By Lourdes Santamaría-Wheeler (@musarian)
MCN took a bold step forward this year with three African American speakers, two of them women, on stage to keynote the conference discussing race and equity. Woah. See, lots of people talk the talk, but this year MCN wove the themes of reconciliation and equity throughout the conference. A group of attendees also made progress in the field, although perhaps less visibly to the outside world.
Like so many things at MCN, this started on Twitter.
A few weeks before the conference, Karen Vidángos posted about being nervous and excited to attend her first MCN. Several people replied about the comradery of the conference and not being scared to say hello. I jumped in and said I’d like to meet some of those in the thread; several were fellow people of color (POC) whose work I admire. This was the beginning of the best part of MCN 2017 for me.
nikhil trivedi had the wisdom to turn that Twitter thread into dinner plans after MCN Ignite. Word spread. Nine people, who for the most part had never before met in person, showed up. Nine minorities. Nine people of color. I saw myself reflected across the table for the first time at a museum conference. I found my tribe.
The group lifted my spirits during exhausting discussions about values, museums, and bringing our whole selves to work. I knew I didn’t have to explain the difficulties of fighting for space in institutions that haven’t welcomed me as a visitor or employee. After introductions at dinner we discussed how museums are not neutral, and it’s time to stop talking about the well-documented issues in the field, and start talking solutions. We committed ourselves to be there for each other.
Lanae Spruce, was “able to shut up and listen to others talk about what they’ve done to increase equity in their institutions, or across their digital projects. It felt good. It gave me hope for the little queer brown girls who will get to see themselves reflected in culture at some of the best museums in the world.”
For nikhil, who has attended MCN since 2012, “connecting with a group of POC museum workers was such a great way to kick off the conference. It created a home base that I carried through the rest of the week. These types of spaces are rare for a lot of us. There have always been other people of color at the conference, but it was amazing having a critical mass enough where we could coordinate something like this.”
Starting the conference this way helped frame so many conversations. It also helped to find familiar faces to support and amplify each other throughout the week. And it gave me hope that enough of us are beyond talking and are truly enacting change, no matter how small. Taking up space and meeting each other is one small step forward.
Thank you to my colleagues and friends who contributed and formed a community.
Andrea Ledesma (@am_ledesma), Andrea Montiel de Shuman (@AndreaMontielS), Ravon Ruffin (@afroxmericana), Mimosa Shah (@mimosaishere), Tina Shah (@tshah), Lanae Spruce (@_BlackMuses), nikhil trivedi (@nikhiltri), Karen Vidángos (@latinainmuseums), Amelia Wong (@amelialikespie)