diversity | October 18, 2012

Culture Moves Before Politics: Diversity Speaker Jeff Chang's Q&A in ColorLines

When culture leads, politics will follow. Eventually. So says diversity speaker Jeff Chang, who is currently Stanford University's Executive Director of the Institute for Diversity in the Arts. In a Q&A in ColorLines, where he is a founding editor, Chang explains the significant role that the arts and cultural collaboration play in enacting change in government and policy.

"Culture is still bubbling and culture still has a very strong role to play in this very polarized, very divided political stalemate that we’re in right now," he said in the interview. Citing the story of Jose Antonio Vargas, an undocumented student in the U.S., that was featured on the cover of TIME MagazineChang says the rise of storytelling can make a tremendous impact on policy. In the case of Vargas, it only took twelve hours after the article hit the web for President Obama to issue a directive, dubbed Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, that would protect undocumented immigrant youth from deportation for up to two years and authorize legal work permits. Further, telling a story in a collaborative method has become and important vehicle for enacting change.

"What’s happened in the last two or three years," Chang said, "is that people have said, 'Let’s get organized.'" Collective movements such as Occupy, UndocuQueer, and Creative Time have brought people together in creative ways to send a powerful message. Which, Chang says, they "did by calling to the imagination as opposed to calling to the older sense of how you organize in politics."

Named by The Utne Reader as one of “50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World,” Chang is dedicated to breathing new life into the discourse on multiculturalism and race relations. In his books Can’t Stop Won’t Stop and Who We Be, he combines his signature laid back, "street-cred," style with an impressive grasp of history to explain how culture, race and politics intertwine. He will be participating in the upcoming Facing Race 2012 National Conference this November, where he and his peers will advocate for racial justice and equality.

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education | October 17, 2012