DEIJ Letter & Strategic Priorities

Letter from the Harvard Dance Center Staff

May 25, 2021

In July of 2020—in the aftermath of several incidents of violence toward unarmed Black Americans—we at the Harvard Dance Center sought external support to clarify and buttress our DEIJ (diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice) efforts.

The past year has afforded an opportunity for reflection across multiple levels.

The racial violence that led to the further rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as the recent increase in antisemitism, Islamophobia, and violence perpetrated against members of Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities, have called greater attention to the injustices that are present in our society. The events of the past year have also prompted reflection on how we as an organization and as individuals interact with these injustices. We have come to see clearly that organizations are not race-neutral, and that as organizational leaders, we can be agents for change.

As the “silence is complicity” call rang out in the summer of 2020, the imperative we felt to examine our work grew stronger. In what ways was the Harvard Dance Center—embedded in an institution of extreme privilege—promoting justice and equity? And in what ways were we, despite our best intentions, supporting injustice and inequity, or not being fully inclusive, in relation to race or other salient forms of identity among our community members?

It was in this spirit that we reached out to and contracted with EBDI Consulting to assess our existing DEIJ efforts, and to imagine possibilities—with resource constraints in mind—for how we could be a part of the solution to the institutional injustices and inequities that have plagued our society for generations.

On this day—the one-year anniversary of the murder of George Floyd—we write to share what has come of this work.

At the Dance Center, we conceive diversity, equity, inclusion and justice as follows:       

  • Diversity. The extent to which there are differences among people, ideas, practices, traditions, approaches, and methodologies in a group.
  • Equity. The provision of resources and support such that people are given what they need to thrive; distinct from equality, which is the provision of the same resources and support to everyone.
  • Inclusion. The extent to which diversity is acknowledged and embraced, and a state in which people of all backgrounds—not just members of historically powerful identity groups—are fairly treated and valued for who they are.
  • Justice. A state in which everyone receives equitable economic, political, and social rights and opportunities. Put in other terms, justice is a desired state that can only be achieved through equitable and inclusive practices.

With these definitions in mind, we invited members of our community to answer the following questions:

  • How do members of the Harvard Dance Center community experience the Dance Center?
  • In what ways is Harvard Dance Center promoting justice, equity and inclusion? In what ways is it falling short of its goals of being a just, equitable and inclusive entity?

To address these questions, we reflected on both structural and cultural issues. The former emphasizes the ways that we have or have not provided equitable access to the Dance Center’s resources. The latter refers to the environment that we create.

Based on this work, we have created a page that outlines our DEIJ work and strategic priorities. Section I of this page provides a brief overview of the data collected by EBDI, our partner in our ongoing strategic work. Section II provides context for the different groups within the Harvard Dance Center community and, in the spirit of transparency and accessibility, details the resources that we offer these sub-communities. In Section III, we highlight the programs and structures that we have implemented to support DEIJ at the Dance Center. Lastly, Section IV highlights additional steps that we will take in relation to DEIJ in the coming 2021-22 academic year.

With a spirit of solidarity and hope in these tumultuous times, we are proud to present our work.


Jill Johnson
Director, Harvard Dance Center
Head of Dance/Senior Lecturer, Theater, Dance & Media

Kirsten Leonard
Administrative Manager for Dance

Elizabeth Epsen
Communications and Programs Coordinator for Dance