I welcome any and all comments… Conversation is a start for, at least, we’re talking about it. For the record, I am more than willing to sit and chat with Mark to create the ‘what’s next’ steps. As I’ve alluded to before, action is required. (Mark’s reply follows.)
Hi Davita, this is Mark. You invited a response from me and here it is.
I love your reply. It is spirited and real and I hope it furthers reflection on all sides.
Instead of countering point-by-point, I’d like to share a few facts about me in the hope that we connect across differences. I’m one of five children of immigrant parents from South America. I was raised in Queens, New York in the 1970’s. High rise apartment complex beside the railroad tracks. My father worked hard. I don’t come from money. My parents instilled a love for education and the arts. I’ve been sketching and photographing and writing my whole life. My friends have always been artists and creatives.
I was first in my family to graduate from college. It gave me a path to professional life. I became an attorney…a point of pride for my family…then I walked away from it all to write a novel. Starving artist…the whole thing.
I got married and had a child. I came to Charlotte, I spent the last money I had on a business, and lost it all. I took odd jobs, the debt piled up, until one night I published a blog about the city and our local art scene. It was in 2003. I turned to what I loved, which was writing and the arts. I poured my heart into Charlotte Viewpoint, telling stories about writers and painters and filmmakers. We did our best to cover the local art scene in a beautiful and positive way. Charlotte Viewpoint was a non-profit and for 10 years I had my hand out asking for grants and donations to keep us going. I was grateful and frustrated every day. I paid everyone who wrote for us because I believe artists should be paid, but I never paid myself. I lost more money than I know to keep Charlotte Viewpoint going.
Today I am a teacher at Johnson & Wales. My students come from a wonderful range of backgrounds. They are talented and challenged and young and raw…and I love them. I see myself in them.
I am aware of that when people look at me they see a tall, white, middle-aged man. All sorts of assumptions come with that…that things have come easy for me, that I’m out-of-touch with people different from me, that I don’t understand artistic struggle. All I know is that I have worked really hard on my path in life and I’ve devoted myself to a more inclusive and creative world. I don’t pretend to know your experience and I wouldn’t dare compare as I know I have many privileges that come with my race and gender and education. But I ask that you don’t assume that you know all of what I’m about.
My identity and experience has informed my point of view just as your identity and experience has informed yours. Over the years I have thought deeply about the city: I believe in community responsibility but more in personal agency. I am realist about the issues in the world (I see them every day in the classroom) but I also believe strongly in a growth mindset and grit (the teacher in me). I love art and education but I also walk in the world of business and investment and civic leadership. It is who I am without apology…and I think it makes me an interesting person to know.
Here is a column that I wrote in 2013 that shares more about my history and what I value: http://www.nfocusnashville.com/content/article/13000819/nretrospect-march-2013-mark-peres
I hope we can meet. My heart is open to it. I hope yours is too. We may end up disagreeing fiercely. However, with love and respect, good discussion is art too.