Ruby Pérez

3rd Year Undergraduate Student, Theatre Performance

School of Music, Theatre & Dance

Being your best DEI self: Think of a time when you were at your best at advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion. What happened? Who was there? Why did you feel at your best?

Following the death of George Floyd, BIPOC theatre makers drafted a list of demands. That fall, the Graduate Student Union led a strike. Meanwhile, students were trying to detach themselves from multiple tragedies so that they could learn. One day, I began a conversation during one of the junior acting classes about what was going on around us. That conversation led to the creation of our own list of demands, a department-wide student-led strike, a Long Term Accountability Plan with tangible actions and deadlines, a love offering for our faculty and staff. Spearheading the change required more courage and persistence than I ever knew existed within me. I hope that these conversations and the courage ensued by them will never end. That the accountability flows in and we never put a lid on it. That when the next generation of BIPOC theatre makers come to our program, they’ll be joining a more inclusive, more loving community.

Wishes for the future: How would you imagine your environment needing to be for you to feel that you don’t have to do DEI work anymore?

DEI work happens on our campus because we hold different identities, some of those identities having more powers and privileges than others. Ushering in an era of communication and transparency allows us to prevent the harm that can be caused by these powers and privileges.

What does it mean to you to be a recipient of the MLK Spirit Awards?

When I moved across the country, a first-generation college student from an immigrant household, I found myself working tirelessly against the lack of opportunity that exists to represent my culture and to share my story through theatre at Michigan. I committed myself to ensuring, however I could–acting, writing, organizing–that Latinx people from all walks of life would have a seat at the table, an opportunity to see themselves represented, because I was here at Michigan fighting for us. As Professor Angela Davis remarked at our 2020 symposium, “During the era of Doctor King, we had not yet begun to recognize how much more we would learn about injustice in the world.” That being said, the MLK spirit award inspires me to look beneath the surface and to continue fighting against one standard way of making theatre. It instills in me a curiosity about the spirit of the art as it exists in different places. “What we most need now is to generate hope that must be continually regenerated. This is the collective challenge of today.” Professor Davis continued. I am honored to be called upon to generate and regenerate the hope we so desperately need in our world today.