Dear VCFA Community,

As I wrap up my third week at VCFA, I want to pause and be with this community in honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and to affirm the wide range of experiences people are currently processing and reflecting. Each year around Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. day, we are reminded of the power of pausing to reflect on progress, setbacks, and the work ahead in our efforts to create a just society. A society in which all people and all voices are heard, valued, and appreciated for their contributions and differences. Dr. King’s dream and his resilient and action-oriented leadership are timeless. His conviction to speak truth to power continues to inspire us to demand radical change and equity. The divisive climate of our country, the ongoing pandemics of COVID-19 and racism, and the recent insurrection necessitate, more than ever, our responsibility to create the change we wish to see. 

At VCFA we hold the belief that “the arts are central to the human experience and have the ability to not only reflect reality but also to create it.” I want to take a moment to appreciate members of this community, who through their unique forms of self-expression, reflect and illuminate injustices and inequities we still need to address. I am honored to join you in this work. I want to share with you a few of my committed responsibilities, shaped and reshaped, from continuous self-reflection: 

I will continue: To engage in learning how cultures, structures, and institutions, within VCFA and in this country, disenfranchise groups of people, perpetuate assimilationist and segregationist ideas and beliefs, and to begin designing for inclusion and transformation. 

I will continue: To challenge myself to lean in and call in courageous conversations that matter, in recognition that any harm caused by staying silent will never justify the temporary comfort it offers. 

I will continue: To develop people and organizational capacities to influence change that is systemic and sustainable by holding space for the tension of opposites to interact, and harnessing that friction for growth. 

In moments that are frustrating, uncertain, and difficult, Dr. King’s words remind me to persevere because we shall reap what we sow. I know that we will witness justice: people liberated from all forms of oppression, and humanity thriving in inclusive societies and communities. That day will come, but not without the courage to tap into our voices and expressions, and to activate ourselves and others to resist the comfort of silence and complacency. 

I leave you with my personal reflective question that serves as an anchor to keep me grounded: “How might I best continue to contribute to the design of a just, equitable, and inclusive future?”

If you need resources to continue your work in advancing equity and justice, we hope that our ongoing list of resources could be of assistance to you. 


Howie LeBlanco
Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion


(Featured image: Malcolm X and Martin Luther King fly over the Theresa Hotel, mural by Faith Ringgold, 1996, at West Side IRT Station, 125th Street, Harlem; photo by Camilo J. Vergara, 2011)