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Dance Initiative organizes a bilingual conversation about racism and the arts

Carbondale Arts

Dance Initiative and MANAUS' Equity Action Project, along with Mezcla Socials Dance, have organized a presentation on the history of racism in Colorado for Friday, August 4th at 5:30pm in The Launchpad. In addition to that, MANAUS' Bryan Alvarez-Terrazas will facilitate a conversation about tokenism, specifically how it appears in arts communities. Afterwards, Mezcla Socials Dance will offer instruction and dancing. KDNK's Hattison Rensberry spoke with Claudia Pawl of Mezcla Socials Dance and Bryan Alavarez-Terrazas about the event.

Para el español en el clip de audio, pase a seis minutos y cuarenta y dos segundos.

"Alvarez-Terrazas: There's a lot that we could potentially go in and dig into when it comes to the history of racism in Colorado. But for me, I think it was really important to paint a timeline of starting with displacement of indigenous communities, when the first settlers first arrived here in Colorado, starting all the way back then to, you know, what are some of the more recent examples, looking at Covid, for example, and the disproportionate impact that it's had on communities of color. And so being able to use those two different points in time and, and sort of fill in the blanks in between, um, just to highlight the history of racism isn't something that we particularly spend a lot of time exploring or learning about.
We wanted to take a moment to, you know, explore some of that history that we for a large part, haven't really reckoned with or started to understand and so that's part of the hope is that, you know, we can name some of these different issues and conflicts that took place over the history of Colorado, at least a, a small portion of it, and, you know, really bring to light some of these stories both for knowledge's sake, but also to, really understand and, pay homage to the communities that were impacted.

Rensberry: Part of this event is going to include dancing afterwards by Mezcla Socials dance, as well as language equity work done by Convey Language Solutions.
Claudia, do you wanna talk a little bit about why include this language equity?

Pawl: Absolutely. The idea was, trying to have some education as well as some experiences together. And so once Brian does his presentation, we are also gonna be doing some dancing. With the intention of movement and just kind of taking in all the information that we just received and potentially work with together.
I believe there might be some interactive activities and just coming together as a community. So that's where the dancing portion comes in. The language portion, it should be a standard at any meeting, honestly, with a topic that can be sensitive, it's even of more important that we make sure that everyone feels seen, heard, and represented well. So that's why we also have Convey being a part of this gathering.

Rensberry: For people who might not know what tokenism is, could you give us just a brief overview of what that part of the conversation looks like?

Alvarez-Terrazas: To answer your question about tokenism, that's something that we've witnessed a lot more in today's times, especially as organizations have sincere and authentic intentions behind wanting to get more of the Latino la uh, Latina community involved in their organizations and their programs and their services, there's this fine line between, you know, when are you authentically, you know, bringing these folks in to your organization, into your programming, and when does it sort of step into the tokenism piece, which is more to say,'I want.
This person of color to be on, on my board, for example, for no other reason than because I'm feeling public pressure to have a person of color on the board'. It's important to have representation in these different spaces, but how do you make sure that you leave room for those folks to have power, to have a sense of ownership and to have a sense of inclusion and belonging within those spaces.

Pawl: I would just highlight that. Yes, in today's times, we're seeing it more than ever. Because it's sometimes happening in a way that doesn't have the true intention behind it. And other times, because in general some organizations are coming across as though they're just trying to fill in a space that has been requested of them.
And, does not have the cultural sensitivity to do the outreach or the bringing people onto the table in a way that will be meaningful and powerful and impactful for the community.

Rensberry: Do you have a sneak peek for us on how that interacts with the arts communities that you'd like to share?

Alvarez-Terrazas: Given that this conversation and this idea was really, you know, done in collaboration with, um, dents initiative, we wanted to hone in a little bit more on the arts community in particular for this conversation. And I think what was important about that is that tokenism can and does exist regardless of what industry you work in. You know, doesn't really matter where that goes. But we wanted to hone in on the arts community in particular because this is another space where there could be a lot of good intentions behind, you know, we want to bring in different artists, we wanna bring in different speakers, different performers.
All these different pieces, that go into these conversations that can come from good intentions, but can sort of not go very far if it's not accompanied by shared power, shared understanding, conversations of understanding and wanting to make sure that, you know, if we're doing this, we're doing this for the right reason.
And really honing in on, you know, why do we wanna do this? Why do we want to have this speaker, this artist ,be in this space? Is it to say that we had a Latino artist, for example, or is it to really bring into the spaces that haven't traditionally been there?

Pawl: It is important to differentiate as well the intentions, like you were saying.
And I would say sometimes artists can end up in a position where it's not clear whether they're there for their artistry or because of their background and their heritage. I think for an artist it's very important that their artistry and their skills and whatever art they're presenting is appreciated on its own, but at the same time, they would want to be part of this cultural event. And it doesn't always have to be one or the other. And so that we don't, that would be my two points for that.
So I just wanted to also say that I'm very excited to be a part of this. I'm very grateful that Megan from Dance Initiative, decided to put this together and invited us with the intention of learning more and just coming together and having real, honest, shared information from the educational side, from Brian.
From our side of curiosity, and then we are all artists at the end of the day, and we just wanna come together and be able to work together in ways that are more meaningful.

Alvarez-Terrazas: I'm super excited to be doing this with Claudia and Megan and everyone else that's been a part of this."

A Spanish-language transcript is in the works for this article, and to listen to the interview portions that are in Spanish you can skip to the 6:41 time stamp.
Spanish interpretation services for the event are available from Convey Language Solutions.
More information is at:

Hattison Rensberry has a Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design and Drawing, but has worked for newsrooms in various capacities since 2019.
She also provides Editorial Design for the Sopris Sun.