The societal and moral costs of a lethargic approach to racial equity

Last month, I took a major step forward in the world of public speaking, when I delivered my first ever TED talk as a part of TEDxStowe in Stowe, Vermont. My topic was pretty straightforward, and nothing new for those who follow my work: It is time for the dominant culture to step aside if we are to have radical diversity, equity, and inclusion. The time is long overdue to be bold in our undertakings and demand excellence in our efforts to create systems of meaningful equality. As I said in the speech, “We do this work because we must. A just society requires our resistance to hegemony.” Please feel free to watch and share widely.

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Kiah Morris
Death by a Thousand Paper Cuts

On Monday, January 14th, the Vermont Attorney General announced the findings of their investigation in to the ongoing harassment and terrorism that my family has endured over the last few years, including acts by racist, white nationalists. Their conclusion was that ultimately, the right to free speech supersedes the right to human dignity and freedom from terrorism. Many legal observers believe there were other charges under current Vermont law that were not applied, but the sole focus was on the legality of hate speech.

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Kiah Morris
What is your inclusion rider?

What is your inclusion rider?

Earlier this year at the Oscars, award-winning actress Francis McDormand shared with the world a poignant tool that she uses to disrupt our often lethargic approaches to addressing inequality in the workplace: an inclusion rider. These are the standards and expectations that she puts forth and requires in every aspect of the projects that she touches to create the world of work as it should be. Performing artists, musicians, actors and more are accustomed to demanding provisions in their contracts which detail their desires be they a preference for chewy (not crunchy) granola bars in their dressing rooms to the types of hotel accommodations as a requirement for their participation. The artists place these requests, and they are often met to the letter by those seeking to hire them. In an inclusion rider, favorite food stuffs are replaced with minimum requirements for racial and gender diversity makeup in hiring of local crews and employees, supporting performers and more.

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Kiah Morris
WATCH THIS: My most powerful speech to date.

The decision to run for office and serve in the legislature was passionate, courageous and crucial. The work completed during time in office was impactful and historic. The choice to step away was one of the hardest of my life. During the Reclamation Talks event in August, I delivered what I consider to be one of the most powerful speeches I have ever penned. It tells one part of my life’s journey and gives a call to action that we each should follow to move towards racial justice in this nation.

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Kiah Morris
Tangible, Meaningful work Towards Racial Equity in Vermont

Three important opportunities to learn, create and support a diverse racially equitable future are happening now!

Call for Artist Proposals for Multicultural Community Building through African-American/African Diaspora Visual, Culinary, and Performing Arts

Applications for appointment to the Vermont Racial Equity Advisory Panel being accepted now!

2018 Vermont Vision for A Multicultural Future Conference registration is open!

Please read on and spread the word!

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Kiah Morris
Reclamation Talks: On Being a Black Woman in one of the Whitest States

I am thrilled to be part of a lineup of exceptional speakers and presenters for Reclamation TALKS, a TEDx Style event on Saturday, August 4 at 7pm at the Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center in Stowe, Vermont.

Building on the national conversation sparked by the #MeToo movement, this event is presented in partnership and inspired by the exhibition Reclamation / rekləˈmāSH(ə)n/ at the Helen Day Art Center this Summer. In the TALKS, speakers will explore their perspective on the topic of Women and Power, including body positivity, media literacy, art history, and how gender bias impacts women’s lives, with the art world as one arena. The TALKS are geared to spark deep discussion among attendees and community.

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Kiah Morris
Activism, Art and Equity

In the last days of 2017, we lost a powerful voice in the fight for racial and social justice, Erica Garner. The death of her father Eric Garner, at the hands of law enforcement, was a major catalyst in the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States. Erica would go on to demand racial justice for all and the psychic, physical and emotional effects of that work would call her home at a young age. The heart attack that claimed her life is in line with much of the emerging research on disproportionately high rates of maternal death for African- American women. I myself, had a harrowing birth story with my son, as did my mother before me. It is not a coincidence. The devastating epigenetic and medical impacts of systemic racism are now being fully recognized by the medical community as a serious issue in need of remedy.

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Kiah Morris
Montpeculiar: 'Over The Rainbow' Under the Golden Dome | Off Message

Yesterday, I had the honor of singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" as part of a beautiful memorial for Vermont LGBTQIA, social justice and healthcare advocate Paij Wadley-Bailey as part of the devotional for the Vermont House of Representatives. So touching and healing for us all. You can see the video of my performance in the story. Rest in power Paij.

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Intentionality in 2018

As I write this, people are taking to the streets of Washington DC to protest the atrocities happening in our government that will exacerbate our racial and class inequalities, crush the elderly and disabled, terrorize our immigrant brothers and sisters, strip away healthcare and dismantle tenuous protections for the middle class. These individuals, across all social stratifications, are united in their mission and willing to risk their health, their bodies and potential legal sanctions to make a difference. This is civil disobedience in the most urgent sense - this is what Dr. King is most known for and shapes our collective memories of his work against racial injustice.  But Dr. King died fighting for a radical revolution that centered the intersectionality of race, class, gender inequalities in all sectors of American life. His final triumph was in articulating the need for a unified strategy across differences to activate everyone as participants a global conversation on equality for all. 

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Kiah Morris
A Beginner’s Roadmap to Racial Diversity and Equity

I live in Vermont which has long been known as one of the least diverse states in the United states, currently ranking at “second whitest.” As a trainer and facilitator in racial diversity, equity and inclusion, and as the only black woman serving in the Vermont legislature, I often hear from leaders who are looking for advice on how to increase diversity. 

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Revolutionary Movement Politics and Radical Inclusion

(Vermont Crossroads Conference Remarks, November 11, 2017)

So here we all are, ready and eager to do the good work put in front of us. We stand in this moment in time, in solidarity with brothers and sisters through our state, our nation and the globe who are using the power of the people to push forth courageous and necessary changes that our very survival on this planet are dependent upon. Today, you have built relationships with crucial organizations in our state who are working actively to ensure the will of the people is honored and activated.

 

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