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March 2021 Update: Anti-Racism and Equity

As I sit here looking out at the rainy Columbus weather, I am saddened and dismayed that the racial violence in our country has not diminished rather it has escalated. I send hope out for all of us as part of humanity. We must be better for ourselves and for others.

BalletMet’s Anti-Racism and Equity initiative is finding its legs as the staff and Board completed an introductory training with Dr. Hasan Jeffries, Associate Professor of History at The Ohio State University (OSU) in January and February.  It was an excellent opportunity to explore and learn about the entrenched Racism, Non-Equity and abuse that is part of America from the legal system, banking, housing, education and more.

Eager to start work and foster growth around Anti-Racism and Equity, our White and BIPOC Learning Groups met for the first time in March with facilitator Alesondra Christmas, a PhD candidate at OSU whose research and practice centers around Race and Discrimination in the US and Dance. Ms. Christmas started working with BalletMet’s Education and Community Engagement staff, teachers, rehearsal directors and accompanists two years ago. BalletMet’s Coalition convened for the first time in February and spent time examining their identities from a privileged and oppressed viewpoint as a way to focus potentially impactful work. Employees continue to spend time outside of BalletMet doing their own personal work around Anti-Racism through book clubs, attending trainings, watching documentaries, listening to podcasts and participating in conversations about increased awareness, accountability, and changing behaviors and communication with BIPOC individuals and the community.

Our partnership with the King Arts Complex gave BalletMet an opportunity to participate in The HeART of Protest through a performance presentation of a solo and dialogue around the timeless work of choreographer Donald McKayle. The solo is based from McKayle’s larger work, Rainbow ‘Round My Shoulder (1959), “which was about the experience of men on chain gangs in the American South”(Sofras). Chain gangs were ways to exploit mostly Black/African American men as free labor. BalletMet 2 experienced learning McKayle’s solo work, Rainbow Etude and dancer Vincent Van Harris talked about his filmed performance and social justice during the on-line, free event.

None of us believe that there is an end-point to on-going education and change. In fact, there are other areas to delve into such as gender-ism, able-ism and more.  Words alone cannot encompass the work needed for Anti-Racism and Equity nor convey the suffering endured. At BalletMet we will continue to strive to do better and be part of the healing and restoration.

-Ambre Emory-Maier