NPAC ended on Saturday with a “21st-century town hall meeting” in the Korbel Ballroom. I hate to say it, but after three days of excitement and promise, this one ended on a down note for me. It wasn’t just because the electronic point-and-click voting toys were the same ones we used in State & Society class at business school, with similar technological bugaboos haunting the process. It was more that for all that, all the time we put in, all the money that was spent, all the hype, the final result was so…pedestrian. It’s three days later and I don’t even remember what the chosen strategies were. I do remember that somehow, nothing about the artists themselves actually made it into the top three “challenges and opportunities” that the rest of the caucus process focused on. And I remember that it was awfully hard to have a real conversation about diversity when everyone at my table was white, which was the case at three of the four meetings. (In contrast, during the actual town meeting on Saturday, I sat at one of the San Francisco tables and was joined by four African Americans. Refreshing, yes, but it also became clear just how much work there is to do.)
Supposedly, all of the comments from all of the sessions (including any “gems” as identified by conference organizers) will be preserved and disseminated, somehow, at some point. In the meantime, I left the conference with profoundly mixed feelings. The potential was no doubt enormous, the ambition sky-high, but it seemed like only a fraction of it was realized. As exhausting as it was, I feel the best solution would have simply been a longer conference. I was just starting to get the lay of the land when it all disappeared through the plane window on the way back to New York. It’s clear that so many things about last week were just a beginning of a very, very long process. And I’m okay with that, in principle. I just wish that we could have taken things farther given the amount of effort that everyone put in.