Friday, March 24, 2017
Controversy Around Emmett Till Painting in Whitney Museum of American Art

Recently, activists and black artists are protesting a painting by Dana Schultz, who based her artwork on the portraits of Emmett Till, that's included in the Biennial exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art, in New York.

"Open Casket"
Dana Schultz (2016)
Biennial Exhibitions in the Whitney Museum of American Art
All Credit Goes to the Artist

Here is more from The New York Times:

"An African-American artist, Parker Bright, has conducted peaceful protests in front of the painting since Friday, positioning himself, sometimes with a few other protesters, in front of the work to partly block its view. He has engaged museum visitors in discussions about the painting while wearing a T-shirt with the words 'Black Death Spectacle' on the back. Another protester, Hannah Black, a British-born black artist and writer working in Berlin, has written a letter to the biennial’s curators, Mia Locks and Christopher Y. Lew, urging that the painting be not only removed from the show but also destroyed.

'The subject matter is not Schutz’s,” Ms. Black wrote in a Facebook message that has been signed by more than 30 other artists she identifies as nonwhite. “White free speech and white creative freedom have been founded on the constraint of others, and are not natural rights. The painting must go.” She added that “contemporary art is a fundamentally white supremacist institution despite all our nice friends.'


The protest has found traction on Twitter, where some commenters have called for destruction of the painting and others have focused on what they view as an ill-conceived attempt by Ms. Schutz to aestheticize an atrocity."

The curation of the Biennial Exhibition is extremely significant, as highlighted by Hyperallergic:

"The 2017 Whitney Biennial is more diverse than the last: about half of this year’s included artists are female, and about half are non-white. Curated by [Mia] Locks and [Christopher Y.] Lew — the youngest curators to organize this long-running exhibition to date, and both Asian-American — the show grapples with current social issues and identity politics; its artists depict the horrors of hate crime, police brutality, and gun violence...Yesterday, [Parker] Bright met with Locks and Lew. 'Nothing was resolved, but it was one of the best conversations I’ve ever had,' he told Hyperallergic. 'It means a lot. I never thought I’d get that close. I don’t think the Met would talk to me, or a lot of other big institutions.' In light of this year’s Biennial, however, Bright says he would avoid working with the Whitney if given the option, and encourages other artists of color to consider their affiliations carefully. “If anything is going to change, it has to come from the white art community,” he said. “We need white allies to help stand up for us, but not talk over us.”

The curators also highlight the importance of empathy:

“The 2017 Whitney Biennial brings to light many facets of the human experience, including conditions that are painful or difficult to confront such as violence, racism, and death...Many artists in the exhibition push in on these issues, seeking empathetic connections in an especially divisive time.” It’s easy to be become dismissive or contemptuous of either side of the fence, and continued discourse is our only hope. In these dangerous Trump times, if we don’t find ways to talk to each other, we are in deep trouble."

It is important to know how to read and understand what a white institution does when it brings on, for the first time, Asian American curators by giving them seemingly a free hand in their curatorial choices. These two curators were simply following orders, yet they are the ones who are receiving the harder-end of the fallout of the controversy. Thankfully, they are trying to communicate with the different community members in order to expand their perspectives on the issue.

Ultimately, the issues surrounding the painting are extremely complex and will most likely not be resolved for a long time: it's a progressive debate that will only continue to develop as human consciousness does. In the end, there are two possible outcomes: either the protesters will give up, or they will continue to advocate for the painting's removal until it is done.

-Bob

The full Hyperallergic article can be viewed here:
http://hyperallergic.com/367012/protesters-block-demand-removal-of-a-painting-of-emmett-till-at-the-whitney-biennial/
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Thursday, March 23, 2017
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Hello!

During these next few days, the People's Cultural Plan are hosting a series of community events, throughout New York City, pertaining to #WeCreateNYC #CreateEquityNYC, the People’s Cultural Plan, town halls being coordinated by arts/cultural groups as well as many feedback events (both live and virtual) being offered by #CreateNYC. 

Here is an official statement from the People's Cultural Plan for Working Artists and Communities in New York City:

The People's Cultural Plan 
for Working Artists and Communities in New York City

Inequity in arts and culture is a persistent problem in New York City. The worsening climate of fear, intolerance, and fascism, especially affecting people of color, must be countered with more than lip service in support of diversity: Only by implementing true equity in all city policies will the most vulnerable be protected from the multiple crises facing our communities. As a sanctuary city, any cultural plan must be supportive of the lives and contributions of communities of color and immigrants.

Displacement and gentrification are the greatest threats to culture in NYC, because culture is rooted in place, and skyrocketing rent threatens to displace working class black communities and communities of color, working artists, and underfunded arts organizations. The contracting of real estate development firms James Lima Planning + Development and BJH Advisors LLC as NYC Cultural Plan consultants indicates that yet again, arts and culture are being used as a Trojan Horse to usher in still more gentrification and displacement. We demand a plan that calls for the elimination of these pro-developer policies and rezonings, for an immediate rent freeze, and for the development of more just rent control policies at the State and City levels.

The exploitation of artists and other low-wage workers has always been a threat to culture in NYC, but in combination with the housing crisis, that threat places most artists, especially those who are working-class people of color, close to their breaking point. From low-wage workers servicing museums, to underpaid administrators of nonprofit organizations, to the unpaid labor of artists—workers across the supply chain contribute to making the arts a multi-billion dollar industry.  We demand a plan that insures equitable and adequate wages and employee benefits and protections to artists and workers in the field of culture, and additional supports to artists and workers of color

Cultural funding is among the most inequitably distributed resources in NYC, and the policies of the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) exacerbate that inequity by giving nearly 60% of its funding to Manhattan alone out of the five boroughs, and almost 80% of its funding to only 33 of the 1,000+ organizations funded. Inadequate funding to poor neighborhoods – and austerity in public services generally – operates in tandem with real estate development schemes to displace communities; inadequate funding to small and POC-run organizations makes it difficult to pay adequate wages and artist fees. We demand a plan with generous and equitable public cultural funding that directs all increases in DCLA funding to the neighborhoods, organizations, and artists who need it the most, rather than to institutions that are already receiving generous allocations, many of which are not adequately serving the communities they purport to.

We, the people, demand a cultural plan with concrete policies to: 1. End displacement and gentrification in NYC; 2. Insure equitable wages for artists and cultural workers; 3. Distribute public funding equitably; and 4. Provide additional supports to communities, organizations, and artists of color, to begin to rectify the documented history of neglect and disinvestment for these groups in NYC. 
We further demand that changes in funding and housing policies be subject to community control – that the neighborhoods to be affected by policy changes determine the specifics. The most crucial component of equity is equity in power and in decision-making, and we will accept nothing less. 


Contact: peoplesculturalplan@gmail.com
The calendar link below will provide information pertaining to the the scheduled events, such as the National Endowment for the Arts Rally, on April 3. Here is the link to the full schedule:

https://wecreatenyc2017.tumblr.com/post/157627917755/a-calendar-for-us-to-use

The calendar will continually be updated by the People's Cultural Plan.

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Monday, February 27, 2017
Japanese American Incarceration & WW II: Could It Happen Again?


On February 23rd, the New York chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) held a panel on 49W 45th Street (11th Floor) to discuss the Internment of Japanese American, which spanned from 1942 to 1946, during World War II. 




To provide brief context, on February 12, 1942, two months following the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt authorized the deportation and incarceration of Japanese Americans with Executive Order 9066. Individuals of Japanese ancestry, or anyone with “one drop of Japanese blood,” were forced to evacuate from their homes and relocate to the internment camps located across the western United States. Ultimately, between 110,000 and 120,000 individuals were placed in, what panelist speaker Sam Mihara* called, “America’s Concentration Camps.” It is important to note that Mihara, as well as other guest speaker Madeline Sugimoto**, were imprisoned, along with their families, under Executive Order 9066, when they were little children. 

Photo by Bob Lee

Photo by Bob Lee

Using visual archives from renowned artists, such as Henry Sugimoto (father of Madeline Sugimoto) and Dorothea Lange, Mihara and Sugimoto outlined the events that led to Executive Order 9066, the experience of living in “America’s Concentration Camps,” and the consequences — both political, ethical, and personal — of the mass incarceration of the Japanese American community. 


Photo by Bob Lee
Original Photograph by Dorothea Lange

At the end of their presentations, the floor was open to the public. Instantly, a question regarding today’s political turmoil filled the room: “Could this happen again?” Mihira’s answer was worrisome but anticipated: “It already has.” 

Sound Familiar?
Photo by Bob Lee

He proceeded to explain how Donald Trump himself — an authoritarian who twists his (meager) words in order to antagonize the oppressed and vulnerable — and his administration have already taken drastic steps, similar to President Roosevelt in 1942, to marginalize and oppress the Muslim community. However, according the Mihira, the biggest concern people should have relates to bystanders. Those who observe but do not intervene, those who sympathize but do not act, play a significant role in the approval of massive atrocities such as the Executive Order 9066. He claimed that it is crucial that bystanders, whether or not directly effected by the policies proposed by Trump and his administration, should speak up and intervene. 


Fun Fact: Sam Mihara's wife, Helene, happens to be the well-known poster child of that time!
Photo by Bob Lee


Sam Mihara concluded the panel by advocating for action and resistance. He argued that groups of people acting — organizing protests, attending rallies and public hears, participating in labor strikes — do influence political decisions because they refuse to remain silent: their voices are being heard. Mihara also cited the importance of educating youth about Executive Order 9066 — at the beginning of the discussion, he mentioned that only a small handful of Harvard University students were aware of the Japanese American Incarceration. He believes that it is important to spread awareness about Executive Order 9066, for it serves as reminder of what had been, and what could still be, a reality for some. 

Photo by Bob Lee

What do you all think?
Do you notice any similarities between President Roosevelt's actions against the Japanese American community and President Donald Trump's actions against the Muslim community?
Do you believe history is doomed to repeat itself?
With the advancement of social media, as well as increasing opposition towards Donald Trump, do you think resistance is possible?

*Mr. Mihara is a second-generation Japanese American whose family was forced to move to an “American-style” concentration camp at Heart Mountain in northern Wyoming after the United States entered World War II. When they were released, the Miharas returned to San Francisco, where Sam had a very successful career as an aerospace engineer with Boeing.
For more information: http://sammihara.com

**Madeline Sugimoto is the daughter of renowned Japanese American artist Henry Sugimoto. Madeline and her family were incarcerated at the Jerome and Rohwer Camps in Arkansas. After the war ended, Madeline moved to New York City with her family, where she worked for many years as a nurse educator at Cornell Medical Center.
For more information: http://www.discovernikkei.org/pt/journal/2016/12/19/madeleine-sugimoto-1/
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Tuesday, January 24, 2017
The Future is Woman, The Future is Asian


Pushing his bike through the thronging Women's March in NYC, Asian American Arts Centre (AAAC) Executive Director Bob Lee marveled at how nice people were being to him. He had decided to join an Asian American group on 47th street and take pictures. With no poster to bring, he instead pulled out an old T-shirt of the Asian American Arts Alliance, once an offshoot of AAAC, with the words "RESHAPING AMERICAN CULTURE THROUGH ASIAN-AMERICAN ART" emblazoned on the front. An appropriate description of what the AAAC has envisioned as its mission since the 70's- to create an identity different from the mainstream, to grow the cultural presence of Asian-Americans and to explore the hyphen in our hyphenated American identities.  



  

Reflecting, Lee wondered about how this previous mission feels altered in the present day. From a Buddhist view the slogan might read "Reshaping Oneself". From the view of some Asian-American artists today, the sign might simply read "Shaping Culture". In such a way the art is not distinguished by its "Asian-American" nature and seen instead as an equal voice amongst distinct forces, all absorbed into a giant miasmic "culture". 

Yet it was through the coining of the hyphen, a resistant stroke that set "Asian-Americans" apart from "Americans", that artists and activists in the 60's and 70's identified themselves and created a political movement. The hyphen gestured towards our difference, a direction for action. How now will Asian ideas and instincts seep into American consciousness while retaining their own integrity? 

Perhaps the answer lies within the Women's March. In one of the many Women's March posters, Coretta Scott King's quote is framed by multi-colored versions of the raised woman's fist. "Women, if the soul of the nation is to be saved, I believe that you must become its soul. This Women's March was a march against a seething plague of social ills rising in America, from toxic masculinities to rising fascism, that were legitimized in this year's election. Asian-Americans rose as a politicized body to resist the Vietnam War, fighting instead for a world of empathy and compassion. Nowhere else is this illustrated better than at the Women's March. From the graciousness shown to a cumbersome biker in a packed crowd to the myriad affirmations displayed in the posters, these are the tools of the resistance. This is where Asian instincts and impulses lead. The Asian American Arts Centre has always sought to promote the artists whose work exudes these traits. 

"Asian American artists will continue to go in multiple directions," said Lee. "One core direction will assimilate, blossom and flourish as women take the lead." 


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Sunday, January 15, 2017
ZONED OUT!


At the Abrons Arts Center on Dec 12 2016, the authors of the book "Zoned Out!" and community organizers gathered to discuss the racial segregation, gentrification and displacement in neighborhoods like the Lower East Side and Chinatown.

Speakers:
Tom Angotti is Professor of Urban Policy and Planning at Hunter College, the Graduate Center, and City University of New York, and Director of the Hunter College Center for Community Planning & Development. He is author of New York For Sale: Community Planning Confronts Global Real Estate, which won the 2009 Davidoff Book Award.

Samuel Stein is a PhD student in Geography at the CUNY Graduate Center and holds a master’s degree in Urban Planning from Hunter College. In addition to teaching and studying urban geography, he worked as a researcher, organizer, and planner on numerous New York City union campaigns, tenant mobilizations, and public policy initiatives. 

Louise Velez is a native Puerto Rican and a long-time Lower East Side resident. In the 1970s she began organizing with fellow residents against unsafe housing conditions, evictions and displacement in the neighborhood. Velez is a member of Mujeres y Hombres Luchadores, and a Board Member of National Mobilization Against SweatShops (NMASS), where she is currently organizing public housing residents to demand repairs and to stop the sale of public land and assets.

Jei Fong is a staff member of Chinese Staff & Workers' Association with over 10 years of experience organizing workers in the workplace and community.

Sylvia Morse received her Master of Urban Planning degree from CUNY Hunter College, where she focused on housing and participatory planning. She is a lifelong New Yorker who has worked with community-based and nonprofit organizations dedicated to affordable housing, community-based planning, and racial and economic justice. 





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Saturday, January 14, 2017
In the Spirit of #CreateNYC- The LES Discusses NYC's Cultural Plan

Chino Garcia speaks at the TNC Neighborhood Gathering 

On December 27th,  in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, community cultural center Theater for the New City hosted a discussion in the vein of City Council's plan for creating NYC's first ever cultural plan. A panel of diverse artists were asked to describe their role in creating the arts community and culture of the LES. Community leaders, including "representatives of neighborhood churches, mosques, synagogues, schools, settlement houses, NYCHA and other residences, and civic groups" were invited to discuss the needs of the neighborhood. 
Artists at the TNC Neighborhood Gathering 




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Monday, December 19, 2016
AAAC: Why are there so many Chinese restaurants in the U.S.?


  This article offers one answer, though clearly this is only one piece of the story. 

  The reliance on small family operations shapes NY Chinatown into a hub developed over generations for all the farms and supply chains that bring in fresher food at less cost into restaurants throughout out the East Coast. This economy of Chinatown is apparently its own system apart from the global economy and the big box business. Articles have come out about this. 

  An unspoken aspect of this story is the marketing, or should we say the socio-political dynamics. How do you survive in a hostile climate after you form Chinatowns for safety? The genius of our great-great-grandfather's generation to be welcoming, cordial, innocuous, offering better food at attractive prices and protecting themselves and their businesses with their own security network - gangs- made alliances across ethnic lines but were sometimes not well-controlled. All this was networked with our love of gambling, particularly for the bachelor generation - apart from family, alone, risking everything on their luck. Food has a context.

  I know in Newark NJ Chinatown when gambling was still legal, my father had a friend who earned his living solely by driving people who flew into and from Newark airport to gamble in Newark Chinatown. Mayor Addonezio shut this down, and the FBI raids kept fear and anxiety not far from home. There were those who profited from all of this. They built many buildings, family associations, and social structures that united authorities, settled local disputes and established political loyalties, including friends in Washington DC. 

  And don't forget, when that prestigious Senator proclaimed in Congress in 1882 that this nation would remain Christian or become Sinicized, the Law of Chinese Exclusion turned us all into the unknown, taboo, worse than heathen, opium smokers, the epitome of unAmerican, etc, etc. Yet we were for that very reason attractive, a secret place to go for a bit of excitement that was still a bit ordinary. For decades, from top hats to T-shirts, Chinatown restaurants remained the foil for the man on the street to get away, be in another space, do something just a bit unusual yet as ordinary and jaded as a Humphrey Bogart movie. 


  In Newark there were two restaurants that sat more than a hundred tables until smoke bombs were tossed in during the 1930s. Though important, neither the food nor the veil behind a strange language were the reasons for Chinatown's success. For Americans, Chinatown is in the mind, the minds of those who were our patrons. Our image, the key message of our presence, may be definitive, more than the icing/Sini-cizing on the cake.  

  If Jazz has become largely white, how long can authentic Chinese food and its Chinatowns, those that still exist, last? Fifty years? Maybe less if the gentrification started by Bloomberg has its way. Maybe more, if we learn to play our cards...and music as well as our great great grand fathers did. 

Bob
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Tuesday, December 13, 2016
Forgiveness Ceremony Followed After DAPL Construction Halted Last Week

Last week, the Dakota Access Pipeline protestors celebrated the halt of construction on the project. Asian American Arts Centre received news of this important decision through a Huffington Post article, which described the events of the Forgiveness Ceremony, held a day after construction was halted, at the Four Prairie Knights Casino & Resort on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. 

Bob Lee, Executive Director of AAAC, comments on the Forgiveness Ceremony: "This moment is the most historically significant and most powerful moment in the history of this country that I have witnessed in my lifetime. It's more significant than the end of WWII, more significant than Kennedy getting shot, or the World Trade Center falling down. World War II just establishes us as powerful. This has the power to transform the very beginnings and the very nature of what this country is about, because it's a people-to-people act. It was done with tremendous sincerity. It was done with more significance than any politician can generate. This has the capacity or potential to transform the very nature of this country."

Here are some of our favorite photos from the article:

Photo Credit: Josh Morgan for the Huffington Post 
"Leonard Crow Dog, a Lakota elder and highly-regarded activist, left, places his hand over Wesley Clark Jr.'s head during a forgiveness ceremony for veterans at the Four Prairie Knights Casino & Resort on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation [last] Monday." -Jenna Amatulli, Huffington Post 

Photo Credit: Josh Morgan for the Huffington Post 
"Wesley Clark Jr., middle, and other veterans kneel in front of Leonard Crow Dog during the forgiveness ceremony." -Jenna Amatulli, Huffington Post 

Click here to read more about Huffington Post's coverage of the DAPL Forgiveness Ceremony: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/forgiveness-ceremony-unites-veterans-and-natives-at-standing-rock-casino_us_5845cdbbe4b055b31398b199?
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Sunday, December 4, 2016
A Response to “Cultural and Racial Equity in Practice:  Current Policy and Research and the Future of NYC”  held at Museo del Barrio  November 16th 2016  New York Community Trust

The following comments are my own personal observations. Three points are made at the end. They are not meant to address all aspects of the cultural plan.


Towards the conclusion of this event I realized a large part of the discussion dealt with policies and practices, elaborating the administrative system to be able to make the arts accessible to all parts of the city. What was being overlooked became clear when questions were taken from the audience. One speaker replied, when asked about a community organization that is 34 years old, that the practice at her foundation was to see such groups as having a natural life cycle. No sustainability program therefore would be undertaken to support such groups.

The idea that a natural life cycle could be applied to community cultural organizations was striking, when the development of a comprehensive cultural plan for NYC is based on several decades of cultural inequity. This can hardly be termed a natural process. Fixing the system’s approach has failed to zoom in and see how the arts are actually transmitted under conditions of racial and cultural neglect. A systems approach takes no responsibility for individual POC organizations and see them only in terms of their ‘life cycle’. Their skills and achievements configured under difficult and daunting conditions, their devotion to their arts and their communities are then easily diminished, and disregarded. It becomes conceivable that a system of transfer to an established larger organization can learn to serve their audience, present their arts, and even gain a community’s trust.

When a natural development took place in the 1980s, artists of color created a major cultural phenomena called Multiculturalism that persisted for twenty years. Throughout the country when community groups sought increased support to accommodate audiences, the funding community chose instead to create a major funding program called 'New Audiences' where funds to present these new artists were given to established institutions. As artists attracted larger audiences they were moved from community venues that nourished them to mainstream institutions pushing their notion of ‘multiculturalism’.

Why were community venues not supported? Because we were not trusted. We were organizations of color. We weren't white. Sharing power with us was unthinkable. Here is an example of intentional racial and cultural neglect that community members may not have known, nor realized its impact on their POC community.  Despite this, artists like Martin Wong, Zhang Hongtu, Mel Chin, Danny NT Yung, Xu Bing, Lily Yeh, Indira Freitas Johnson, Zarina Hashmi, Tseng Kwong Chi, Gu Wenda, Natvar Bhavsar, even Ai Wei Wei, and more recently Wafaa Bilal and Simone Leigh, who were exhibited at AAAC early in their careers, came to be recognized as important to the visual life of this society and the international community. This is one of the many ways that indicate the significant value of community cultural organizations.

Another aspect of arts organizations was raised by comparing them to public libraries, how libraries bring many library users to public hearings to substantiate their request for funds while arts groups bring few if any. This difference offers no insight into the issue of arts organizations. Public hearings are themselves a questionable way of relating to communities for whom racial and cultural neglect has become a norm. Local audiences did not come pounding on the door of AAAC to initiate a program to support unknown artists.

A small group of devoted arts people in the 1980s were responsible for envisioning arts programming. They did that when nobody cared. I could have asked artists we exhibited to come to city hearings but I doubt any would have come. Because officials weren't listening then, and I'm afraid the plan is to not listen now.

If teaching mainstream institutions how to replace community arts organizations becomes the outcome of this public process, then the problem of inequity will continue. You may teach people to attend public hearings but you may only be making another attempt at assimilation. POC don’t want to be assimilated. We want to retain our difference. We want to be equal.  

Neo-liberalism nationally has formed the policies towards POC. In New York State this led to a funding department for community arts called ‘Ghetto Arts’. It then proceeded to fund NYC’s communities peanuts for four decades. Just as the center has its periphery and the periphery has its fringe, it's on the fringe where POC have lived.  The harmful effects of this decades old policy should be, as far as possible, reversed.

A systems approach can never serve the purpose of what the arts are about. Equity for POC is not just about equal access to the arts, nor just a resource distribution systems problem. Art is about real human contact. People who want to share and enjoy and touch what we touch. It's about the transmission of what moves us, what animates us, about what we come to feel because the artist/teacher feels with us. Ultimately it's about what we believe and trust. That's what artists/performers do, what good teachers do, what community arts groups do. That is where a bond of trust is sparked that fosters participation and identity. The best a systems approach can do is to get out of the way and let those motivated to create, present, transmit, care for and preserve the arts and the culture it grows - the arts in situ - that embody our living culture. Such arts motivate people, and are already in place with years of demonstrated commitment to their community and their arts. 
Do we have the will to take responsibility for decades of neglect, of policies that have alienated both those on the right and those in diverse communities? Now, after the elections of November 8, a different stance needs to be realized. Diversity needs to be affirmed. Can this call for equity realize the next step in doing what’s right?

Reverse 40 years of neglect. Send a message to Trump that NYC affirms the value of diversity. That we value and affirm our neighborhoods and the diverse cultures of all ethnic peoples. That the goal of cultural equity, strengthening neighborhoods, communities, ethnic groups, is nothing less than the goal of making NYC great. And that this commitment comes first before real estate, land use and temptation to gentrify communities.

On this point further discussion may be necessary, however, the colonization of settled neighborhoods, must be stopped. This is essential, else equity is meaningless.

The challenge Trump presents us is to embrace diversity. Embrace our differences, rather than show how liberal or tolerant we like to see ourselves, to truly believe in the value and the gift of many cultures jostling and bumping into each other endowing us with the kind of energy and rhythms we have come to know as NY. White ethnics have their neighborhoods as well. They can be embraced too, for what they contribute to the mix. Their pride and their culture should never be neglected as POC’s were, and never be confused with the biases and hostilities they have been taught to identify as theirs. Demagoguery can be challenged once we are clear it's in our neighborhoods, in real people, not in systems, not in profits, not in the monetary system, that is where the strength and beauty of our city lie.

Beyond legal rights and token tolerance POC and all ethnic groups want to feel recognized, welcomed and accepted by the larger city. Towards this goal, embracing our diversity could be made tangible by some form of legitimization, the issuing of a certificate for display, an entitlement that enables a clearer path to funding and support. Such a piece of parchment even if issued will mean nothing unless the quest for cultural equity is the first step in an ongoing move to transform Neo-liberalism.

People in the arts who endure in small localized communities that may have been uprooted, who acquire a faith that lasts and carries them through, and whose arts may never come to be recognized for the strength and meaning it has for their community and for our nation – these are examples of exceptional people. Contrary to celebrity culture, these people and what they do, in my mind, should become known as an exceptional investment. I suggest a different, not necessarily an expanded role for government. A government motivated to strengthening a culture, of fulfilling the inner well-being of a people, not just its economic material enhancement, a higher notion if you will, of the purpose of government.

Contemporary society can express its desire and appreciation of other traditional ethnic cultures and their wisdoms, as the birthright of every grand father and grandmother to be seen and regarded given their wise, loving presence. Neo-liberalism can recognize its excesses, its inequity, its reliance on youth culture, its drive for power and money, its use of science to replace what is felt, its preference for legalities rather than its humanity, and material secularisms that leave little space for a valid role for the spirituality of every faith.

In conclusion I suggest:

The question of Equity initiated the need for a cultural plan and must be at the center of the eight questions posed to guide procedures of all public meetings so New Yorkers can grasp the implications for their communities.

A cultural plan that affirms NYC’s commitment to the value of our neighborhoods and the diverse cultures of all ethnic peoples. Our city is as strong as its communities.

A cultural plan that issues a certificate or entitlement to community groups, establishing a clear and direct path to funding and support.

Robert Lee

Asian American Arts Centre

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Friday, November 25, 2016
NYC's Cultural Research in Practice - #CreateNYC

As cultural advocates and arts leaders discuss what a comprehensive cultural plan for NYC would look like, Mark Stern of the Social Impact of the Arts Project (SIAP) at the University of Pennsylvania gave a lay of the land at the convening Cultural and Racial Equity in Practice: Current Policy and Research and the Future of New York City. 

Full Talk here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=99rncCM1Vxc


















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