Timmy Thompson

4th Year Undergraduate in Fine Arts, Musical Theatre, School of Music, Theatre & Dance

As a writer, producer, director, editor, actor, and camera person Timmy has advocated for diverse voices with compassion – creating many on and off-screen opportunities for LGBTQ+ individuals and students of color. As a performer, his leadership has been instrumental to the production and direction of the Department of Musical Theatre’s “Color Cabaret.”

He spearheaded the student service organization “Michigan Performance Outreach Workshop” for three years, providing arts access and education opportunities to hundreds of Detroit Public School elementary students. Timmy also mentors younger students of color through both his words and his actions as a leader.

Outside of U-M Timmy initiated and led a Black Lives Matter event in his predominantly white hometown during the height of the pandemic to advocate for positive change – the event was attended by hundreds in his community. He exhibits what it means to lead with empathy, authentic compassion, and valued intensity – positively influencing those around him.

Being your best DEI self: Think of a time when you were at your best at advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion. What happened? Who was there? Why did you feel at your best?

“When the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery sparked a national reckoning and examination of police brutality and race relations in America, I knew I couldn’t sit around confined to the white suburbs of New Jersey and do nothing. So, I collaborated with my New Jersey friends to coordinate our own march & rally in Wayne, NJ in solidarity with the BLM movement.

In addition to a march, our event featured musical performances by local black artists, lectures from black professors and pastors from Passaic County, and even the appearance of Assemblywoman Shavonda E. Sumter. Our work didn’t end there. We went on to have regular meetings with Assemblywoman Sumter and other county freeholders, the Wayne Public Schools’ Board of Ed, Mayor Chris Vergano, and even with Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill.

Though this moment happened outside of my schooling at U-M, it was the first moment that I realized that I had the power to be a catalyst for change, big or small, and it gave me the courage to go to school and involve myself in a number of initiatives such as the official Michigan Democratic Campaign for Biden, MPOW, Covenant House and the UofM Musical Theatre Color Cabaret.”

In envisioning the future, how would you describe progress in the realm of diversity, equity, and inclusion? What might it look like?

“I think the future of diversity, equity, and inclusion is in our collective understanding and recognition of the role that financial disparities play in gatekeeping the arts. This is not only when it comes to the topic of income but also the acknowledgment of generational wealth and how that plays a part in other communities being able to thrive in the professional artistic and academic working environments over others.

Of course, there are always exceptions to this rule, but I think the artistic community needs to work harder to bring not just arts exposure but comprehensive artistic opportunities to young (pre-teen + teen) communities of color as well as provide more extensive oversight and guidance for students applying to/attending collegiate arts programs.”

What does it mean to you to be a recipient of the MLK Spirit Awards?

“When I came to UofM my freshman year, I didn’t think I had much to offer my community. I was a queer black boy coming from a predominately white community in the suburbs and there was a large part of me that felt my intersections alienated me from my own community. At most, I knew there was nuance to my own identity to be mined for storytelling but I didn’t know how that would serve the larger collective. But through my schooling, I discovered that my community is simply that – intersections. There is no broad brush; as a result, the nuances become the threads that unite us. Being a nominee for the MLK Spirit Awards is an affirmation for me as an artist, a human being, and a member of the African American and queer community that my work and investigation into these intersections have been for the better and made a positive impact on the community.”

Timmy Thompson