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Colorado State LEAP Institute for the Arts:
Dramatic Solutions Charrette

• • •
“Celebrating Community Fair”
Refugee and Community Festival



From the moment we are conceived

We are in need.  Even before we are

Born, our mothers carry us and fill

Our every fiber with the percussive music

A heartbeat provides, until we arrive

And our lungs breathe the air of Earth,

Still only a “temporary”, but our “Home”.


For some children, hunger and war are

all they will ever know.  Refugees are born

fleeing pain, loss, fear compelling flight,

clinging to hope, to others also suffering,

on the journey to find safety, and peace,

a place to sleep, and wake unafraid,

leaving behind the past for a new “Home”.


A “community” can include the worst physical

conditions yet still be a refuge from what

unspeakable horrors body, mind, and spirit can

try to erase, encase in a box to bury or sink

to the bottom of the ocean.  This is what

a community can aspire to do, people

with open arms to embrace, hands to guide

toward fulfilling life’s fundamental needs:

food, shelter, music, love.  And that is where

we come in.  To share in our mutual journeys

what we each have to offer and contribute.


Who is NOT a refugee?  Even People in Power

fear loss along with those with only a tenuous

hold, but “labels” categorize and often separate

into “haves and have nots”, everyone desperate

to survive, all of us aspiring to be worthy.


Still, identifying individuals as Refugees

can bring better fortunes to others as well,

if becoming more comfortable with Strangers

among us is an essential first step forward.

so, today, let us celebrate problem-solving

to better bring Refugees into communities

through specific thoughts leading to actions.

A plan we would like to put and move

forward is to “celebrate Community” in

a weekend Festival gathering in a public

space the spectrum of people and groups

who help to create a stronger Community

by embracing what opportunities we have


and to nourish, grow, harvest, and share

what we learn with other communities to

make this Earth a better home for all.

Listen, first to this array of Community

voices, as we tell it like it is as well as what

we hope it can be.  Then consider our plan.






Ever-So-Slightly Arching Toward “Justice” (?)


Twenty-eight years and seven Presidential elections ago

I got asked to write a guest editorial for the Lincoln

Journal, coincidentally in conjunction with the Rodney

King post-police-acquittal riots in LA and elsewhere, and my

thoughts about the impact, and lack thereof, of that video.


The path to justice is so often severed, like a fifty-foot tree

and snowmelt-rushing-California-high-mountain river falling

together across the Road Closed choice we had made, now

having to retrace and find another way to move forward.


Some people get the chance/have the luck to “choose”,
to recover, side-step, or otherwise "fall back", but

are stopped, “caught”, and do not escape, or, if surviving,

to live with and embrace, like a burn scar forever embedded. 


George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Matthew Shepard, Brandon Teena,

part of the long list extending forever in both directions of Time,

only a few “documented” by video, each one of those a horror

depicting a species bent and prone to Fear, and its soldier, Rage.


Hold fast when the news is not good, and keep on keeping on

walking toward Justice, the arc so slight as to make the Flat Earth

People seem right!  But, now, let me turn back in time, to 1992,

and when I mention my son Noah, please add in the phrase

“and his children”, since in these intervening years, our families

continue to extend into the Future, and for now, looking ahead.


America’s Funkiest Home Video
(Lincoln Journal Editorial, 1992)


What can I say?  I know it is important simply to be alive, to Pay

Attention, and be able to look down from this second-story window,

with sunlight reflecting off the fading turquoise hood of an old ‘65

Chevrolet, and notice the twin rectangle shapes of an old aluminum

window frame, and let dried flowers remain in evaporating vases,

while a pine cone and kiwi and mango skins dry on the window sill

In their own array.


These things I guess matter.  They accompany me on rare afternoons

I find myself writing at the kitchen table, in this light, to these colors,

a pot of tea nearly done steeping, with something else to write

put on hold until I can explain to myself that the beautiful world

I see in front of my face is not a more trivial thing than deadly

rioting in the streets, to be stunned by and come to write about.


It is hard to hear the words “home video” without thinking of the

television show, with its mostly innocuous, slapstick events, often

spontaneous, sometimes planned.  But, what, after all, does “funny”

mean?  Synonyms for the word abound in the dictionary, and include

“laughable, ludicrous, absurd, ridiculous, and incongruous (inconsistent, inappropriate, unbecoming)”.  Many meanings of funny imply disbelief, but it is no joke that most definitions are negative: from experience we know the line between funny and cruel is a matter of perspective.


The Rodney King video is anything but funny.  And yet, the King jury’s

verdict fits every definition the synonyms above convey.  I, too, feel

a part of the widespread agony, outrage, and support for Rodney King

as a victim.  I also believe what makes the support so overwhelming is

not that yet another African American was beaten by white police, but

that an American (and even immigrant “aliens” have this theoretical

right) has suffered at the hands of people whose DUTY is to Serve and

Protect, not unwarrantedly injure and inflict.


Two entries above the word funny in the dictionary is the word funky.

Funky can mean almost anything, from “evil-smelling, foul, earthy, pleasantly unconventional, offbeat, excellent, and fine”, all the way to “sexy and sensual”. But, the very first definition of funky (which I never knew before) is “overcome by fear, terrified”.


I am terrified for my son to grow up in this world too full of racism and bent on violence; afraid that, without help, the human heart will never grow big enough to postpone our extinction, and afraid that continued governmental abdication is just another Presidential campaign and election away.

The University of Nebraska – Lincoln: Diversity Summit (1999)

Document of Initiatives




The Chancellor’s Commission on the Status of People of Color coordinated an effort to

Examine long-sanding concerns around the issue of campus climate.  This began to take

Shape in the fall of 1998, with a proposal for a “summit” on diversity concerns.  Initially

Conceived to include the greater Lincoln community, the planners for this first summit

Eventually decided to limit the scope to an in-house (UNL) assessment of current

Organizations and programs, recent accomplishments, and continuing obstacles to

Success, with the goal of fostering an inclusive and welcoming environment at UNL.

Subsequent summits to follow this initial one may examine, among other things, the

Crucial relationships between UNL and the larger communities beyond the confines

Of this campus.


This fist Diversity Summit brought together the leadership of organizations on campus

Currently working on diversity issues.  This day-long event provided an opportunity

Where the leadership of these organizations could meet to better grasp who we are, what

We have already been doing, and what remains to be done to improve the campus climate,

Educational foundations, and opportunities for everyone at UNL.


Predicating the need for such a diversity summit were the voices of leadership on campus making the following observations:

  • There is an overall, continuing lack of diversity among all the component groups of

This campus (administration, faculty, staff, and students);

  • There are lingering problems of an environment often hostile to the idea of embracing diversity;

  • There is often ineffective, inadequate communication between groups, with resulting gaps in understanding or in a duplication of efforts among campus organizations.



The Diversity Summit


Nearly forty representatives from the UNL community met on September 30, 1999, for the first Diversity Summit.  Participants represented leadership from all the component groups of the university community.  Although these participants spoke to the interdependence of all the component groups here in this university community, the dialogue generated at this summit primarily focused on student-related issues.  This student focus is in part rounding out the assessment and recommendation component of the UNL Diversity Plan, with regard to student needs.

The opening session of the summit was devoted to testimony from leaders of campus organizations who acknowledged and spoke to many of the recent accomplishments of both individuals and organizations here at UNL.  Much is working.  Individuals and organizations are making strides.  Details of these successes will be presented in a more comprehensive report of the Diversity Summit, which the commission will be putting together in the coming months, to serve as an archival and reference document for future summits.  This particular document of initiatives will primarily detail “work to be done”.


Following the opening introductions, the large group dialogue subsequently identified four principal focuses as compelling issues to address: recruitment, retention, environment, and sustainability.  In the afternoon sessions, the small-group sessions generated specific suggestions for initiatives within each area of focus.  But, the overriding concern expressed by participants was the crying need that these initiatives require immediate action.


We present these specific initiatives to the Chancellor to provide needed leadership in determining accountability on this campus both for immediate and long-range commitments to enhance diversity in this new millennium.  These initiatives must work in concert with the UNL Diversity Plan to amend or enhance the existing plan to meet the needs of our campus community.


Given the need to prioritize the most crucial of these initiatives, those that we feel rate the highest priority are “starred” below.  Acting to accomplish these initiatives should provide the catalyst for profound and fundamental change to the environment, to the quality of education, and to the quality of campus life we expect from a major institution of higher learning.



Recruitment and Retention Initiatives


Much of the focus of the discussion at the Summit was on the issues of undergraduate student recruitment and retention.  Participant at the Summit recognized that the issue of recruitment and retention relates to all campus components (students, faculty, administrators, and staff), and effective and systemic strategies here are vital to the success of a major university.  Successful undergraduate recruitment and retention is the result of commitment by the entire university: administration, colleges, departments, faculty, students, alumni, and staff.  Every member of the campus community must accept responsibility for student recruitment and retention.  Since the two groups met and developed initiatives separately, we will include them here as distinct sets of initiatives.

(page 2 of 7, full text available upon request)