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Dallas Faces Race (posted 10-16-2013)

As we at the Theater Center have been exploring stories of family, Race and the American Dream from 1959 to today in A Raisin in the Sun and Clybourne Park, other artistic and cultural leaders in Dallas have also come together to examine the state of Race and equity in our city. Why now? What is happening in and about the city that has brought such dedicated focus to wrestling with racial equity? There are obvious reasons, the Treyvon Martin ruling and it’s response by the community within the last year being the most clear, the dramatic polarization of our country being another. But a large part of this conversation is due to a new initiative entitled Dallas Faces Race. Boasting an impressive list of partner organizations, Dallas Faces Race is the beginning of a sustainable forum on race in Dallas. The forum is intended to bring together various organizations to actively build our capacity to address racial equity and create change.

In November of 2014 Dallas will be the first Southern city to host the biennial Facing Race convention managed by the Applied Research Center, whose focus is to build awareness, solutions and leadership for racial justice. To create the most fertile ground for this conference ARC, the Embrey Foundation and the Boone Family Foundation invested in a yearlong lead up of training and resources for our city. I was privileged to attend one such gathering. Lead by Rinku Sen the arts and cultural community spent two days examining the very vital and often tense role race plays in our cultural landscape.

Liz Mikel, Ptosha Storey, Tiffany Hobbs and Bowman Wright in A Raisin in the Sun.
Show photos by Karen Almond
Jacob Stewart, Allison Pistorius, Tiffany Hobbs, Steven Michael Walters and
Sally Nystuen Vahle in Clybourne Park .

As a white woman from a fairly well supported institution in town I was hesitant about my role in the conversation. But within the first hours of the first day found what I knew about the larger themes to be true in these intricate conversations that it takes us all, engaging in open conversations where challenges are called out for what they are, and opportunities are seized as a community to dig deeper into our history and affect change.

For me there were two big takeaways from the conversation – the idea of Choice Points which are decision making opportunities that influence outcomes. This idea that the sum impact of many small choices could be as significant as big decisions really hit home in my own practice. Choice points in Art might be: programming, or curating, who your stakeholders, staff, partnerships and those you seek to network with, or even hours of operation, where you seek funding. 

The other point that struck me as we pushed through the days conversation was the difference between interpersonal racial justice, person to person, and where are these systems in place to promote, either knowingly or not, racial inequity. This conversation was more challenging, and yet elicited powerful responses about the way we as arts and cultural organizations support each other. This conversation prompted action points for the arts and cultural groups present that will unfold over the next year.

This in depth exploration has been made only more evident and rich by the conversations happening at Come Early and Stay Late on these two great plays. As an eternal optimist I believe the city is ripe for a forward moving dialogue on how we can advance equity, especially racial equity within our city. I look forward to seeing this needle move through the two other institutes Dallas Faces Race has planned, with the Education and Funding Communities and I encourage you to check out their site rich with tools to start the dialogue in your own workplace, cultural group or place of worship. Dallas has all the right elements to be the next great American city, and I believe that this conversation could be a catalyst to move us towards the city we’re meant to be.  

– Rachel Hull, DTC Director of Education and Community Enrichment

December 2019
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