Open Spectrum

Paradigm Shift

New York Live Arts Studios
MAR 18, 7pm
Tickets start at $10
A Conversation On the Kind of Leadership America Needs Now with Kristina Newman-Scott, Lisa Lucas, Sarinya Srisakul and Aurora Flores. Opening remarks from Sayu Bhojwani and moderated by Rev. Kaji Douša.

About the Conversation

We have been told that America is in the grip of a national emergency. It is hard to argue with that assessment given the rise in hate crimes, family separations, mass shootings, income inequality, digital surveillance, and climate degradation. Those events are coupled with new pressures put on marginalized communities and people of conscience, as well as calculated attacks on journalism, science, history, and the judiciary. Strangely, the cry of emergency is unconcerned with any of those threats. Perhaps the issue is not the rocky waters we have entered but the steering of the ship.

American leadership has lately veered in two directions: those who would see us turn inward and backward, and those who caution that a seasoned yet paternal hand is what’s needed to guide us forward. The former is represented by the travel ban, the border wall, the rolling back of environmental protections. The latter is found in the aftermath of tough political campaigns, when urgency is given to reconnecting with disaffected white male voters over organizing with women of color who have tilted or decided elections.

The demand for a different kind of leadership is found in the work of people whose communities have been painted as the Other. Trailblazers have always existed but too many were considered outliers or the stuff of history. Now they are rising at almost the same time, winning offices, directing institutions, and excelling in fields that had rarely welcomed them. Are they better understood as the harbingers of a movement?

If that movement is meant to change the culture, does the new vanguard of arts leaders have a central role to play? If a more inclusive and just world is our goal, are we ready to stand up, step aside, or come together as circumstances require? Does democracy grow stronger when the people who are the first to experience or respond to inequality take hold of the wheel? When they heed the call of Audre Lorde to speak out and take action “until laws are changed and lives are saved and the world is altered forever,” what support will they need and are we organized to give it?

While confronting injustice, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. expressed a radical faith in America, and in the power of “dangerous altruism” and “unarmed truth” to create change. Are we again in need of that kind of vision? If we believe that every crisis contains an opportunity of equal force – and that here, both are tied to our understanding of leadership – does the national emergency before us today demand anything less than a paradigm shift?

– Brian Tate, 2019

About the Speakers 

The Rev. Kaji Spellman Douša is Senior Pastor of The Park Avenue Christian Church in Manhattan “The Park”. In the congregation’s 206 years, she is the first woman called to this role. She is one of very few young woman senior leaders of important historic pulpits in the country. The Park is known as a congregation of fearless activism in New York City.

About her public witness, Kaji says: “I’m realizing that it’s time for the church to repent. We’ve let the name of Jesus get away from us, get misused, twisted and turned into something unrecognizable by the Religious Right. In the meantime, how many generations of people are being harmed by oppressive teachings from church? All because those of us who knew better have been too afraid to stand up, or we’ve been ineffective in spreading a message of liberation. That day is over. There are lives at stake, for God’s sake.”

A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and of Yale University, Pastor Kaji is a prolific writer and a celebrated and awarded public speaker. She preaches nearly every Sunday at The Park and is invited as a keynote speaker across the country. Her often fiery media appearances reflect her deep thinking, faithful perspective and quick wit. She is on the editorial board for the United Church of Christ’s Stillspeaking Writers Group, President of Yale Divinity School alumni board and co-chair of the New Sanctuary Coalition.

Kristina Newman-Scott is the newly appointed President of BRIC, the leading presenter of free cultural programming in Brooklyn, New York and a major incubator and supporter of Brooklyn artists and media-makers. She is the first immigrant and first woman of color to serve in this position and her previous position as the Director of Culture and State Historic Preservation Officer for the State of Connecticut. In June 2018, Americans for the Arts, presented Kristina with the Selina Roberts Ottum Award which recognizes an individual working in arts management who exemplifies extraordinary leadership qualities. Kristina has over 20 years of public sector and not-for-profit experience rooted in arts and culture. She has been a TEDx speaker, visiting curator, guest lecturer, and featured presenter at colleges, universities, organizations and events across the country and internationally. Ms. Newman-Scott was born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica where she was a visual artist, creative strategies consultant, and a television and radio producer. She became a U.S. citizen in 2013 and currently resides in Brooklyn, New York with her husband and two children.

Lisa Lucas is the Executive Director of the National Book Foundation. Prior to joining the Foundation, she served as the Publisher of Guernica Magazine and the Director of Education at the Tribeca Film Institute.

Aurora Flores is an entrepreneurial publicist & award-winning media consultant, writer and producer, Aurora has launched campaigns for significant Fortune 500 companies increasing client profiles, promoting brands while impacting sales. She led a team of thirty at the start of the phone wars leading to a divestiture that broke through the monopoly.

A published author and journalist she broke barriers as the first woman music correspondent for Billboard Magazine. Her name appears on hundreds of music liner notes and thousands of articles on music, culture, community, and politics. As a BMI composer, she writes original music for the Nickelodeon’ hit series “Dora the Explorer,” and for orchestra Zon del Barrio, which performs from New York to the Caribbean to France’s Cotes d’Azur. She is featured over many documentaries on Latin music and culture. Aurora lectures at colleges and universities

Sarinya Srisakul has been serving NYC as a firefighter since 2005. She is the first Asian woman firefighter in the FDNY.

Srisakul is the immediate past president of the United Women Firefighters and served in this title for 6 years. During her tenure, she had overseen the numbers of women firefighters grow from around 30 to 87, with many other milestones achieved such as the first all women staffed tour. She has been a dedicated member of the United Women Firefighters since the beginning of her career and had also held the positions of Secretary, Borough Representative and Vice President.

As a lifelong activist, she is continuing her mission in creating social justice and gender equality through her work with the United Women Firefighters. Through her leadership there is a historic high in the numbers of women firefighters in New York City.

Sayu Bhojwani is the Founder and President of New American Leaders, which works across the country to build the power and potential of first- and second-generation Americans. She served as New York City’s first Commissioner of Immigrant Affairs and is the founder of South Asian Youth Action, a community-based organization in Queens. Sayu earned a PhD in Politics and Education from Columbia University, where her research focused on immigrant political participation. Her work to build a more inclusive democracy has been featured in The Wall Street Journal and in The New York Times. Her first book, People Like Us: The New Wave of Candidates Knocking at Democracy’s Door, was published by The New Press in October 2018. An immigrant of Indian descent, she grew up in Belize and now lives in New York City with her husband and child. Her first book, People Like Us: The New Wave of Candidates Knocking at Democracy’s Door, was published by The New Press in 2018.