Black, Indigenous and POC leader stewardship.
To BOD’s and the Arts Community,
We are going to see some radical shifts in arts leadership and I want to make some offers.
When vetting and hiring the new BIPOC leader remember they will most likely NOT have the experience of the exiting one. It’s white supremacist to think a BIPOC will be at the same experiential level. We’ve been racialized and oppressed away from these positions of power and this systemic reform is a claiming of institutional power we have not previously had access to.
If the preceding leader had 10-15 or even 5 years at that job you can’t expect a BIPOC to come in with that. Remember when you hired the AD you have now, that leader with not so much experience back then - that’s what you’re looking for. If you set expectations beyond that you create impossible outcomes for BIPOC’s and grounds for more white supremacy. BIPOCS have been so positioned away from leadership we haven’t had the same opportunities because the arts sector is so racist.
It’s your job as the BOD to steward capacity building for the incoming BIPOC leader. Not expect them to come in with it - that’s imperially oppressive. That type of racist thinking and decision making is what created the current white supremacist theatrical sector we have now.
The new IBPOC leadership will need incubation time, space to develop and grow and we need to have hiring practices with this anti-white supremacist thinking and metrics. Learning is a part of their job and you must set reasonable expectations when hiring your BIPOC leader.
And here's another thing, if you’re a white arts leader and you haven’t seriously considered vacating your position aka resigning - you’re doing this wrong. The most powerful act a white leader of an arts institution can do is to resign. To not take up that space, to stop sucking up those resources and hoard that positional power. If you’re a white leader, especially one whose been there for more than 2 years, you are complicit in creating and upholding white supremacy in canadian theatre.
In my leadership experience deeply understanding how much power we have is connected to our effectiveness and impact. BOD’s talk to your white leader about succession planning for their departure. Facilitate their exit if they are not presencing this understanding - you have that power.
with respect and hope,
p.s if you are having internal meetings about addressing systemic racism in your organization 1. cool and 2, if you've got a BIPOC staff member who you've been heavily leaning on - give them a god damn bonus. A consultative fee for all the work they are doing and Karen is not. You most likely owe them thousands in retroactive fees so don't embarrass yourself by giving them $150. Pay people for their labour.
p.p.s if you're a white person do NOT apply for these positions. I saw an amazing tweet the other day that said "go do something useful, like work at a grocery store." Don't fucking apply.
Illustration: Karlene Harvey