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Article Published: 01 Jul 2020

Opera Conference 2020: Creating Real Belonging

Discussions about the conference’s final two themes — Creating Real Belonging and Making Change — began the day after the police killing of George Floyd and continued for the following two weeks, as Black Lives Matter protests took place across the country.

On May 27, a panel discussion addressed the theme of Creating Real Belonging. Here are some of the panelists’ remarks.

Quodesia Johnson
Education and Company Culture Manager, The Dallas Opera

We have to commit to leaning into courage as opposed to preserving our comfort. We have to commit to presenting humility rather than extending our expertise. We have to commit to sharing power over giving permission. And we must commit to centering truth and connection over upholding our own traditions.

Theresa Ruth Howard
Dancer, teacher, writer, and curator and founder of MOBBallet

Opera can’t authentically get to the idea of being a space of belonging if it’s unwilling to interrogate itself — interrogate the culture and identify the pillars and the values that prop up systematic and institutional racism.

Mark Valdez
Director, writer, and producer

Creating authentic belonging for non-white people at our organizations is urgent — urgent because if we cannot do this here, where the art is universal and the work is grounded in beauty and discovery, and the results can be transcendent and healing, then what chance do we have when it comes to things like schools, jobs, housing, or policing?

Nina Simon
Spacemaker and CEO, OF/BY/FOR ALL

One thing I think we have to learn as white people is that our comfort is not primary. It’s not the reason the cops exist. It’s not the reason our organizations exist. And if we can unlearn the idea that our comfort matters more than a person of color’s safety, then we can start to talk about how we build those relationships that move us to being in real conversations that are not about exploitation and reproducing institutional trauma.

This article was published in the Summer 2020 issue of Opera America Magazine.