An open letter to NYC Commissioner of Veterans Affairs General Loree Sutton

Dear Commissioner Sutton,

Thank you for the heads up and your email.

I was also being considered for the Veterans Advisory Board, and got a phone call from another veteran advocate in NYC that was being considered as well. I received a phone call yesterday informing me that I was not confirmed for the board.

I know you have a hard job, and I again applaud your energy, professionalism, and commitment to veterans. My two top priorities echo yours and include the arts.

I was excited to get the phone call, and was hopeful that the Mayor’s office would see fit to take a risk on a veteran artist. I am disappointed. In looking over the Mayor’s list, I again echo concerns I passed along to the First Lady, that this list will further exclude the voices of veterans in NYC who continue to be marginalized because they do not fit within the veteran mold. I appreciate your promise that the future looks bright for culture and the arts, but like with veterans, we must continue to fight for it. I think there are names that were not confirmed for the board that would have fought for NYC veterans because I have have been shoulder to shoulder with them in the fight for many years.

While I am a veteran artist, most of my work revolves around the merging of divergent communities, advocacy for veterans of conflict, and the empowerment of individuals for self-actualization and success. I use art as a catalyst for this work. I continue to champion this work in a culture that does not understand it’s place, consider it “sexy,” or support it to a degree that allows me to engage full-time. But, like my fellow veteran advocates, I will continue to fight. When I served in the military it was for the mission, not for the support.

Thank you for all that you continue to do for veterans, and I look forward to supporting you in future developments that make significant strides in fighting the marginalization of veterans, veteran homelessness, veteran suicide, veteran mental health, and veteran unemployment.

Roman Baca

Roman Baca is a Marine Iraq War Veteran and the Artistic Director of Exit12 Dance Company in NYC and the Artistic Director and General Manager of Ballet Theatre Company in CT.  Mr. Baca earned his BA in performing arts Cum Laude from the LEAP program through St. Mary’s College of CA.

In 2007, Mr. Baca co-founded Exit12 Dance Company.  Mr. Baca has choreographed several major works relating to the military and their families and writes and lectures about his experiences. As a Teaching Artist, Mr. Baca has traveled to work in Erbil, Iraq and in NYC public schools teaching young adults how to express their experience through choreography and non-verbal expression.  Mr. Baca has conducted Veteran/Civilian movement workshops that provide tools to aid veterans in the workplace, and to bridge the civilian-veteran divide.

Mr. Baca has worked as an advocate for the arts at the NY State Capitol in Albany, and was a featured panelist on Art and Healing in the Military at the Dirsken Senate Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.    Mr. Baca  is a Leadership Fellow for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, a 2014 Art and Healing Network Awardee, a recipient of a 2012 Fellowship from The Mission Continues, a 2009 producing and presenting grant from AjkunBT, a 2010 Access DanceUSA Scholarship from DanceNYC through support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Brian Tippen Memorial Scholarship, and the Connecticut Wartime Veterans Medal.

Mr. Baca’s priorities are defined by his desire to help veterans realize their potential in the civilian world and the impact they could make in their communities.

For more information on Mayor DeBlasio’s Veteran Advisory Board panel and IAVA’s response, click here.

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