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diversity. equity. inclusion.

My family arrived in America in 1640. Family history has been passed down generation to generation through oral history, publications, legal documents, photographs and artifacts. My family includes stories of immigration, indentured servitude, interracial and intercultural and inter-ethnic marriage, disability, survival, military service, governmental office, discrimination, religious diversity, adoption, cultural prejudice, poverty to upper middle-class, service toward others in need, business owners, education from high school diploma to terminal degrees, rural, city, inner-city, and suburban. 

Influenced by my upbringing, I am an upstander; taking action for human rights and injustice since middle school by public speaking, creative work, and voting. In artistic and educational settings, I am committed to fostering an equitable and inclusive environment. Diversity is as an important reflection of my family and our culture, both historically and present, and a priority in education. 

I am part of my family’s diversity; I an educator and artist living with a disability. At times I’ve been asked to speak as an expert on diverse abilities, but I only presume to be and expert on my own experience; I do not assume on my own experience and do not presume to be an expert on the experiences of others like and unlike me. 


Land acknowledgment statement: I respectfully acknowledge the rehearsal and performance space was on the traditional land of the Kanza people. 

artistic example.

The Dancing Word is biannual collaborative performance in Kansas City, Missouri with spoken word and dance.  This performance started in 2019, and is produced and funded by the Westport Center for the Arts (WCA). 


The cast includes people from different 

  • Geographic locations – urban, rural and suburban 

  • Ancestral heritage– Native America, Africa, Europe (specifically Germany, England, Ireland), Mexico, Jewish

  • Physical appearance –skin color, size, hair, height, shape 

  • Economic backgrounds

  • Education from high school diploma through advanced degree

  • Identities

  • Sexual orientations

  • Ages –  10-70+

  • Motor and non-motor functions – dancers with and without disabilities and diagnosed illnesses

  • Family structures – married, single, with and without children

  • Faiths


Topics have included

  • Houselessness

  • Gender roles

  • Environmentalism

  • Redlining

  • Gun violence

  • Division and inclusion

  • Pollution

  • Racism


Although I am in a leadership role that requires making decisions, it is important to me that cast members are included in the community we form, and to create a safe space. The atmosphere is one of belonging, wherein the cast has a sense of sharing their truths/authentic self begins the first day, and continues throughout the project. Each cast member:

  • Shares their background and experiences that formed their views

  • Actively listens 

  • Respectfully asks questions or shares opinions, allowing open dialogue

  • Participates in discussions on social justice topics, for example an African American cast member’s brother was beaten by a white police officer. She showed us photos. One cast member asked, “what did he (the victim) do before this happened?” This was an opportunity for group discussion, education, and compassion. 

  • Can show their individuality including hairstyle, tattoos, and jewelry (unless it is a safety hazard)

  • Choose their own attire. Costumes are traditionally provided to the dancers, but for some pieces the performers chose their own street clothes

  • Contribute to the choreography and assist in problem-solving  


Example of the rehearsal process:

Glenn Stewart reads her poem to the dancers and talks about its influences. A recent poem is GUNZ, in which she evaluates historical and current-day use of guns. We go line-by-line and talk about the idea, perspective or emotion she is wanting to convey and then I ask the dancers to do specific movement. Then I ask her if she feels that is successfully conveying it, or if we might want to explore other ideas. 


The poet and I discussed extending this topic to highlight six different groups (one for each dancer) who have been victims of gun violence.  “Then the shots rang out” did just that. Dancers selected group to present in the performance. Groups for this poem include

  • African Americans

  • Children

  • Women

  • Immigrant

  • Jewish

  • LGBTQ+ community


Research included sources from the news, internet, memorial services, interviews and social media posts. Once compiled, each dancer memorized the text to be read and choreographed their own movement to the text. I also invited a child, age 10 to share “what I want adults to know.” Logan, a 10-year-old Jewish girl shared a story about being at her synagogue and being afraid of being killed, and about a school lockdown. It was important to me that she was included in having a voice and I prioritize having the opportunity to speak for themselves instead of being spoken for. 

In conclusion

My ancestry, disability, educational and artistic work does not make me an expert on diversity, equity and inclusion; it is the foundation for my passion, drives my determination for both continued education and creating a safe and open environment in my classroom and artistic research conducive for learning. I too, am dedicated to learning. 

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