Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning
Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility Plan (DEIA)
The Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning (JCAL), founded in 1972, is a multidisciplinary arts center based in the diverse community of Southeast Queens. It is devoted to offering quality visual, performing, and literary arts, and to provide accessible arts education programs that encourage participation in the arts.
Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning (JCAL) is the one and only multidisciplinary urban arts center located within the diverse community of Southeast Queens. Created in 1972 as part of an effort to revitalize Downtown Jamaica, JCAL has earned a reputation for showcasing the talents of legendary and up and coming local artists and performers, inspiring youth to take an interest in the arts, and creating dynamic multicultural programs that have been engaged by all generations and local residents.
Over the years, JCAL has grown from a community organization into a CIG with a mission to reach out and represent the ever-growing culturally complex population and to engage even the smallest enclave of diversely self-identified members of the community. JCAL is an equal opportunity organization in all ways especially in today's world of identifying oneself beyond one's ethnic identity; we welcome all and do our best to consider programming that will reach each of Queens and NYC's community members and tourists.
JCAL vision - to ensure that its two building campus and programs create a safe space that honors, respects and welcomes all people with the following categorized identity markers along with welcoming new self created Identity markers as a testament to human uniqueness and a place where we can collectively celebrate individuality. Our vision is meant to hold all of JCAL’s spaces, programs and practices as sacred and meant to honor our cultures and creativity. Every day, we seek ways to actively promote and recognize principles of fairness and equity, in relation to, and across, intersections of race, age, color, disability, faith, religion, ancestry, national origin, citizenship, sex, sexual orientation, social class, economic class, ethnicity, gender identity, gender expression, and all other identities represented among our diverse communities. JCAL is committed to be a safe creative incubator, an institution that advances Jamaica as the unique resource of arts and culture for residents and visitors in Queens, New York City, and beyond.
Diversity is a defining feature of JCAL's past, present and future. JCAL, residing in one of the most diverse cities in the world, celebrates and promote diversity in all its forms since its inception. The Jamaica community first came together in creating JCAL as a means of correcting an imbalance in the greater cultural landscape - to include artists who were denied access because of their race, gender, and proximity to Manhattan. Since that time, JCAL has consistently proven that there is value in the alternative. However, communities are not static and the Jamaica neighborhood has changed dramatically since the 1970s. JCAL has always worked to remain true to its principles by engaging with the extremely varied artists of Queens. This DEIA process has shown us that our framework, while successful, is reactionary. At a time when the boundaries of gender are shifting and the fluctuations of immigrant populations are causing rapid (and positive) upheaval to the status quo, we have learned that with the right process in place JCAL can reside at the vanguard of these changes - thereby providing support for the most vulnerable in our communities.
During a time in which identities are being used to divide, JCAL firmly believes that arts and culture are vital components to forging mutual understanding and building a sustainable society. JCAL dedicates its space and programming to the pursuit of collaboration and the celebration of the multiplicitous perspectives that diverse life experiences bring. All people are welcomed, respected and nurtured in their artistic and social development at JCAL.
Our first step was to conduct an internal scan of our current practices and perceptions, which included input from all staff and board members. A consultant firm was brought in through DCLA's support to work with senior staff members to start the interview and drafting process. The senior staff held meetings with junior staff members and included their input in the comments given to the consultant firm. The senior staff members include Asian, LatinX, African American, and Caucasian from a diverse age spectrum, physical abilities and gender identities representing the heads of departments across JCAL's program and operations. The updated draft of this plan will again be reviewed and approved by the Board of Directors.
Definitions (as per the NYC Culture Plan, Create NYC)
Diversity: Diversity is all of the ways in which we differ. Among these dimensions are age, gender, mental/physical abilities and characteristics, race, ethnic heritage, sexual orientation, communications style, organizational role and level, first language, religion, income, work experience, military experience, geographic location, education, work style, and family status. JCAL is also open to understanding and adding self-identifying moniquers that are not a part of the existing American (colonial based) definitions.
The definition of diverse communities includes those marginalized groups that have historically experienced a lack of access to financial resources and/or social and organizational mobility. We note the significant and vital interconnection, overlap, and intersectionality between these communities.
Equity: Improving equity means promoting justice, impartiality, and fairness within the procedures and processes of institutions or systems, as well as in their distribution of resources.
Inclusion: Inclusion refers to the degree to which all people, including people with disabilities, with diverse perspectives and backgrounds are able to participate fully in the decision-making processes of an organization or group and in all elements of an organization, performance, event, or programs. While a truly inclusive group is necessarily diverse, a diverse group may or may not be “inclusive.”
Access: Improving access means reducing economic, social, communication, and physical barriers to inclusive participation. Accessibility describes the degree to which an environment, service, product, or program allows access and eliminates barriers to participation by diverse or underrepresented communities, especially people with disabilities.
DCLA plan DEI: acronym for "Diversity, Equity & Inclusion"
JCAL’s inclusion of Accessibility IDEA: acronym for "Inclusion, Diversity, Equity & Accessibility" or DEIA “Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Accessibility”
Adding Accessibility (the A) to JCAL’s DEIA plan: To understand programming priorities and how to best serve the diverse population of Southeast Queens communities the newly formed programming department, prior to and during work on the DEI plan, initiated projects Building Equity for Immigrant, Indigenous and Native American artists in Southeast Queens (Building Equity) as well as engaging in discovery of the area’s plethora of “identity markers” / “identity monikers” through the project The World of Queens. Working on these two projects made it clear that JCAL’s DEI plan needs to include Accessibility because it also deals with not only the physical space but also the conceptual, emotional and philosophical/spiritual space.
A summary of the Building Equity includes a deconstruction of producing and presenting events (using seven pillars of producing/presenting and each pillar’s coinciding constituent groups) at Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning, a center that is Western Centric in its architecture and has a history shaped by Jamaica Queens’ historic African diaspora. By continuing to serve JCAL’s deep-rooted community and expanding its programmatic reach it is broadening its definition of presenting and producing the arts paying close attention to many of the underserved community members of Immigrant, Indigenous and Native American’s encompassed within the Asian, LatinX, Arab, African and Native American (ALAANA) communities of the Southeast Queens area.
The World of Queens program project initiated by Director of Programming Catherine A. Peila to inform all departments of the cultural demographics of the area and to share with the visitors of JCAL. (an exhibit of where JCAL’s visitors reside, their cultural roots, and how they would like to be identified - gender choice, veteran, etc) has proven to show the complexity of an individuals’ desire to uniquely describe their own identity monikers rather than fill out a box that might closely resemble who they might be or in which group they belong.