discussion on the diversity advantage at the gandhi institute

solid discussion on the “diversity advantage” at the gandhi institute today. it took more than 6 months for me to put this community event together (it was free and open to the public), along with a preview on wxxi’s connections. getting the panel together and negotiating its constantly fluid, evolving make-up was challenging (thank u kristin for being such a trouper and jumping in – i owe u one), finding a venue that made sense, getting some money, bringing food, promoting on social media and otherwise, figuring out how all our disparate pieces would fit together, and then writing my presentation on the complex work of edouard glissant took time and energy. but hopefully, to the frequent question of “why do we need these discussions?” we could submit, “because we might learn something new, meet the other, hear from the other, and change the way we think and act?” possibly.

we learned about ecology and how diversity endows plant and animal systems with resilience. we also learned how some of those ecological principles and habitats can help us design better urban environments. we learned about ableism as a system of segregation and how more intelligent/inclusive design can create public spaces that enrich all of our lives. we learned about the beast of racism and how it disrupts and distorts our most intimate as well as collective experiences. finally, we talked about the work of an incredible martinique poet and philosopher who offers us a language to imagine a world different from ours. by using ideas such as creolization, archipelagic thinking, relation and opacity, glissant allows us to wrap our minds around what could be.

my film, A Thin Wall, tries to imagine a decolonized south asia, in which our common past and pressing present would allow us to break through the colonial framework we’ve been stuck in for the last 70 years. if only we could see through the thin wall that separates us, we would recognize some of our sameness. the last words in the film, which are echoed by my indian co-producer (i was born in pakistan, on the other side of the border) and friend Surbhi, are: “nothing happens, unless we dream it first.” dreams are important.

thx to my valiant co-panelists luticha doucette, mary scipioni and of course kristin hocker, to maria engels our host at the gandhi institute, and to all those who came and added their presence to our dreaming.

[photograph by andrew brady]

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