Last June we told you that we have work to do, offering a renewed commitment to our core value of Equity and Social Justice and to follow this up with action. In October, our Task Force met for the first time and outlined several immediate areas for improvement, including internal communications. To continue these efforts, our staff, board, faculty, and teaching partners have begun working with Dr. Johnny Lake in a series of six lectures and conversations on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
An internationally recognized American storyteller, writer, speaker, and educator, Dr. Lake has been on the forefront of battles against social injustice all his life. As the grandson of Southern black slaves and cotton pickers, this self-confessed “knucklehead” heard amazing stories from his first storytellers, his grandmothers and grandfathers, developing a keen sense of justice and equality, or the lack thereof, early on. As one of the children used to practice racial integration of schools, he experienced first-hand the breaking down of historical racial barriers in American society. His life’s work has focused on raising awareness and teaching about issues of discrimination, racism, equity, and justice for all people.
Dr. Lake comes to Freehold thanks to our Task Force leader, Jennifer Ferguson. She shared in an internal newsletter, that based in Oregon, “Dr. Lake understands the specific racial climate of the Pacific Northwest.” Most importantly, he “believes story is the way we learn about each other” and as a community of theatre artists for whom telling people’s stories is our craft, this approach to DEI work deeply resonates. As Dr. Lake says, “Storytelling is a common form of teaching, entertainment and an historical resource in every single culture and religion. It is a primary way we have passed on ideas, knowledge, beliefs, ethics and morals. For Freehold Theatre to embrace and incorporate stories and storytelling connects you to deep and ancient sources of wisdom and power.”
We are thrilled and humbled to begin our work at Freehold identifying opportunities for growth in each of us individually as well as the systems and policies that need to change for the organization as a whole. In the coming months we look forward to sharing these early steps as we move in a more mutual direction. For more information or to support this work, please email Managing Director, Caroline Kangas at firstname.lastname@example.org.