At Friday’s Art/Life Forum, I was humbled to see how art, culture, and social justice intersect. Our community’s first line of defense is self-expression — be it dialect, attire, poetry, music, or art-making. Art is a way of reclaiming our humanity and celebrating our work as individuals and communities. It is a powerful beginning.
I call out this beginning because, if we are to truly challenge oppressive systems and hold those in power accountable, we must go beyond representation. We must demand an equal share of power. Without such equity, our governing bodies — like planning commissions — will not reflect the beautiful complexity of our community. Rather, they will remain white and affluent; and this is a problem for communities like East San Jose that are in the advance stages of gentrification and where cultural erasure is actively taking place.
For the past 10 years, the School’s Multicultural Arts Leadership Institute (MALI) has worked with 119 leaders of color in Silicon Valley. We have brought the margins to the center by putting equity at the forefront of our work. MALI creates a pathway for them to assume positions of power, and for those that came in with influence, shows them how to use their power to shift systems to be more equitable.
On Friday, Demone Carter, our Senior Program Manager, announced a new iteration of MALI, MALI Pathways. This “MALI 2.0” will include a pathway to advocacy. MALI has a decade of challenging power structures, and it will lead this work for the School.
The School of Arts and Culture at MHP is at a crossroads. We find ourselves at the epicenter of rapid transformation. And, as a cultural institution in the Eastside, we have an obligation to expand our equity work agency-wide. We will occupy a seat at the table where conversations regarding space and development are taking place. We commit to voice, be heard, and affirm those decisions that uplift our immigrant and artistic community.
The School will center this work in our values: Culture, Heritage, Inclusion, Place, and Service. We will play a role in how our community is shaped through core partnerships with sister agencies and local government.
The team at the School of Arts and Culture is playing to win.