By Amy Matzke-Fawcett

A daylong symposium at Old Dominion University on Oct. 18 aims to explore antiracist teaching and professional practices with experts from ODU and beyond.

"Antiracism in the Arts" is a free event, open to all, hosted by the Department of Communication and Theatre Arts, that will include sessions on antiracist teaching methods; color-conscious casting for film, theatre and dance; and leadership strategies focused on incorporating diversity and equity. The symposium is from 9 a.m. to 4:15 p.m., and sessions will be offered in the Diehn Fine and Performing Arts Center and Batten Arts and Letters Building.

The event will be a response to equity events that "aren't substantive" and often depend on people of color to do the work of antiracism, said Kate Mattingly, assistant professor of dance and the event's coordinator.

"A central tenet of this work is interdependence, which means we must work together to make change long-lasting ... so this symposium is an opening for people who are interested in this work to join together," she said.

And while the event includes a ballet class taught by Iyun Ashani Harrison from Duke University, and a focus on the arts, the ideas can be incorporated across the University, she said.

"It's not a symposium about ballet, but ballet is one of the most visible places where racism exists. There are certain traditions within ballet - ideas about body size, gender, race­ ­- that are being dismantled, and this work can be applied to any area," Mattingly said. "If ballet can dismantle racism, anyone can."

The Department of Communication and Theatre Arts, an umbrella for not only communication and theatre but also dance and film, provides the interdisciplinarity to hold the conversations, said Tim Anderson, professor and interim department chair in Communication and Theatre Arts.

"There's the art of conversation, there's the art of theatre, there's film art, and there's the art of dance, and they're all at the table together," Anderson said. "They're all performative arts on some level, but that's what makes [the department] an ideal place to host it."

Speakers at the event include:

  • Keesha Beckford, Columbia College Chicago
  • Brittney Harris, Old Dominion University
  • Iyun Ashani Harrison, Duke University
  • Theresa Ruth Howard, Memoirs of Blacks in Ballet
  • Maurya Kerr, artistic director of tinypistol
  • Allison Page, Old Dominion University
  • Priya Vashist, Old Dominion University

"Antiracism in the Arts" sessions include a ballet class taught by Iyun Ashani Harrison, a panel on ballet pedagogy with Keesha Beckford and Maurya Kerr, a panel on color-conscious casting in dance, theatre, and film with Harrison, Brittney Harris and Priya Vashist, and a panel on antiracism in leadership and Media Studies, with Harrison, Theresa Ruth Howard and Allison Page.

To learn more about the symposium or to register for sessions, visit this site or email

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