No Glory Labour
I do not spend enough time with BPOC's (I got the Indigenous part covered) and I need to do a better job of gathering with them.
Gathering and holding space is critical to healthy people, communities and art practice and not creating a theatrical ecology that prioritizes this, upholds the imperial patriarchy. If we don't get to hang, listen, exchange stories, it's an attack on our ability to mobilize and serve our peoples.
A work sector that doesn't support BIPOC peoples to gather is anti-BIPOC.
I believe that a challenge around us not gathering, is that BIPOC artists are positioned to have to do so many things, we don’t have a lot of space outside of our artistic endeavours and cultural responsibilities to interact. And when we get a moment we kind of just want to collapse.
White theatre artists have privileges that allow them to have more time and so engaging with them happens more readily. This is where the junction of inequitable time and support between white and BIPOC artists intersects.
We need western theatre artists to take on the no glory labour so BIPOCS can hang. "no glory labour" what the fuck is that? It’s unusually admin, producing and grant writing and as soon as I express this, people are “busy.”
But I'm an artist and I need to art!
I think one of the decolonial and Indigenous aspects in the story creation process is that I'm working on decentralising the "I" in art practice. It's really unhealthy in much more ways than just actors thinking they deserve more time than designers, or directors thinking they rule a kingdom, or writers being precious to edits.
By maintaining a western approach that creates a prioritized hierarchy, including on how we spend our time, we not only make a theatre piece constructed by inequities, it threads it's way into the development process and way more important, into our communities.
Too often theatre artists who aren't BIPOC, or really anyone indoctrinated by imperialism, want to center themselves and their work and take up space instead of asking, “what can I do to decrease your labour?” The egoic centered imperial canadian theatre model is maintained by space takers who refuse to do the labour to create equity in our sector by shoving their needs and desires first.
And this one, which I don't think anyone wants to admit, is that we center not just white supremacist stories but we participate in upholding theatre companies that are built on the oppression of BIPOC peoples stories. If it's a political act to do Indigenous theatre, than what is the impact of organizations not programing, supporting and resource sharing with Indigenous peoples and our stories.
Lots of people with “no time and resources” and yet I see them producing full seasons, acting, travelling to conferences and directing. So that says to me that it’s not about you not having the "time", the truth is that you are prioritizing your time to center yourself and use your resources to do your art.
And please don’t blah blah blah me about organizational finances, annual funding reporting to a BOD. We are fucking artists here, think innovatively about dismantling the white supremacist model you benefit from and stop making excuses for yourselves. Stop it, stop making excuses for yourself right now and bear witness to the truth of what your actions and prioritization does to oppress BIPOC peoples.
You can't just go on and on and on about reconciliation and on and on and on about land acknowledgements and attend one Indigenous centered session at a festival or conference and assuage your participation in BIPOC oppression.
You're going to have to remember that equity ain’t fair. That decolonial practice is not about centering self but that’s the work that needs to be done. When was the last time you asked a BIPOC artist, producer or company "what’s on your todo list and what labour can I take off of it?"
Lotso multi year funding theatre companies taking large dollars and not disseminating the resources equitably, or at all. And I don’t see any of the large ones doing it inconveniently.
It shouldn’t fit nicely into your season announcements, it should not also have to “serve your organization's mandate”, it needs to center around BIPOC artists needs - not yours - and if it’s not you’re literally wielding white power over BIPOC peoples.
All organizations have contingency funds for their own emergencies, have you ever thought of building an annual BIPOC artist contingency fund? An in-kind admin and producing resource, with funds for independent BIPOCS? Where they can come to you and say “hey I’m drowning and missing grant deadlines and need help”, or “I’m need some marketing assistance” or “I need $2k to support BIPOC mental and spiritual support”. And you have the organizational capacity to easily support that?
The Canadian theatre model is a white supremacist capitalist one, you’re either upholding it and widening the gap for BIPOC artists or you’re transforming it?
Which one are you doing?
With deep love and the desire for more truth,
p.s prioritize Indigenous artists and stories whose land you are occupying. #SalishStories