Engaging Diversity


Engaging Diversity with TLA

Because the whole notion of "finding your voice" is tied to communities and our culture at large including all voices (not just the voices of those in power), it's essential that those of doing TLA in our communities develop ways to engage diversity in our work. This means looking both at how to open up the emerging field of TLA to people from many backgrounds, and how to educate ourselves about privilege and oppression in American culture. It also means self-education on how we see ourselves in the world, and how we are seen by others because of our gender, color, ethnicity, ability, religion, sexual orientation, learning styles and othlynnandmarisa.jpger attributes that define us.

The TLA Network is committed to growing our engagement with diversity as we develop. To this end, we bring diverse groups of keynoters to each conference; administer the Roxanne-Florence Fund, which provides scholarships for people of color to attend the conference; aim toward a balance of representation in all our endeavors; and look toward more discussions and actions regarding diversity in our membership, outreach, projects, and publications.

What is Diversity?

Diversity, in this proposal, is defined as inclusion of all people, and especially welcoming people who are members of non-dominant societal groups, including people of color, differently-abled people, low-income people, people with non-mainstream religions or ethnicities, the transgender community, and others communities of people who experience daily life as members of subordinate groups in our culture in the U.S. today.

Why “Engaging Diversity”?

To engage diversity directly engages racism, sexism, heterosexism, and other forms of discrimination and marginalization of our culture. Engaging diversity aims for diversity rather than against -isms. It also focuses us on engaging directly with people who are members of non-privileged communities and populations, and from these engagements, developing ongoing relationships that cultivate a more just and inclusive culture. Engaging diversity is a way of opening the door and beginning the long-term process of looking at how all our assumptions, backgrounds, internalization of cultural stereotypes and mythologies about one another, and other attitudes come into play when trying to create an multi-cultural institution.





  •  Engaging diversity is a long-term process that will take time, energy and resources for many years if we truly are to break societal patterns as an emerging field, profession and calling.
  • Truly engaging diversity in sustainable ways will take a commitment from all of us to create long-term planning that enhances, supports, challenges (at times) and sustains diversity being engaged.
  • People in marginalized groups should not be put upon to carry forth a plan for engaging diversity, and to the contrary, it’s essential that people in dominant groups take leadership roles in honoring diversity and undoing racism if we are to effect real and lasting institutional change.
  • The root of all oppression has to do with power relationships; therefore, it’s necessary to look at how power issues, or feelings of powerlessness, are manifested as feelings of dominance, fear, shame, control, hopelessness, guilt, resentment, confusion, etc. whether we identify as members of marginalized groups, dominant groups, or (as is often the case), as both.
  •  Engaging diversity is, in part, a matter of trial and error all clothed in deep commitment to learn more about how to change societal pattern
  • 6Engaging diversity is essential to the development of TLA because of the very nature of TLA as helping individuals and communities find and use their voice through the language arts to effect personal and social transformation. As TLA emerges as a profession, it’s even more essential that practitioners of TLA engage diversity in their language and in their work to keep TLA from falling into elitist, societal traps of professionalization that, in turn, privilege the dominant cultural groups and dominant cultural narratives. TLA is as much about challenging, subverting and rescripting cultural mythologies and stereotypes as it is about anything. Cultivating diversity is, in essence, the spine of TLA theory and practice, and the way TLA emerges as a practice out into the world


Recommended Resources

There are a number of articles in /The Power of Words: A TLA Reader /engaging diversity, including "'TLA is a Great Bridge and More than a Bridge': An Interview with Allison Adelle Hedge Coke; "Healing Stories, Healing Songs: Native-American Traditions" by Denise Low; "Do You Hear What I heard? Theatre as Tool To Address Gossip, Silence and the HIV/AIDS Pandemic in Lesotho" by Katt Lissard; "The Three Candles of Hilda Stern Cohen's Story: An Interview with Gail Rosen"; and "The Good Ambush: A Two-Voice Essay on Identity, Experience and Storymaking" by Patricia Fontaine and Karen L. Campbell. Engaging diversity also in a theme in many other articles.

Difficult Dialogues: Enhancing Discussions About Diversity — http://www.jstor.org/pss/27558705

Diversity Training Material — http://www.media-partners.com/diversity/

Engaging Diversity — http://www.engagingdiversity.com/

Evaluating Dialogue — http://www.diversityweb.org/DiversityDemocracy/vol12no1/nagda.cfm

Global Village School: Lesson in Peace, Diversity and Social Change —http://www.newhorizons.org/strategies/multicultural/chandler.htm

International Journal of Diversity in Organizations, Communities and Nations —http://ijd.cgpublisher.com/product/pub.29/prod.1.1

Social Psychology Network — http://www.socialpsychology.org/social.htm





The Cultural / Identity Onion Karen Campbell