Taliq Tillman

Creating New Ways to Bring Conversations About Diversity Into Schools

Q&A With Taliq Tillman

What attracted you to the BIF Summit?

I’ve attended the Summit the past two years, and I’m definitely excited to be a storyteller. I was encouraged by the Trinity Rep Theater staff, where I’m interning now. My school, the Met School, requires students to present to do exhibitions, and give talks about their learning. So I got into the habit of talking about my story. And I’ve always wanted to give a talk in front of people.

Tell us just a bit about the subject of your BIF Summit story.

My story’s still kind of in the works. Your history is a part of who you are, and I’ve been thinking about the story of my family. I’m a first-generation student, and I think about the struggles Mom and Dad went through so I could have opportunities like this. I also might talk about arts integration in education, through the lens of social justice. Being a student and an actor, education is definitely intertwined with acting for me. I’ve taught theater classes, and that evolved into arts integration. This would entail a big project at Trinity that’s a part of my internship. Also, I’m helping to start a venture called Diversity Talks. If it gets funded, I would be able to talk about it more.

What, to you, is the value of sharing stories?

I love to tell stories, and have since I was young. Acting in itself is implicit in telling a story. Being an actor you have to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, empathize with a totally different character. And everyone has the potential and the ability to listen to and to tell stories. That makes us special.

This year I’m focusing on opportunities to learn how to listen to other people’s stories. When I’m at the BIF Summit, I want to make sure to not just share my story, but also listen closely to others' stories.

Do you have a motto, or “words to live by”? If so, what is it?

I don't necessarily believe I have developed a motto, but I do know that every single day when I wake up, I ask myself what I can do to be better. However, some quotes you may see on my Twitter account are:

I think everyone should love everyone.

You are more than your thoughts.

Empathy is our most powerful tool.

You have to know the system to beat it.

What's one thing (or more, if you like) would you like Summit attendees to know about you before they hear your story?

I want to share this (not-so-coherent) piece I wrote when I was really doubting my capabilities to actually present at the BIF Summit:

I do have a story to tell. I should never doubt that. I am a product of hard work and struggle. That's incredible. I ask myself every single day how I can be better. I question the world around me — the people, the systems, the injustice. Recently I've realized that we have to look at existing systems. In order to truly change a system, or anything, we have to change the way in which we think about it. You have to know the system to beat it. I strive to educate myself as much as I can and take advantage of all of the opportunities presented to me, in order to share what I learn and help the people around me.

Joi