Foundation Convenings

Convening on Cultural Equity (RECORDED)


Nov 18, 2022


12:00 p.m. - 1:00 p.m.




Panelists Salwa Abdussabar, Rachel Alderman, Malakhi Eason ("Dr. Kreative); moderator Adriane Jefferson



(L-R) Panelists Salwa Abdussabur, Rachel Alderman, Malakhi Eason ("Dr. Kreative"); moderator Adriane Jefferson.

The city of New Haven along with arts and other institutions in the region are working to ensure that civic spaces and public investments and policies value the diverse communities and cultures in our region. On November 18, 2022, The Community Foundation hosted an online panel discussion about cultural equity — what it is, how it is being prioritized and what more needs to be done.

Salwa Abdussabur
, Creative Director and Lead Curator, Black Haven
Rachel Alderman
, Associate Artistic Director, Long Wharf Theatre
Malakhi Eason
, "Dr. Kreative," Director of Programming and Community Impact, International Festival of Arts & Ideas

Adriane Jefferson, Director of Cultural Affairs, City of New Haven

What We Heard

  • The arts have the power to inspire and catalyze societal change.
  • An official New Haven policy of centering cultural equity is creating new opportunities for local artists and communities.
  • Cultural equity involves creating places and spaces for, and making investments in, people from historically marginalized communities.
  • Cultural equity work involves building relationships in the community.
  • Legacy arts institutions like Long Wharf Theatre and the International Festival of Arts & Ideas are changing practices to be more inclusive.
  • Artists from Black and Brown communities continue to experience gatekeeping by institutions.
  • To build trust in diverse communities, leadership and staff of institutions need to be representative of those communities.
  • Leaders of today should mentor and make way for the next generation of leaders.
  • Advancing cultural equity involves conscious decision making every day.
  • Cultural equity is good for business: a diverse audience increases foot traffic.

What We Can Do

  • Be a champion for the New Haven cultural equity plan and advocate for its practices to be embraced by the state.
  • Expand the cultural equity conversation in the workplace and across all sectors - private, nonprofit and government
  • Value the voice and contributions of people of color.
  • Advocate for and support diverse representation in arts and other institutions.

Questions? Please email Carmen Burgos.

More about the panelists:

Salwa Abdussabur
Creative Director and Lead Curator, Black Haven

Salwa Abdussabur is a New Haven, Connecticut-born singer, songwriter, actress and poet who has had the privilege of being bred in spaces where activism and art were inseparable. Abdussabur has worked alongside artists such as Childish Gambino (SNL), Alica Keys (Radio City Music Hall) and Meshell Ndegeocello. Abdussabur is an artist with soul and consciousness who uses their voice to uplift spirits and voices. When Abdussabur is not "spitting bars," leading workshops or onstage, they are dedicating their time to arts inclusion, equity and equality. Abdussabur is a trained community organizer and anti-racism facilitator, working with various organizations and academic institutions around topics including youth advocacy, youth empowerment through the arts, arts equity and inclusion. Abdussabur is the founder and creative director of Black Haven, a platform in response to art justice centering Black artist equity and inclusion, where they put on New Haven's first Black short film festival. In the past year, Abdussabur served on the Cultural Equity Team to bring the first in the state Cultural Equity Plan for the City of New Haven. Abdussabur is currently a fellow in the National Arts Strategy (NAS) Creative Community Fellowship program. Salwa hopes that by being a part of these transformative spaces that combine artistry and activism, it will inspire youth creatives to be global change-makers, movers and shakers.

Rachel Alderman
Associate Artistic Director, Long Wharf Theatre

Rachel Alderman
(she/her/hers) is a director, producer and co-creator of theater experiences who is fiercely committed to building ensemble onstage and off. Before being appointed Associate Artistic Director of Long Wharf Theatre in July 2022, she contributed to the artistic health and growth of Hartford Stage under the leadership of Michael Wilson, Hana Sharif, Darko Tresjnak, Elizabeth Williamson and, most recently, Melia Bensussen. As Artistic Producer, Alderman was an integral part of the leadership team that shepherded Hartford Stage throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, producing and creating a variety of virtual and socially distant programming, as well as reopening with the successful Raise the Curtain 2021-22 season. Rachel is a founding ensemble member of the award-winning A Broken Umbrella Theatre with whom she has collectively devised original, site-specific theater inspired by the history of New Haven, Conn., for over a decade. In 2013, she was awarded the Denham Fellowship from the SDC Foundation in support of Broken Umbrella’s celebrated production Freewheelers.

Alderman is a member of SDC and a graduate of Muhlenberg College. She lives in New Haven, Conn., with her husband, two kids, a dog and (as of this writing) two Betta fish.

Malakhi Eason ("Dr. Kreative)," Director of Programming and Community Impact, International Festival of Arts & Ideas

Malakhi Eason, "Dr. Kreative," (he/him/his) is a native of Boston, Mass., earned a Masters of Arts in Leadership from Grace University and is working on a Doctorate in Interdisciplinary Leadership from Creighton University. He is a proud graduate of University of Bridgeport, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication with a minor in Music Business. With over 15 years of experience in arts administration in the nonprofit sector, Eason has served in many positions that convey his passion for service and youth mentorship; he encourages young people to find their passions. Eason is an active member of numerous organizations, including the Lincoln, NE, Alumni Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc; Lambda Pi Eta (National Honors Society); and the NAACP. In his free time, Eason loves to travel, write songs, eat at great restaurants, and spend time with family and friends.

About the moderator:

Adriane Jefferson
Director of Cultural Affairs, City of New Haven

Adriane Jefferson (she/her/hers) is a nationally award-winning cultural equity expert, arts administrator and public speaker. Initiator of the Cultural Equity Plan in the City of New Haven, Conn., she has worked professionally in the arts and culture sector for over 18 years, and has dedicated her career to cultural shift advocacy. Jefferson is currently the director of cultural affairs for the City of New Haven and the executive director of New Haven Festivals Inc. in Connecticut, where she leads the city on cultural equity and anti-racism initiatives. Jefferson and her department have created the Arts for Anti-racism Pledge, The Unapologetically Radical Conference, the city of New Haven’s inaugural Black Wall Street festival, and the first Cultural Equity Plan in the state of Connecticut.