An Interview with Afa Dworkin
Daniel Bernard Roumain

My work primarily deals with emboldening women in the phoenix area — women of all ages, genders, ethnicities, orientations, interests, temperaments, social status — through the arts. I’m not necessarily interested in creating more artists, but I am interested using the arts to let people be comfortable with vulnerability, to be comfortable going out on a limb, to be comfortable unabashedly and wholeheartedly embracing their challenges in hope of creating a more empathetic and equitable society. To this end, diversity is incredibly important — as Sarah Ventre, the director of Girls Rock! Phoenix, says “you can’t be what you can’t see.”

With this in mind, Afa said something that really resonated with me — that her hope is that her organization becomes irrelevant. This is something I struggle with — how do we know when we get there? Is there ever going to become a point in which we’re truly equitable? I also wonder about how successful these sorts of programs are — how do you infiltrate the establishment?

Afa also used a phrase I love — “friendraising.” To me, this is the heart of social entrepreneurship. Denhardt and Denhardt speak at length about the emotional components of leadership but beyond passion is trust. It’s about creating networks and developing a love economy — that is, to develop relationships within a community that are worth working for, whether that’s money or time or emotional effort.

There are certainly programs similar, though most of my knowledge is related to women in arts and tech, and generally skewed toward youth (as if adult women don’t also need role models) — the various Girls Rock! Orgs, Reel Girls, Girl Can Code, Girl Develop It. (side note: I feel as if we need to land on something other than “girl” when we’re talking about young women — it’s infantilizing, regardless of age).

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