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Article Published: 01 Jul 2019

A Network Seeks Equity

How can an opera company use its marketing to engage people of color: communities that traditionally may have been left out of advertising campaigns? That was just one of the questions raised during a recent conference call held by the steering committee of OA’s ALAANA Opera Network (African, Latinx, Asian, Arab and Native American), a group for people of color and allies focused on racial justice in the opera field. In its discussions, the committee — composed of creators, artists and administrators — has also dug into issues such as representation onstage, mentorship and leadership opportunities, as well as ways to shift organizational culture.

Since its founding in late 2018, the ALAANA Opera Network has provided a place for its members create action plans for making the art form more equitable. Its core mission is three-fold: to provide resources and opportunities that support racial equity; to increase the visibility of people of color in the opera field; and to foster a space for dialogue, learning, relationship-building and support for people of color. Anyone can join the group through OA’s ALAANA Opera Network Facebook page. In June, the group hosted its very first in-person meeting at Opera Conference 2019, attracting nearly 100 participants.

“Equity is not easy; it requires ongoing examination of opera’s inherited traditions and biases,” says Brandon Gryde, OA’s EDI officer and an administrator of the ALAANA Opera Network. “But OPERA America firmly believes diverse representation among boards, staff, artists and audiences will result in new thinking, new stories and in the overall growth of the art form. The ALAANA Opera Network will inform OA’s efforts to provide resources to its membership and move the needle toward a more just opera landscape.”

The ALAANA Opera Network is just one of the ways OA has made equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) a priority. The organization has woven EDI into forums and annual conferences, and earlier this year it initiated a project to address the dearth of singers of color on opera stages (see “Where Are Our Singers of Color?” p. 16). This spring, the organization also launched IDEA Opera Grants, its first-ever grants specifically for composers and librettists of color.

This article was published in the Summer 2019 issue of Opera America Magazine.