What is your role as an educator and how long have you been doing that for?
I have been a part of the educational platform for a long time, roughly 15 years. I started out as a teaching artist in Chicago, teaching poetry and spoken word in schools and community organizations. I also taught in New Mexico and Iowa, then I made my way to Colorado. There I was a professor at Colorado College for six years as well as an assistant professor in theater,dance, and playwriting. Now, my role has shifted more into Arts Administration, where I do things like Q and A’s and teach the occasional workshop.
My values as an educator influence everything that I’ve done, from the type of work that I write, to the type of projects that I’ve helped organize. I believe in using the arts to educate people and to spark conversation. In the wake of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd issues, I’ve released a series of free plays called Free Plays Open Source Scripts for an Anti-Racist Tomorrow aimed at multi-generational readers to create conversations about race, racism, and Black History.
Why do you feel what you do is important?
I think that issues like racism are taught and passed down through generations, and are centuries old. Only in recent times has the general public become familiar with the terms Black Lives Matter and anti-racism. It’s going to take some time to teach these things and to unlearn negative points of view and perspectives. I believe that the Arts are a powerful way to do that. We can facilitate spaces where people can gather to tell their story, and listen to others. I believe that it’s only through education that the world becomes better. It is how we can become better stewards of the world and of each other.
What do you love most about what you do?
I love people. I find humanity very fascinating, wonderful, and frustrating. We are capable of beautiful and terrible things. I believe that the Arts are an examination of the human experience, and I love being a part of that.
What is the best advice you ever received about your impact on education?
Starting out, I was a very young educator, and—like a lot of young educators are—I was somewhat insecure. Though I am still workin on that at times, I learned to go in and just began to talk to people and ask questions. The best advice I ever received was to learn about the power of listening. It is important to be an active listener and show people that you care about what they are saying by paying attention. It can be so much more powerful than what you say to them.
What advice would you have for future generations?
I would tell the future generations that we all have a responsibility to this world. People fought for us to enjoy the life that we have now, and it is also our duty to play our part for the next generation. We all have our dues to pay to humanity.
I would also tell them to learn from other human beings by watching and observing them. Whether you are an educator or not, you still are teaching others every day by your actions. There’s always someone younger than you who is watching and learning from you, whether you like it or not.
You may as well be aware of that, and pay attention to what it is that you’re teaching. What are you passing down? What are you leaving as your legacy? You can have a positive or negative influence on the world, but that is your choice.
Written by Talisa Caldwell