by Kibibi Ajanku
About a year ago I was asked to step into the helm of the Baltimore-based Urban Arts Leadership Program. As a long standing community leader and founder of Sankofa Dance Theater, I brought to the table a rich and profound legacy steeped with the use of ethnically charged art to address social justice issues.
The Urban Arts Leadership Program (UALP) is a program of the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance (GBCA) and was designed to increase the participation of groups that have been historically underrepresented, particularly those of color, in the management of cultural and artistic organizations. UALP is a pipeline for emerging and aspiring young leaders who are college seniors or recent graduates and have a keen interest in racial equity and inclusion. UALP is a Fellowship Program that offers professional development, and networking opportunities. Additionally, a core component of the fellowship is to match and embed each fellow within an arts organization, arts service organizations, or art driven business that is also committed to the concept of racial equity and inclusion.
The professional development takes place as leadership trainings that are dedicated to self-discovery, self-enhancement, and self-determination. Implied and ingrained within these ideologies is the notion of respect for culture, history, and contribution. The trainings are divided into three target areas and are planned to feature the following content:
A great leader has great influence and power to be a change agent in a way that productively and constructively serves. The gain and the responsibility reach beyond the personal. A commitment to equity and inclusion requires more than just good intentions. It requires action, and in good balance should be viewed as opportunity that cannot be squandered. So the program operates with an intensity and an urgency that compels full engagement from each participant. In the first month alone, the topics covered in Target Area #1 are presented publicly in the form of artfully developed and carefully timed PowerPoint presentations. Thus, the Urban Arts Leadership Program is a rigorous program, and not for the faint of heart. The obvious participants are the UALP Fellows, however, just as importantly the arts organization, arts service organizations, and art driven businesses are the host organizations where the UALP Fellows are embedded. They are participants as well, and like the Fellows, they must apply and be vetted. All who are accepted must go through racial justice training.
As its leader, I wear the Urban Arts Leadership Program as a badge of honor. I am serious about and proud of the work that I do. The need is real and is documented. Equity and inclusion are both a healthy tonic, as well as a healing balm that can and should be administered abundantly to bring much need balance and justice. The timing is perfect. The time is now.
DIVERSITY IN ARTS LEADERSHIP: FAST FACTS
Kibibi Ajanku, as manager of the Baltimore-based Urban Arts Leadership Program, has been invited to make presentations for the National Endowment for the Arts, the Washington, D.C. Commission on Arts and Humanities, the Association of Performing Arts Presenters, the Association of Performing Arts Service Organizations, and the City of Baltimore Women Leading Baltimore event. Additionally, UALP has been featured in Baltimore Business Journal, BMore Art, WYPR’s Maryland Morning, CATALYST Review, CultureFly, and GBCA This Week. The Urban Arts Leadership Program (UALP) is a program of the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance (GBCA). Find Kibibi at www.kibibiajanku.com.