Bowie and Boundaries
Back in about 2000 I was charged with putting together a keynote presentation for a Newspaper In Education (the people charged with designing programs for newspapers to be used in classrooms as teaching and learning tools) industry conference. The attendees were from across the U.S., Canada and a few from other countries around the globe. My two co-presenters and I agreed to address the biggest issue in our industry, which was the ways in which the newspaper industry was evolving and leaving our niche –the needs of schools– behind as if no one cared (Because they didn’t actually.). It was in the early days of a move to digital information and many of our colleagues feared the advent of e-publishing would likely mean they’d become dinosaurs who could no longer find work. For many that did prove true but at that time we really just wanted to help the attendees stop thinking negatively about their professional future by embracing the evolution and finding ways to proactively take it on.
My co-presenters were from vastly different parts of the country and on a personal level we were quite different from each other as well. I was a middle-aged, married white woman with kids, living on the east coast in a major metro area. The second was a twenty-something single white woman living in the deep south. The third was a twenty something African American gay man living in a small town in the Northwest. For months we were communicating about the best way to introduce our keynote and then finally we found it. We each chose a decade from the past and wore a costume appropriate to the bygone era we selected. We danced out on stage to the music of David Bowie, singing “Turn and face the strange Ch..Ch..Changes.”
Many in the audience reported it was the best presentation of the conference by far. Everyone could relate to Bowie.
That was the thing about David Bowie. He could never be categorized as any one thing. He represented many walks of life and refused to be labeled, long before refusing to be labeled was common. His music made it okay to be different. He blew up the boundaries between us. He made difference a strength and for that we should all thank him. RIP, Starman.
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