Jon Ludwig is the artistic director at Atlanta’s Center for Puppetry Arts. He’s received nine Citations of Excellence from UNIMA-USA (the highest award in puppetry). His work on the Disney Channel’s The Book of Pooh received an Emmy nomination for outstanding directing in a children’s series. (Photo by Chris Hunt)
In doing some recent research, I discovered the words of astronaut Mae Jemison, the first woman of color to travel in space: “I felt the wind gathering energy and I understood that until we humans fully acknowledge how intertwined we are with one another, there will be endless suffering.” Having grown up in the segregated South of the Jim Crow era, I remember the signs “whites only” and “colored only.” I remember the irrational hatred many white people had for any non-white persons. In 2020, we may not see those signs, but hate and the barriers to true equity still exist and our community is suffering. We in the arts must take action to remedy our complicity in systemic racism.
What does systemic racism look like? It is the absence of representation of people of color in positions of influence. As storytellers, we must be part of the movement to ensure justice, equity and healing for our community. At the Center for Puppetry Arts, we are continuing to build a culture that is inclusive, supportive and understands the true value of diversity.
Puppetry is a global art form that brings people together. I have spent most of my career at the Center for Puppetry Arts. We know that we hold a unique place in our community and as artistic director I am determined to continue to increase our collaboration with BIPOC artists, performers, educators, designers, writers, composers, musicians, directors and staff. Our commitment to anti-racism and inclusion starts with our board and continues across all areas of our organization. We are developing metrics to measure progress around these efforts and are committed to continue this work through anti-bias/allyship workshops and listening sessions for the staff. It is essential that the faces in the audience, onstage and behind the scenes reflect the diverse faces of our community. We move forward with a sense of urgency, humility and optimism.
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