THE FUTURE OF THE ARTS MUST BE ANTIRACIST
A dialogue with Black arts leaders in Washtenaw County
Tuesday, July 7 @ 12pm
Join us for this special lunchtime discussion about how non-profits and arts organizations, in particular, can work to dismantle systemic racism and be actively antiracist. The recent history of diversity, equity, and inclusion can often feel like organizations are ticking boxes and tokenizing to appear as though they’re “doing the work,” while racist structures of these institutions remain firmly rooted. Yodit Mesfin Johnson, the President & CEO of Nonprofit Enterprise at Work (NEW), facilitates this conversation with arts leaders Omari Rush, CultureSource Executive Director, Jenny Jones, Development and Administrative Director for Title Track, Jamall Bufford, Project Specialist coordinating Washtenaw My Brother’s Keeper (WMBK), and James Carter, Ann Arbor Summer Festival’s Programming & Operations Manager.
“In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be antiracist.” — Angela Davis
Yodit Mesfin Johnson, panel facilitator
Omari Rush, panelist
Jenny Jones, panelist
Jamall Bufford, panelist
Yodit Mesfin Johnson (she/her) has been working as an activist and organizer at the intersections of race/gender justice and liberatory practices for women and black, indigenous and other people of color for nearly two decades. Her gifts include dialogue and facilitation with people and organizations that explores and unpacks oppression, anti-racism and dominant culture practices. As a champion for justice and social change, she believes there is no greater antidote for hate than love and liberation. In January 2020 she became CEO of Nonprofit Enterprise at Work (NEW), a nonprofit management support organization serving SE Michigan. She is also founder of Black Men Read, a community storytelling program that uplifts Black men, all children and stories of the African diaspora. She and her family reside in Ypsilanti.
Omari Rush has engaged the arts as both a passion and profession, and in each mode, he continues to enjoy discovery and deepening impacts. As executive director of CultureSource in Detroit and as the governor-appointed chairman of the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, he advances efforts to have creative and cultural expression thrive in diverse communities. Complementing that work, Omari is a board member of Arts Midwest in Minneapolis, the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies in Washington, D.C., and the Lewis Prize for Music.
Omari earned degrees in music from Florida State University and the University of Michigan, and extended his love for learning by managing the K-12 education program of the University Musical Society (UMS), by serving on the John F. Kennedy Center’s Partners in Education National Advisory Committee, and by serving as the chairman of the Ann Arbor Public Schools Educational Foundation.
A lapsed clarinetist, Omari now uses his voice to co-host an arts-focused radio show on WEMU-FM and recite Robert Frost poetry.
Jenny Jones is an Ann Arbor based connector, social media manager, and singer-songwriter with over 20 years of project coordination, event planning and scheduling, team leadership, and office administration experience in the arts management, nonprofit and philanthropic, management consulting, educational, and manufacturing fields. She is a classically trained pianist and cellist and a self-taught guitarist, has had two album releases, and continues to songwriter and sing with local musicians. Jenny is part of the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation & CultureSource’s CultureMakers Cohort, the Michigan Council of Arts and Cultural Affairs Rising Leaders program, The Ark’s Marketing Advisory Committee, and the Planning Advisory Committee for the Ann Arbor Summer Festival. In a newly expanded role, she is the Development and Administrative Director for state-wide nonprofit, Title Track, an organization engaging in creative practices to build resilient systems that support racial equity, clean water, and youth empowerment. Jenny also has a background in Human Resources, insurance management and documentation, and advises various southeastern Michigan venues and artists. She assists in scouting and marketing efforts for The Ark – Ann Arbor; and has worked as the music manager for Ypsilanti-based Cultivate Coffee & Tap House since its inception.
Jamall Bufford has stepped in as the new Project Specialist coordinating Washtenaw My Brother’s Keeper (WMBK). As the first county in the nation to sign onto the Obama-era White House initiative, hiring a full-time Project Specialist to rally the community and manage partnerships is a significant step in WMBK’s development.
Bufford received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan, and is no stranger to working with youth in Washtenaw County. Bufford’s background as a hip-hop recording artist led to his passion of working with young people. He spent 5 years working at the Neutral Zone in downtown Ann Arbor as an Emcee Workshop Facilitator and Music Coordinator, and he was most recently employed as a Paraprofessional at Ann Arbor Public School’s Tappan Middle School where he worked with students with emotional impairments. Bufford is also a trained facilitator in restorative practices.