LA Launches National Initiative Our Shared Future: Reckoning With Our Racial Past.

Veronica Wood
November 29, 2023

Indian Voices was honored to be invited to an EMS briefing about the new Los Angeles Initiative. It is a collaborative initiative in Los Angeles involving La Plaza de Cultura y Artes, the Chinese American Museum, and the Japanese American National Museum, supported by a donation from the Bank of America. This initiative partners with the Smithsonian to address issues of race and racism in the United States.

We had the priveldge of hearing from a variety of speakers and perspectives:

  1. Deborah L. Mack: Dr. Deborah Mack is the Director of the Smithsonian's national initiative, "Our Shared Future: Reckoning with our Racial Past," with a background in anthropology and geography.
  2. Leticia Rhi Buckley: Leticia Rhi Buckley is the CEO of LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes, focusing on Mexican and Mexican American history, and she holds various positions advocating for the arts and under-resourced communities in Los Angeles.
  3. James Herr: James E. Herr is the Director of the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy at JANM, with extensive experience in philanthropy, nonprofit management, and corporate social responsibility.
  4. Michael Truong: Michael Truong is the Executive Director of the museum, having held various roles at CAM, starting as an intern and eventually becoming Director of Operations.

These organizations aim to investigate how they can use their multidisciplinary work, capacity, and convening power to address the history of race, racism, and its legacy in the United States and beyond. The initiative focuses on six key areas: race and wellness, race and place, race, public policy, and ethics, race, art, aesthetics, and race beyond the United States. They recognize that the United States is now highly globalized, with concepts of race having diverse applications both within and outside the country.

The speaker emphasizes that the initiative's goal is to work effectively with partners and cultural institutions across the country to enable a better future. They mention an initial meeting in Washington, DC, in December 2022, where they announced their intentions. Still, they also acknowledge the importance of including diverse voices and approaches in the conversation.

The organizations are working with community partners in Los Angeles who have experience addressing race-related topics. They also plan to incorporate objects from the Smithsonian's collections that are relevant to racial history.

The speakers emphasize the importance of acknowledging and understanding the racial past to build a more equitable future. They discuss the challenges of discussing uncomfortable topics and political pressures but stress the necessity of these conversations.

This collaborative approach allows JANM, La Plaza de Cultura y Artes, and the Chinese American Museum to share insights, best practices, and innovative approaches, facilitating a collective effort to strengthen cultural preservation and promote a deeper understanding of diverse histories.

Through collaboration, JANM, La Plaza de Cultura y Artes, and the Chinese American Museum can also create a ripple effect, inspiring others to undertake similar initiatives. By sharing stories of their achievements and innovative approaches through various media, conferences, and community events, they can showcase the profound impact that cultural heritage and history can have on society. This outreach will not only help these organizations secure more support and resources but also elevate their status as agents of positive change in their communities and beyond.

In summary, fostering collaboration and communication among culturally rooted institutions like JANM, La Plaza de Cultura y Artes, and the Chinese American Museum is not merely about preserving the past; it is about shaping a more inclusive and culturally rich future for society. By leveraging their expertise, resources, and collective wisdom, these institutions can transcend geographic boundaries and catalyze a nationwide movement that emphasizes the importance of cultural diversity, inclusivity, and the profound impact of cultural heritage and history on our shared identity as Americans.