Today we’d like to introduce you to Teja Arboleda.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Teja. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I am primarily African-American/Filipino and German, and I grew up in Japan. In 1981, I came to the US to attend Clark University in Worcester, MA. I designed my major, Visual and Linguistic Socio-Communications and set out to become a documentary filmmaker. My first job in television was as a news editor. Within a couple of years, I was Assistant Director/Editor for Say Brother (now Basic Black), La Plaza and The Group, then finally landing the role as Assistant Director/Editor for Frontline (PBS).
After the Rodney King beating and the Los Angeles and subsequent nation-wide riots, I had started to come to understand that race was the backbone of conflict in the US. Being a mixed-race and mixed-culture person, I began to think deeply about identity politics and what my place was and role could be, as a producer and creative professional. My 14 years in Japan, 2 in Germany, and the many travels around the planet gave me a unique perspective – something I knew I had to harness in order to help people and communities find peace.
I started Entertaining Diversity in 1992 to address issues of race and culture through various forms of entertainment. The first program I created was my one-man show, “Ethnic Man!” (now Other: The New Normal). Within two years I was booked around the US. I returned to producing television and video, focusing on race, culture and identity. My series, Diversity Elementary is distributed by Discovery Education and has reached children in over twenty countries. In the early 2000’s, I diversified my product line to include books, games, comedy programs, PBS documentaries, three new one-man shows and an iPhone app.
To this day, I have presented over 1,200 shows, and received an Emmy Award and three Telly Awards. My mission remains the same, however – with a specific interest in addressing inequality, racism and cultural issues through all forms of entertainment.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I have been homeless, discriminated against, mugged and stabbed, all in Boston. The racism and segregated neighborhood of Boston in the 80s and 90s convince me to leave, often. The sheer number of incidents that I can personally recall that were hurtful toward me were beyond physically painful – they were gut wrenching, anger motivating experiences. It was only after finding my voice that I realized I had something to offer – that maybe I had mission to take. In the end, I do believe that this city is much better and healthier than it was when I still had the potential to grow an afro.
Small business is not easy. It requires an immense amount of dedication and work. More importantly, social issues oriented small business requires a deep commitment to human interest. I may have sacrificed a lot in terms of following a shinier path, but when I can see that my/our work literally helps change lives, I’m the happiest man I can be.
Over the years Boston has become a world-class, diverse, inclusive, international power-house city. I’m so proud to have been a part of a concerted effort to improve ourselves and overcome huge obstacles.
Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Entertaining Diversity, Inc. – what should we know?
Entertaining Diversity focuses on addressing issues of race, culture and identity through many forms of entertainment, including live drama, fictional movies, TV documentaries, keynote speaking, live comedy, books and games, the company is dedicated to meeting communities, schools, corporations and non-profits where they’re at. Personally, I am a nationally acclaimed performer, keynote speaker and specialist on multicultural, diversity and inclusion issues.
I have a Masters degree (M.Ed.) in Media and Education, and I’ve been a college professor for 16 years, so I am researched and well equipped to educate all communities and types of clients in these matters. And because we are entertainment-based, our programs are very easily digestible and fun to experience. As opposed to just a standard diversity program, we are proud to create customized highly entertaining workshops, even comedy and humor-structured presentations to enhance to learning experience.
Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
My wife helped me form and develop the country. I would not have succeeded without her. I have too many mentors and supporters to mention, but I can say that everyone I have worked with on all of my programs are exceptionally talented, dedicated, brave and generous. Because I run a very small company, most of my colleagues are freelance professionals ranging from educators, facilitators, researchers, technical support and designers – they all deserve far more credit than they’re willing to accept.
- Website: www.entertainingdiversity.com
- Phone: 7813297040
- Email: Teja@EntertainingDiversity.com
- Facebook: RacePizza
- Twitter: tejaarboleda
- Other: LinkedIn: tejaarboleda