fight for change. The two people in the back are standing with their hands covering their faces, bystanders who are in shock of the situation that surrounds them. By acting as both the protestor and the bystander, we are representing the protest that is necessary to enact meaningful change. Conflict must not be eradicated as a means of achieving inclusion, as it is a means for the people to reclaim their voice and power from those who have stolen it from them for centuries.
In our final collage, we included the works of Nellie Mae Rowe (born in 1900), a Black artist who came to be known for her depictions of Black femininity and womanhood in the post-civil rights era of America. Artists like Nellie Mae Rowe are crucial to include in discussions regarding diversity and inclusivity, as her view of the world as a Black woman in America deserves to be highlighted. Intersectionality, the intersection of various aspects of a person’s identity, is something heavily explored by Rowe and other artists, plays a critical role in diversity and inclusion. We also included the works of Louis Fratino, who produced art to capture his experience as a gay man. In order to symbolize the ideal image of diversity and inclusion, we captured an image that presented ourselves in a circle, fully smiling, to resemble unity and connection. As opposed to our first image, we display genuine happiness on our faces, with interlocked arms, highlighting the deep connection that diversity promotes.
Link to a Spotify playlist of songs that showcase this topic: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/691zV77KnQ76jB0A2Un7uA?si=9272d4082e864715
Music has been used as a tool in sharing the message of diversity, inclusion, and unity. As such, we have compiled a Spotify playlist of 15 songs that we feel touches on the importance of diversity. The playlist includes songs such as “Questions” by the Alphabet Rockers and “Feeling Good” by Nina Simone to capture the essence of the issue of division and separation today, along with the significance of diversity.
Link to a Youtube video of Voguing for BLM as seen in the final collage: https://youtu.be/NQIQcuW9Vqk
Dance is also a crucial tool in examining and promoting meaningful change. For example, Voguing was a form of dance that started in the 1960s, but gained more prominence in the 1980s from the ballroom scene in Harlem, New York City. Voguing performances were predominantly performed by African American and Latino LGBTQ people. Additionally, “Balls” were a safe space for people and “Voguing” was a way for Black and brown queer people to express themselves. This video showcases individuals performing vogue while spreading the message of Black Lives Matter. Vogue is also heavily seen in mainstream Culture, such as Madonna’s songs “Vogue,” “Paris is Burning,” “Pose,” and “Legendary”.
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