I grew up in the Humboldt Park community in Chicago. It was there that I developed a sense of community which helped me to understand the importance of being involved in your local community. It was in my elementary school, Jose de Diego Community Academy that we were encouraged to take field trips to our local institutions and celebrate monumental moments such as when the Puerto Rican flags were unveiled on Paseo Boricua. It instilled a sense of importance, responsibility and most of all respect. We were also introduced to new cultural celebrations such as when the Kenwood High School choir came to sing You Will Know, a popular empowerment song from the 90's or when we sang and danced with BB King's daughter. I reflect on those times and many more for a few reasons, but with regards to this post, I want to tie in a few reasons why respectful collaboration with local and diverse partners is important.
An experience is boring if it only has one perspective. Let me state this, it is important to celebrate and honor individual experiences, but with regards to an event, experiences are communal and the bringing together of folks should also reflect in how #eventprofs build upon who is accessing the space. As an experience producer, I lead with this approach. Acknowledging race, class, gender, sexual orientation, ability, etc. are important if our goal is to always push the impact of the content presented. Meaning, we should constantly ask, who or what are we not thinking about while constructing an event? And in what ways can we be inclusive? Here are some things to consider when thinking of collaboration, diversity and partnership:
Transportation maps, that show ADA compliant routes. Highlight these for potential audience members. Hire someone locally who can support this effort.
Translation services both in person and in marketing messages.
Gender Neutral restrooms (FULL STOP)
Panelists and Speakers (If they all look the same, sound the same, then start over, but don't get superficial or lazy with this. Even with events that are marketed to a certain demographic, don't present the content in a monolithic way, make sure speakers still fit the theme in an intentional way.) Look local first, hire and partner with an expert from the community.
Find ways to partner with a local business. In Chicago, we are known for our different ethnic enclaves, although many rooted in discriminatory policy practices (that's another convo), we can still bring in community restaurants for catering, local artists, speakers, etc. Make it a point to highlight the voice of the people.
Finally, a respectful gesture is to offer compensation. Payment is important, not only because people have bills to pay but the hesitancy to pay diverse and local partners should not become practice, especially if they offer services and expertise that enhance your event and the experience of your audience.
In the comment section below, rep your city and a local business, artist, service, etc.