Building a plan for diversity at CCD
Contributed by Page Jenkins, CCD Faculty Member and JEDI Committee Co-Chair
“Amid an unprecedented American focus on equity and social justice over the past several years, CCD’s leadership–with full support from its Board of Directors–embarked on a wholesale reevaluation of the organization’s efforts in these areas and ensuring that our own justice, equity, diversity, and inclusiveness (JEDI) work was both in alignment with our mission and could further CCD’s desire to be an example for other organizations in the industry to follow. With this in mind, we embarked on an intentional and thoughtful journey to put CCD under a microscope and take the steps necessary to strengthen existing efforts, reimagine places where they were falling short, and craft new initiatives to promote an environment that truly enables dance to be accessible to all.”
– Richard Cowden (Executive Director) and Julia Wilkinson Manley (Artistic Director)
This summer CCD’s staff, faculty, and board of directors were invited to take part in a three-part series of conversations about interconnectedness, inclusivity, and diversity in dance with Dr. David Sanders. These conversations allowed our directors, staff, faculty and board to have an open discussion about race and racism in the world of dance and ballet in particular.
Throughout the spring and early summer CCD’s directors and staff began looking at aspects of our program such as the dress code and hair guidelines and exploring new solutions that would be more inclusive for our students of color as well as non-binary or trans students. After our conversations with David, it was clear that we as an organization were committed to working to make CCD as diverse, equitable, and inclusive as we believe it can be. However, it was also clear that this work would be long-term and would require many more conversations both with the staff and with our students and their families. At the end of July, Rich and Julia helped us form CCD’s JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion) Committee, which includes several faculty members, staff, and a board member. We hope in the future to expand this committee to include parents and students as well to get a more diverse range of experiences and perspectives.
We broke the committee’s goals for this year into three sections: addressing the current culture of CCD, branding and promotion, and CCD in the future. This past fall and winter we have primarily focused on looking at the current culture of CCD. Our meetings have included conversations about discipline, our approach to the body, language, evaluations, investment in individual students, our student handbook, our community outreach program, the Nutcracker, and how we as an organization can support BIPOC (black, Indigenous and people of color) students in our school and the world of dance/ballet. We have approached all of these topics by looking at whether we are simply holding to tradition for tradition’s sake or whether a new approach might allow CCD to continue growing as a school and organization. Over the winter and spring we will be talking about how we portray CCD online and in print as well as how the organization can continue to evolve in the future.
We see CCD as a leader in the world of dance education and nonprofit organizations. This work will strengthen our organization and allow us to work toward our goal of making dance available and accessible to all.
If you are interested here is a link to many of the articles that we have read and that have been guiding our work and conversations: https://libguides.nypl.org/race_protests_anddance