Over the last several months and years I, like many of you, have been engaged in a variety of EDI activities undertaken by a number of organizations. (For myself this includes my own firm, Clark Nexsen, the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Arts, Virginia Sea Grant, the Greater Norfolk Corporation, the Virginia Beach City Public School System, and AIA Virginia).

These activities can be exceptionally engaging, moving, and rewarding for those involved. But I also feel, and have confirmed that others also feel, that the impact of those activities is often limited to those who have participated directly. There is a sense that what is actual is actual only for one time and only for one place, and that it most substantially impacts only those who were fortunate enough to have been there then.

We might be left with the impression that the impact does not leave the confines of that conversation and we might also be left with the impression that nothing, beyond those discrete experiences, is going on anywhere else. Or that, if it is, the impact of that interaction is likewise isolated. This is a disconsolate thought.

First of all, I would encourage you to consider that much of this work needs to be done at the scale of the individual. Individual people need to be willing to confront the issues (and be confronted by the issues) before we can tackle issues at a larger, collective, societal scale.

I would further encourage you to avail yourself of the solace that results from the assurance that good and necessary work is occurring, even if that occurrence escapes our direct observation.

I promise to also remind these things to myself.

A relevant episode: A panel discussion followed a performance that addressed issues of inclusion, collaboration, and social justice [the In[HEIR]itance Project; performed at the Attucks Theatre in Norfolk, Virginia on Thursday, May 5, 2022, during the Virginia Arts Festival]. The spirit of the piece was palpable and one of the panelists was asked how the power of the event might be ushered from the room and into the community, and whether anything else like this was happening, and how, if it was, the efforts might be conjoined. The panelist’s response was firm and direct: “Something [like this] is happening somewhere. It [this work] is happening. Go find it!”

To this I would add: and when you find it, please encourage and celebrate those who are doing that work, and then do what you can to share it with others.

Being willing to confront the need and do the work ourselves, and being willing to share and learn from each other, will be the footholds of our success.

In that spirit, I pledge that I will report on the efforts and plans of the AIA Virginia Justice Equity Diversity Inclusion Committee in the very near future.

About the Author
Paul R Battaglia, AIA is a principal at Clark Nexsen and chair of AIA Virginia Justice Equity Diversity Inclusion Committee.