A New Institute Gives Voice to Narratives from Latinx,Indigenous, and Immigrant Voices in Arts and Culture Field
The Intercultural Leadership Institute (ILI) launches today! Conceived of by non-profit regional and national arts organizations - Alternate ROOTS, First Peoples Fund, National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (NALAC), and PA'I Foundation - ILI is a newly formed, paradigm-shifting personal and leadership development program for artists, culture bearers, and other arts professionals.
For NALAC, the ILI represents a way to tangibly practice intercultural work with our partner organizations as a means of building solidarity, building capacity, and building healthy social narratives for organizations of color across our nation. NALAC participates in conversations as part of a larger national and international field of activity; together, the ILI is an opportunity to author new models for equity built through genuine equality, adaptive practices, and the creativity of our shared communities.
From hundreds of applicants, 30 fellows were chosen to participate in a year-long, interactive leadership development activities. They represent different geographic locations ranging from Michigan, Hawai'i, Rhode Island, Georgia, New York to California and other places. "ILI is an opportunity to meet and work with a diverse group of culturally grounded emerging and master artists engaged in arts and social justice work across the nation," says Vicky Holt Takamine, Executive Director of the PA'I Foundation.
Carlton Turner, Executive Director of Alternate ROOTS, offers key insight about this initiative: "In this political moment when our country's leadership is skewing male and white, ILI represents a space for leadership development where narratives from indigenous, native, and immigrant voices are central. Our future rests in our ability to honor all voices as significant contributors to the fabric of society. ILI also nurtures an intergenerational space for that conversation to grow."
For this first year, the program dates will take place in Jackson, Mississippi (March 23-28, 2017), September in Lakota Territory (western South Dakota), and Hawai'i (early 2018). Four key goals are for fellows to:
- Build stronger collaborations and solidarity in the field of arts, culture and social change
- Promote traditional and contemporary practices and establish other ways for participants to work within existing structures and to create new structures
- Advance the skills and capacity of fellows to pursue cultural equity and sustain their work in a changing environment
- Impact the language, shift the attention and endow greater resources in multiple sectors to support transformative practices of the participants
Lori Pourier (Oglala Lakota), President of First Peoples Fund, offers insight into the transformative intention of ILI to impact language by defining "culture bearer." She explains, "A culture bearer is an individual who has dedicated their life to passing on the ancestral knowledge and tradition-based arts ecology of a land and its people." She adds, "All the fellows may not be culture bearers but the partners deem it important that they be open to learning about indigenous-based practices that are rooted in the very land where they live and work."
The ILI founding partners first met in 2004. Citing their own experiences as leaders within the arts and culture field who regularly participated in programs designed to support one's personal and professional development, the partners recognized that while most of these programs provided important skills and connections, they also largely reinforced dominant cultural norms, modes of learning, and ways of being and interacting that were sometimes out of sync with their commitment to cultural equity and to change-making in and with their own communities.
"As we grew and as we built trust over time, we developed a shared analysis of the need for a leadership program of, by, and for the artists and culture bearers in our communities. We spent many years discussing the concept among ourselves and with a wide range of allies who helped shape the incubation of ILI leading into the 5-day pilot experience we hosted in San Antonio in the fall of 2015," said Maria López De León, President and CEO of NALAC.