Because Black Lives Matter
Because Black Lives Matter and Black Artists Matter we want to do more than raise our voices or simply profess our solidarity with the voices raised for change. We want to take action and to initiate those actions with immediacy - actions that will result in new and better policies and practices in our professional operations and modes of community service. We also want to respect that real systemic change requires that we work deeply, remaining both forceful and methodical in our commitment to long-term anti-racist actions and inclusive solutions. We are eager to remain supple, to employ discipline to soften ourselves when discomfort and even deep pain arises, rather than drawing back into retrenched modes of thinking and working. This is something that artists, and students of art, regularly practice and we want to get even better at it.
Along with our community, we feel a strong impulse to act. We are also keen to invest fully in the critical step of listening – making more space for dialogue and input from voices that have been marginalized. How we proceed, and who is involved in the conversation, will be critical to making the real, positive changes that are required and toward which we aspire. As Albert Einstein reminded us, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” Our problem with racism and white-supremacy can have overt manifestations, but we also have a history of racism as a serious but sometimes symptomless virus that silently and pervasively sickens our work and relationships.
Now, when another pandemic has made ‘business as usual’ impossible, it is the perfect time for us to question what our ‘business as usual’ has been. We don’t want to proceed with our past standards of operation without interrogating them for overt and subtle symptoms of anti-blackness, or other damaging biases toward BIPOC and other marginalized groups. A key feature of our on-going mission is to set new standards of excellent artistry, ethics, and professional practice for the future of the theatre. Now is always a good time to do such work.
This is a critical time, a great time, for listening – and for thoughtfulness about how, and to whom, we’re listening. We admire and support our colleagues and sister companies that have already developed robust action plans and articulated metrics for improvement. While we are deepening our commitment to equity and inclusion, we are currently at a place of listening, and continuing education. We’ll continue to listen, formally and informally. One of the formal ways we’ll move forward with this work is through a peer lead task force that will include staff, faculty, students and discipline specific experts, to assess organizational policies and programming on an ongoing basis, improving our perspective toward anti-racist and other equity, diversity and inclusion best practices. Then, to develop mechanisms to utilize in a measured, but continuous, improvement cycle.
As we probe into our ways of thinking and being in our work and relationships, we’ll endeavor to retain our humility, good humor and keep compassionate humanity leading the way – cultivating our personal lives and setting our hearts right.
We have a great deal of work to do.