Cultural Equity to Achieve Social Change in New Haven, Conn.

Adriane Jefferson

Cultural Equity to Achieve Social Change in New Haven, Conn.

Adriane Jefferson

From local government officials to philanthropic stakeholders to Living Cities staff, this story is one in a series that demonstrates the impact Living Cities has across the U.S. — connecting individuals and highlighting successful initiatives.

Adriane Jefferson
Director of the Department of Arts and Cultural Affairs for the City of New Haven, Connecticut

To achieve true, cultural equity, we need to work across intersections, within different departments and industries, to address all aspects that affect livelihoods.

In New Haven, Connecticut, we are actively striving to create a place of belonging for residents and those looking to join our community. As the city’s Director of Arts and Cultural Affairs we’re taking an anti-racist approach through arts and culture to create momentum for social change and activism. In order to achieve this and true, cultural equity, we need to work across intersections, within different departments and industries, to address all aspects that affect livelihoods.

Because my department is housed beneath the Economic Development Administration, my team has a unique opportunity to work with the economic development team, in addition to the Mayor’s office, and play a leading role in shaping the city’s work to be more equitable, and anti-racist. And while our work with Living Cities has just begun, we have already seen what the power of these experts, and having access to a network of individuals all working within the same space, really have, particularly in an advisory and supportive role, helping us to encourage our Mayor to join the Government Alliance of Racial Equity. Now, we have not only been able to expand our programs, but to center our work of arts and culture around social activism.

After the murder of George Floyd, there were many solidarity statements, but what do those really mean, in terms of impact, if policies and practices are not being implemented? To address this, my team released an anti-racism pledge last year, which serves as a toolkit and process of learning among a cohort of art and cultural organizations of what it means to be anti-racist. Since then, it has become a national tool, being used by more than 30 organizations — across municipalities.

At the end of the day, I just want to make sure everything we are doing is actually impactful and making a difference within our community. I would feel accomplished, if we can see those unjust systems in our city, and throughout the U.S., changing, shifting and being disrupted for the better.

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