That's a great question Launa. Here I was, staring at a blank page (the story of my life) wondering what to share with the good people of IFVP. But since you mentioned it, why not give it a go…shall we? First, we can acknowledge the diversity that already exists within IFVP. Our membership stretches all over the globe with over 400 visual practitioners in over 30 countries. Wow! Members have come from all kinds of occupational backgrounds from bartending to stock trading. Athletes, artists, builders, writers, teachers, pastors, facilitators, musicians, IT specialists, social workers, grocers, gardeners and the list goes on. We have an incredible variety of professional backgrounds within our midst. Take a bow, IFVP!
Now, allow me to share something with you. I love to take the train. There's no rail system where I live so whenever I'm in a city that has one I have to ride it. Recently, I visited Washington, DC for work and while waiting for the train to arrive had a thought. It was sparked by this gust of wind that preceded the train approaching the platform. I witnessed how that wind introduced itself to our clothes, our hair. While some were more swayed than others, all of our differences were acknowledged. It was a beautiful sight. Then, I realized that all of us there had paid some price to be on that platform to know the pleasure of that privilege. Finally, I realized that IFVP has much in common with that train I was preparing to board.
Both are going somewhere and accommodate people. They set us in motion, and present opportunities for contact, connection, and economy. However, I have counted two main differences. The first is that the value is outside the train as the third rail. It's the technology that gets that thing going at peak speed. For IFVP the value is the people inside our "train." The second is that the train doesn't have to be intentional about who gets on or off. There's a schedule–rain or shine. If someone shows up at the right place at the right time then it's up to them to claim a seat. But people tend to find associations by "luck" or invitation. And humans tend to invite people they know and like, who typically look and act a lot like themselves. This is important because representation matters. If we are going to serve the masses, it's both good practice and good business to have people prepared to speak the lingua franca.
We know the value of language, but we also aren't immune to its misuse. Change is a linguistic pursuit. Did you notice that there's been a change in what our Facebook group is called? Now, it says IFVP Community. Sam Bradd believes this is something we must draw our attention to and shared some of his thoughts about diversity and inclusion with the board at this month's BOD. According to him, there's bias in our pens...because those pens are in the hands of people who may have some unexplored and unchecked bias. In addition to language, perspective and awareness are key components in creating a welcoming atmosphere. This is important when considering things like a "Code of Ethics." Presence brings perspective.
For example, I happened to meet up with another scribe at a gig. One of the pictures drawn depicted the concept of "lead from behind" with a black inked figure behind three white-bodied outlined figures. We discussed it, for me, that image recalled a time when African-Americans were forced to sit or stand behind their white counterparts. The drawing was adjusted and we found another way to represent the idea–together. It wasn't a big deal. Nobody made a scene. People may not have made that connection, but it felt good to be heard and remove the possibility of a conference attendee drawing that conclusion. If we are going to attract even more diversity then being mindful of how we show up and make space is an absolute must. The last thing we want is for people to walk away from the platform feeling like IFVP there's no room on our train for "them".
With the help of Claudia Lopez and Julie Stuart, Sam is working on the answer to Leah's original question of diversity and inclusion. They are developing a workshop that will be available at the EUVIZ conference this year in Denmark. Check out the description below:
This workshop is a team approach between Sam Bradd, Claudia Lopez, and Julie Stuart. We came together to host a conversation in a way that mirrors the positive changes we want to see in the visual practitioner field for greater diversity, equity, and opportunity. Julie (Atlanta, USA) and Sam (Vancouver, Canada) are white, visual practitioners who have made it part of their ongoing personal/professional practice to challenge the privilege and unconscious biases they hold. Claudia Lopez (New York, USA) is a native of Mexico, who having experienced both sides of privilege and bias as a Latina immigrant to the US and through her work in social justice movements, is committed to advancing equity in our field and supporting a shift to higher levels of professional responsibility to create equitable change through our work. As white people, Julie and Sam acknowledge how Black, Indigenous and People of Colour have done unpaid labour educating on bias for years; they are taking action to help people who hold a lot of privilege see where they need to make space.
We will hold a brave space to have a conversation about bias and how it shows up in the pen for visual practitioners. We are being called to skillfully handle conversations and imagery about diversity, racial equity, and inclusion. When our clients are doing transformational work - whether it’s inside their organizations or about wider societal change - we must be aware of the intersections of race, gender, ability, sexuality, and more. As these conversations are driving real transformation - we need to be prepared so that we can support our clients better.
In this workshop, we’ll examine what bias looks like in our field and in ourselves - so we can show up and do our visual work with care and sensitivity to culture, gender, ability, sexuality and all intersections. Participants will experience skilled facilitators holding a brave space for a conversation about equity and bias.
We’ll deepen relationships with people who are inspired to make positive change. On a personal level, we will have greater confidence in drawing and supporting our clients and these conversations. As practitioners, we will be more prepared for the transformation that needs us to “take space, and make space” depending on our perspective. Everyone will go home with vocabulary and resources to help you deepen your continued journey of unpacking your bias. And, we’ll begin to explore what it could mean for the field to be more aware of its structural and unconscious biases.
If you'll be in Rungstedgaard, consider joining this conversation. Let's keep this train running in a direction that we can all be proud of. If you have any thoughts on ways to make IFVP more awesome and welcoming let us know in the comments or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Love you all. Peace.