Post image for Creating the Space

(Photo by Michal Daniel of the Intergenerational Leaders of Color Meeting at the 2013 TCG National Conference: Learn Do Teach in Dallas.) 

As we move closer to the National Conference in San Diego (four week countdown!), we’ve been working on ways to expand our framework of how groups come together based on similar interests outside of our 60+breakouts, plenary sessions, trend workshops, parties, and special events like our BASETRACK performance and town hall with military families.

We think affinity groups are important ways for people to connect, wrestle over similar challenges, and share best practices, especially as the size of our Conference grows .

So, we’ve listened to the overwhelming feedback, and we are bringing back our affinity groups based on title or role in the theatre (over 25 different roles!).  In addition, we are expanding our notion of affinity beyond professional role, and looking at personal identity through multiple lenses.

As we dive deeper into our own analysis of identity at TCG, we have begun to look at personal identity and equity through the following eight areas: age, ability, class, gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, spirituality/religion and nation of origin. We recognize that there are more ways to define ourselves. This a starting place and we recognize that all of these are interconnected and cannot necessarily stand alone. (You’ll also hear more at the Conference about our evolving survey platform REPRESENT that will measure the diversity of our field through the lens of these eight areas.)

So, this year in San Diego, we’ll be holding Identity Affinity Groups based on how attendees self-identify in the areas of gender, ability, sexual orientation, and race/ethnicity. We see these affinity groups as opportunities for networking, peer-connection and mobilization to dismantle inequities and structural barriers in our theatre field and larger culture. These groups can be as broad or specific as needed; examples include affinity groups for women administrators, trans* theatre people or Native American or First Nation attendees.  To propose an Identity Affinity Group, fill out this short form.

These Identify Affinity Groups honor the times of years past where people of color carved out time on their own and found spaces for themselves under a tree at the conference. TCG wants to actually create that space, in a room, and not in the middle of a plenary or breakout session, but intentional space for people to meet; and we want to expand those opportunities beyond race and ethnicity . In addition, on the last day of the Conference we’re encouraging all of the many Identity Affinity Groups to come together to check in with each other and share highlights.

When sharing this framework with colleagues in the field, the first response we get is usually one of strong support. The second is a series of question along the lines of: Where do white people go during the race and ethnicity sessions? Should cis-men assemble their own group during the gender sessions?

I’m invigorated by these questions because a huge part of our work to achieve equity is recognizing that all of us need space to examine our own biases and perspectives before we come together to create a healthy environment where every voice is heard. We need allies in this work and those conversations and rooms are just as critical to advancing diversity, inclusion and equity.

Therefore by the very nature of this work, allies also have space to meet. I am reminded of the League of Resident Theatres (LORT) meeting this month, where presenters from the Racial Justice Institute shared how we should all be aware of unconscious bias. They gave an analogy regarding a fish: If you’re a fish, you don’t have to think about the water, because it’s always worked for you. Giving space for allies to wrestle with their own biases—to become aware of the water—is essential, and we encourage allies across the four areas of identity to propose an allies session.

We want to create a space where all of us can look at our identities, acknowledge our own areas of difference, and ask questions of each other. What does it mean to be a black woman in theatre? What does it mean to be a white male ally combating racism? Gather with your peers to network and mobilize, because as theatre people, we know the magic that’s possible when the right people are in a room together!

You can view the affinity schedule here, and make an Identity Affinity Group proposal here.

Once you’ve made your proposal, we’ll help you clarify goals, identify facilitators and publicize your session, as needed. We’re here to support your group, but trust you to lead it. Check out our evolving Identity and Role-Based Affinity Groups by visiting the Conference 2.0 schedule.

We hope you’ll go along with us on this journey as we advance diversity and inclusion through this new opportunity for peer connection and coalition-building.

So hope to see you in San Diego and Tijuana!

1301951155Dafina McMillan joined TCG in August 2010 and serves as the director of communications & conferences. In this role, Dafina oversees the overall internal and external communications strategy – as well as programs TCG’s convenings, including the TCG National Conference, which gathers more than 1,000 theatre practitioners annually.  In addition, Dafina is leading TCG’s multi-year Diversity & Inclusion Initiative as part of TCG’s strategic plan. Prior to joining TCG, Dafina served as the associate managing director of Penumbra Theatre Company in St. Paul, MN, where she managed the day-to-day operations for the theatre, including communications, fundraising and working directly with the board of directors. While previously in New York, she was an account supervisor at global public relations agency GCI Group (now Cohn & Wolfe) and implemented communication strategies for Fortune 500 companies. Dafina has served as a speech writer, led executive visibility and corporate social responsibility campaigns, supported brand launches, and worked with national media to secure online, print and broadcast coverage for her clients.  She also consulted with the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts on marketing and community engagement initiatives. Dafina is an alumna of The John F. Kennedy Center’s International Arts Management Fellowship in Washington, D.C. Originally from Houston, TX, she received her bachelor of science degree in public relations from the University of Texas at Austin.