As we live our lives in the great city of Austin, we are constantly reminded of the beauty of diversity. It’s in our daily routine. It’s in the coffee shop we go to in the morning or the music venue we go to at night. It’s in the clothes we wear, the way we present ourselves, our DNA, our laugh, our light.
Most importantly, diversity is you.
I’ve come to define diversity as the ability to recognize and honor the value of uniqueness. I believe local residents do a great job at recognizing that value and “Keeping it Weird.” However, now more then ever, as a community it is our responsibility to do more to honor and represent every color, sound, shape and soul that this beautiful city has to offer. It is time we give credit to and shed light on more than one demographic, more power and strength to more than one ethnic group, and ultimately more love to every generation in our evolving city.
Diversity brings fresh ideas and perceptions and provides a chance for society to accept differences. It encourages individuals to grow outside their boundaries and learn something new.
Yahoo reports that there are 75.4 million Americans between the ages of 18 and 34, which means millennials just became the most populous generation in the country.
Austin’s millennial population can be characterized by its efforts in inclusivity, with numerous leaders making strides to move the city forward in a positive direction. Here are 11 prominent individuals’ thoughts on fostering diversity.
Jacey David (head of JaceyTV, art activist)
Diversity is the willingness to understand that your point of view is just that, only yours. Diversity is openness. Diversity is community. Simply put, diversity is listening. One way of fostering diversity is through an acronym I learned some time ago, L.E.A.D.S.T.A.R. L., listen to the entire message. E., eye contact. A., avoid distractions, D., don’t interrupt. S., speak loudly and clearly. T., think before you speak. A., ask questions about to topic and R., repeat the message. These are the eight guidelines for effective communication.
For one to foster diversity, one must possess the capacity to communicate effectively. When people are willing to swallow their pride and approach others with an open heart, true diversity will have its day. Diversity is #pmpmm, people meeting people making memories. The world is a cafeteria, and JaceyTV is getting everyone to sit at the same table.
Samantha Rosenberg (events coordinator for Capitol Factory)
Fostering understanding is as simple as starting a dialogue. Communication is key to creating an informed, close-knit community. I think it is important to remember that a real dialogue is not only speaking, but also listening. By talking with, listening to and learning from those around us, Austin can build not only understanding, but a sense of investment from Austinites, both in their small-scale community and in the city as a whole.
Sarah Rucker (founder of Full Gallop Arts)
Committing to diversity is similar to making a commitment to a relationship, job or any decision in life. It takes hard work and careful thought by both parties but the reward is a more enriched life for all of us and future generations. In the creative sectors, committing to diversity means that every concert lineup, panel discussion and info session should be curated as to include members of each community—be it artistic genre, economic background, race, or gender.
I believe the solution to many issues in Austin’s creative industries is to support each other by attending shows, learning more about the many amazing organizations, and collaborating on programming. By inviting diverse audiences, we are creating a more inclusive and bonded larger community instead of many isolated smaller groups.
Rudi Devino (head of SubKulture Patriots)
First of all, reading, watching and learning about cultures other than your own are ways to foster diversity and understanding. Most issues in opposition to diversity arise from the ignorance (in many cases willful). Another way is having the willingness to be wrong. Many will have factual information presented to them showing that their point of view or way of doing things is flawed, but when that information puts their existence into question, as humans we tend to resist whatever doesn’t fit our current way of thinking or living. Lastly, listening. We have to actively listen to each other. If we aren’t able to listen to opposing views and discuss them openly, things will never change.
Charlie DeBolt (musician in Roar Shack, Solstice Live)
In my experience, after living in the Austin area for about seven years, the first and most important thing the Austin community can do to foster diversity is by looking into ideologies/community action that can be easily incorporated into the entire community. As a whole, Austin has a reputation as a very progressive community, between positions in social rights politics and in our effort to build a healthy environment for all of our citizens. However, a similar effort to incorporate diversity into the image of Austin has to be put to practice.
It seems the incorporation of radical groups with insight (the groups at the UT co-ops, Monkey Wrench Books, and other horizontally run collectives), would be one way to begin this process. In my opinion, the idea of diversity in Austin is still a radical one, especially with the increasing number of families, citizens, and cultural hubs being bought out by big business in the central downtown Austin areas. One main focus the city could specifically strive for is diversity through celebration. This is not only a positive way to acknowledge the many different demographic groups that make up the population of this incredible city, but an easy way to begin asking the questions we need to ask in order to truly believe we are a diverse community: WHO are we celebrating? Where and how do we celebrate our diversity? and MOST IMPORTANT: What is diversity?
In the end, I believe a major obstacle in the way with any aforementioned ideas I’ve listed is that it is those with funding who hold the most influence. If Austin’s wealthy community does not support and fulfill any ideas of diversity, Austin is probably not the diverse community it so claims to be.
Rene De La Mora (Tipcow co-founder)
Austin, to me, has always shown to be a very welcoming environment. Coming from Chicago where class lines and racial segregation is still apparent, Austin is always looking to create environments harboring differences and inclusion on all fronts. If there was any effort necessary in key areas, I’d say class structure in Austin is very one-sided, and status quo. Pricing creative and artistic individuals out of the city is also removing the face of what made the city unique. Being committed to diversity is us evolving. The status quo should not be a benchmark.
Buddy Hachar (founder of Boss Tweed Sound)
In the world of creatives, there’s nothing better than colliding ideas together from different realms. Keeping an eye open to everything this world has to offer is a fine talent. I love catching a show where the lineup goes from garage punk, to dirty southcoast, to shoegaze. It looks weird on paper, but when you get a to a show like that, and see the crowd coming together, you realize it made sense all along and most likely have an epic experience. Diversity is a broad term, but I like to look at it as keeping yourself from getting cornered into one state of mind.
Patrick Jackson aka Peej Capeesh (member of Heye Minds Collective)
Personally as an artist, diversity is everything. If you aren’t diverse then you are limiting yourself to exceed your fullest potential. Having multiple perspectives and not being afraid to stretch out of your comfort zone is what will further personal progression. Live your life with no boundaries and any personal goal you may have will be obtainable.
Natalie Lopez (co-founder of Euphoria ATX)
Commitment to diversity for me means valuing and respecting people’s different backgrounds, skills, and experiences and creating an environment where everyone feels comfortable to be themselves. To keep this community alive, we must join together for people to showcase their talents and share their thoughts and ideas without fear of judgment. By fostering a diverse, inclusive, and supportive community, we can learn from many different perspectives which can lead to innovation and growth.
Andria Benet (founder of Protos Festival, electronic arts curator)
To me, a commitment to diversity is a commitment to being human. As humans, we are biologically far more similar than different. However, we are infinitely diverse and unique in our personal experiences and perceptions. We are the same but separate in as many ways as you can count. Our common ground is our humanity and it can be realized in the most unlikely places or times, so I think simply choosing to be open to humanity is a commitment to diversity. I am not sure if there can be a more standardized protocol than that. There are so many variables to our humanity and aspects to our individual selves that make up a hugely diverse species in a hugely diverse world. To me, recognizing the beauty of humanity and the beauty of the world in all its “different” glory is a commitment to diversity. I like to meet people of all walks of life and philosophies and to see beauty everywhere because it stretches my brain and opens my heart. As a human, I think that’s part of my job. I also happen to get a lot of pleasure out of evolving! So, without diversity, I’m afraid we as humans might not exist. We surely wouldn’t be as evolved as we are now, despite what the media tells you. Might as well embrace the differences.
Nathalie Phan (co-founder of On Vinyl Music Blog)
One of Austin’s weak points, though few, is that it struggles with the issue of diversity. While I believe the local government can take certain actions to improve diversity in Austin, I think that real change lies in the hands of leaders who come in the form of business owners, non-profit directors, young people and college students who wish to make a social impact, and others around the city who are leading efforts of change. These leaders, myself included, must not only be the leading voices of their individual initiatives but they must also be actively listening to their communities and their needs, seeking the voices outside of one’s social circles. Having a commitment to diversity is imperative to creating a more diverse and understanding city, and in many cases, it is the secret ingredient to having successful projects and businesses.
For example, On Vinyl Music is currently developing a web app that will allow local businesses to stream local music, allowing local musicians an extra venue of expression and allowing local businesses to access a repertoire of local music that supports a large part of the culture and economy of Austin. Without reaching out to a variety of different music, our project would fail. We must be able to serve different communities with different culturally-based music and a variety of genres in order to properly provide brand-specific curated music to our clients. I believe that other businesses should be committed to the value of diversity as well, not only because it is their social responsibility to do so, but because it has great potential to improve their projects and their businesses.