For first time interest, email Executive Director, David Green at

COLLECTIVE ACTION FOR EQUITY (CAFE), which was originally titled “Collective Action Against Racism & Inequity,” was formed by a group of Cultural Alliance of Fairfield County (CAFC) members seeking to deepen their understanding of DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) and take specific actions toward advancing equity.  CAFC listened to member’s needs and launched the group with a public series of workshops focused on DEI issues within the arts and culture sector.

AUG 29, 2023, on Zoom 

 Learn what your peers are thinking, feeling, and doing to advance equity in their work and life.

Share experiences and insights…

● Listen and reflect…

Walk away with more confidence about how to unravel racism and advance equity and justice in your work.



You’ll Take A Meaningful Journey Into Equity:

Recognizing that racism and social inequities are systemic and require cultural changes beyond simple fixes, we utilize a dialogue-focused process and group norms to provide a safe, meaningful, and judgment-free environment. Participants reflect, share experience, and value trust, confidentiality, patience, and vulnerability.

You’ll Experience Meaningful Peer Learning:

Develop awareness of equity through personal, social, and cultural contexts. Peer learning is supported by reading, relevant community partners, and outside expertise. An outside facilitator organizes meetings, discussion prompts, and supports learning. Outside guests and other equity specialists, budget permitting, support group learning.

You’ll Be Motivated to Take Meaningful Action:

Commit to take specific, self-determined action(s) toward advancing equity, and integrate equitable practices into everything you do.

CAFE meetings run 9 meetings/year (≈every 6 weeks) mostly online (2-4 in-person sessions). The CAFE schedule beyond June 6 will be presented at the meeting and retains a 3-5PM Tuesday schedule.



Established in 2020, the CAFE Peer Group continues to meet every 6 weeks to support personal and organizational learning, expand member’s commitments to equity, and create opportunities to interact with other community partners and CAFC members.

The Collective Action for Equity operates as a Community of Practice and employs group dialogue inquiry practices grounded in personal experience, guest presenters, special workshops, and opportunities for interaction with other community partners and CAFC members.

Participants pledge to:

Sharpen awareness of personal, social, and cultural contexts
Learn from relevant resources
Give and receive peer support
Determine what they can do, with peer and professional help to do it, if needed
Undertake specific action(s) to eliminate instances of racism in their individual and/or organizational lives
Share what they learn and accomplish
Commit to integrating this work and its ways of being in everything they do

The CAFE community embodies an equitable structure and processes to support member’s work. Participation involves personal reflection, mutual learning, and peer and professional support toward the goal of specific, self-determined action(s) intended to eliminate or lessen pervasive racism and inequity in one’s personal and organizational lives. Members evaluate their progress and regularly communicate outcomes and what they have learned.

Three Public Conversations (2020)  

Three opening public conversations were presented by Valeria and Andrea Lopez, of OnBeat Consulting. Titled “Reimagining Arts & Culture,” the series centered on examining and interrupting the dominant story in the arts and culture sector that has often excluded or misrepresented Black and Indigenous People of Color.

These first conversations grounded participants in key terminology and theories, addressed how to move beyond shame, anger, or guilt, and invited participants to engage in a frameworks for more inclusive and equitable change. Topics included: Race, Power and Privilege in the Arts, Empathy in Times of Crisis, and Moving From Empathy to Action.


On August 19, 2020, The Cultural Alliance of Fairfield County announced its “Collective Action Against Racism & Inequity” Initiative (now CAFE) and issued a call to the region’s Artists & Cultural leaders to attend three public conversations.

The first convening (Sept. 17, 2020) conducted reflections on personal/organizational context and supported participants to arrive at specific DEI questions and identify achievable equity aspirations.

In the second and third convenings, following the second and third public conversations, participants self-organized into collaborative working groups according to interest and affinity. Some participants have chosen to work individually but have committed to reporting back to the group with updates and learning. Working groups were encouraged to adjust as the process advances.

The goal of the first three sessions was to identify a particular starting point and direction. These meetings were full-group virtual explorations and discussions and initiated this community of practice.

Three Public Conversations

This initiative opened with three public conversations presented by Valeria and Andrea Lopez, of OnBeat Consulting. Titled “Reimagining Arts & Culture,” this series centered on examining and interrupting the dominant story in the arts and culture sector that has excluded or misrepresented Black and Indigenous People of Color.

The conversations were intended to ground participants in key terminology and theories, address how to move beyond shame, anger or guilt and invite them to engage in a framework for more inclusive and equitable change. The topics included: Race, Power and Privilege in the Arts, Empathy in Times of Crisis, and Moving From Empathy to Action.

The schedule was as follows:

Sept. 15, 6pm: Race, Power and Privilege in the Arts

This conversation addressed key concepts such as race, privilege, and systemic racism – especially as it relates to arts and culture. Through small and large group discussions, we explored the role privilege plays in shaping the stories we tell about our history and the current movement.

Sept. 29, 6pm: Empathy in Times of Crisis

Having increased our understanding of the current racial pandemic, how do we move beyond feeling overwhelmed, guilty or ashamed? In the second session, we examined morality, empathy, and racial identity as we continued our journey to anti-racism.

Oct. 13, 6pm: Moving From Empathy to Action

Our closing conversation identified tangible ways to respond to and begin dismantling racism in the arts. We discussed key principles to keep in mind as we take action and share best practices.

The series was designed for independent artists, organizations that promote the arts, culture and creative expression, and community members interested in learning about the intersection of the arts and the national movement to dismantle racism in America.

The conversations were designed to help the audience understand and advance the national conversation on race and racism, while inviting them to be a part of the movement by taking individual action grounded in an expanded awareness of the issues. It filled a community need to participate and respond meaningfully to the current reckoning with regard to race and other prejudice and bias.

Conversation Leaders & Facilitators Valeria and Andrea Lopez

Valeria E. Lopez, Founder and CEO of OnBeat Consulting , is a speaker, trainer, and facilitator, specializing in personal and team development, change management and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs. Valeria has worked with physicians and over 1,200 education leaders from across the country on DEI initiatives. She draws from disciplines such as Liberating Structures and design thinking to create interactive programs. Valeria holds a Masters degree from Brown University and is certified in personality and emotional intelligence assessments. Andrea G. Lopez is a qualitative researcher, educator, and leader with a background in nonprofit and higher edu-cation. Andrea currently co-chairs a Young Professionals Board of a New York nonprofit where she leads conversations on anti-racist and equitable practices. Her expertise includes DEI facilitation, pub-lished research on Black & Latinx families, and higher education advising reform. She holds a Masters degree from Harvard Graduate School of Education and a certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) from Teachers College, Columbia University.

The Cultural Alliance of Fairfield County is very grateful to the Lundberg Family Foundation for its support, and to funds from the Connecticut Office of the Arts that were able to be used to make this important initiative possible.

The initiative’s evaluation and collective learning is supported by Angela Frusciante of Knowledge Designs to Change.

An Assessment of the Conversation Series, “Supporting Racial Equity In and Through the Arts,” by Angela K. Frusciante is available here.

The CAFE Community of Practice has included more than 20 participants representing staff and board members of 11 organizations and several individual artists.

See our page of CAFE Resources




The group continues to evolve and produced several programs to expand its members with public programs. These have included:

1. Isabel Wilkerson, author of Caste, April 28, 2022, giving a virtual presentation via The Quick Center, with a discussion on Zoom, Tues. May 3, 2022.

2. Heather McGhee, author of The Sum of Us, live and free at The Westport Library, May 18, 2022, with discussion on Zoom Mon. May 23, 6pm.

3. Ubuntu Storytelling Concert Wed. July 6, 2022 at The Norwalk Art Space, with a live facilitated conversation Wed. July 13. 35 people gathered at The Norwalk Art Space for the concert of stories that reflected the performers’ joys, triumphs, and disappointments: encounters with racism, prejudice, and micro-aggressions. 13 later also attended a discussion, moderated by the storytellers.

See report 

Celebrating passion for the arts and dedication to education