Nayantara Sen

Manager of Cultural Strategies | Race Forward

Nayantara Sen is an activist, network builder, arts advocate, and social and racial justice educator and trainer. She is the Culture and Content Program Manager and Senior Trainer at Race Forward: The Center for Racial Justice Innovation. At Race Forward, she produces curricula, facilitates racial justice workshops to support movement organizations and non-profits nationally, and develops cultural and narrative strategies for racial equity. She is the program designer and manager of the Racial Equity in the Arts Innovation Lab in New York City, which is equipping 60 arts and cultural organizations with racial equity practices and prototypes. Since the mid 2000’s, Nayantara has trained thousands of non-profit and philanthropic sector professionals, students, teachers, administrators, funders, grassroots activists, labor organizers, public health and social service workers. She has curated interdisciplinary programs that address the intersections of race, gender, class, media and art. Previously, she developed public programs on topics like multi-raciality and zines, media criticism and science fiction, and race and storytelling through Crossing Borders, Bridging Generations, an oral history program that explores histories of mixed-race families in New York.

Presentations from Facing Race 2018

Making Waves: Cultural Strategies for Racial Justice

The social justice field has been abuzz with talk about cultural strategy and cultural shift. With escalating attacks on communities of color across issue areas of immigration, labor rights, mass incarceration and more, the need for deep cultural change for racial justice is becoming urgent. But what exactly do we mean by “cultural strategy for racial justice?” What does cultural strategy look like in the fields of community organizing, media and entertainment and policymaking? And how do we ethically partner with artists and leverage creative ecosystems to advance equity and justice?


Come join our workshop featuring some of the best thinkers and doers in cultural change, where we’ll explore strategies for fueling artist-powered change through organizing, pop culture and narrative shift. This session will be facilitated by Nayantara Sen, Manager of Cultural Strategies at RaceForward,and will feature short talks by Bridgit Antoinnette Evans from the Pop Culture Collaborative, Betsy Richards from the Opportunity Agendaand Rufaro Gwarada from Power California.


Presenters will share examples from the field and dig into questions like: How should a cultural strategy talk about communications, organizing, narrative, and art? How do we build organized creative ecosystems that advance equity and justice?

Speakers: Bridgit Antoinette Evans, Nayantara Sen, Rufaro Gwarada, Betsy Richards

Racial Justice Innovations: State-of-the-Art Strategies and Solutions

Though white supremacy continues to permeate our culture in long-standing and ever-changing ways, efforts to resist and create equitable alternatives are also growing and evolving. What are some of the innovations in the movement for racial justice? What are the opportunities to advance proactive and preventative strategies while still resisting and reacting to blatant and latent racism? How do we dismantle systemic racism and create structural and systematic equity? How so do we bring narrative shifts and systems change to scale? We’ll invite participants to discuss these questions and share examples of what’s new, what’s changing, and what’s promising.

Race Forward has worked in partnership with many organizations at the leading edge of racial justice innovation. For example, the New York City Arts Innovation Lab has brought together 60 arts organizations that have incubated and tested new strategies for addressing racial equity and changing their organizational cultures and programs. The Governmental Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE) is engaging a network of 75 government jurisdictions around the country in systematizing race-conscious decision-making with a focus on equitable impacts. Participants will share some of their own examples and experience with racial justice innovations in different sectors, issues and regions.

Speakers: Terry Keleher, Nayantara Sen

Presentations from Facing Race 2016

Choice Points in Speculative Fiction: Creative Storytelling for Systems Change

Science fiction and fantasy get treated as the antidote to many of popular culture’s ills -- genres in which radical possibilities for justice can materialize as long as they are envisioned. But in practice, their most frequently recurring tropes (and their most financially profitable properties) are little more than fanfiction for the empire: ‘chosen’ protagonists fight dark-skinned embodiments of evil, characters of color consistently get sidelined and villainized, and the struggles of poor, working-class people of color remain invisible. Speculative fiction narratives across all genres rarely engage with structural racism, and are often stuck in a “diversity” narrative that relies on a sprinkling of POC characters in a binary hero vs villain framework. Surely, us nerds deserve better -- and in this workshop, we’ll do better. This hands-on writing workshop is for anyone interested in the powerful, strategic use of speculative fiction for changing social narratives -- whether your preferred medium is novels, movies, television, literature, comics, or video games. We’ll practice strategies to extrapolate from concrete scenes – the building blocks of story – to race-explicit, structural analysis,, and we'll identify strategies for “systemic storytelling.” Participants will come away with at least one workshopped story idea, along with a slew of writing prompts, tips for best practices, new creators to check out, and hopefully a few new potential collaborators.

Speakers: Nayantara Sen, Channing Kennedy

Presentations from Facing Race 2014

Racial Justice Leadership Institute- A Pre-Conference Training

(Requires separate registration. To register:

The Racial Justice Leadership Institute, developed by Race Forward: The Center for Racial Justice Innovation, is an interactive training for those who wish to sharpen their skills and strategies to address structural racism and advance racial equity.  Unlike “diversity trainings” which primarily focus on interpersonal relations and understanding, the Institute emphasizes how to challenge and change institutional racial inequities. 

Training Components: 

  • Racial Justice Values & Vision
  • Key Concepts: Different Dimensions of Racism / Structural Racism
  • Implicit Bias and Systems Analysis
  • Opportunities to Advance Racial Justice 

Participants will:

-build a clear understanding of key concepts such as racial equity and structural racism;

-learn to talk about race constructively within their organizations and with their constituents; 

-gain tools and practices for counteracting racial bias in their work and practices;

-identify opportunities and next steps for applying concepts and strategies to advance racial equity.

Speakers: Nayantara Sen, Terry Keleher