To: Arts Leaders Re: Take Heed. This is a Reckoning
It has come to your attention via community complaints, contracted artist emails and a current global Black rebellion that racism exists in your organization. Also dreams because you did not pay enough attention to matters that you pandora's boxed and they are haunting you.
You need to urgently respond and address this anti-BIPOC racism before people start coming for your resignation.
This blog post is a generous extension, a warning and an offer to radically activate you to initiate, create and work on creating long term, supported and BOD approved changes before your artistic community comes for you.
I have been messaged A LOT over the past week about AD's, theatre's BOD's and arts leaders who have failed to provide safe working environments for BIPOC and marginalized members of your artistic community.
I want to save a large group of people having to painfully disclose violence (spiritual, physical, emotional and cultural) to motivate you. And honestly, what more evidence than those incomplete HR complaints? What more evidence do you need than those stories you hear whirling around your theatre aisles? What more evidence do you need than the courageous Black rebellion occurring at the moment? What more evidence do you need than the incidents you turned away from, that you downplayed, you ignored and pretended not to see?
I'm here to say, I know you saw them, I know you heard them, I know you ignored them and you are being given an opportunity here to possibly save your artistic dignity but that is going to take some radical transformation.
Consider me the theatre Gossip Girl - except I have a name and I'm not scared of you because my responsibilities to protect the community, in particular the next generation, far outweighs any fear I have about being exiled from the sector. Other people's safety is always more important than my future career.
So here is what is going to happen:
1. If you are the town arts favourite, I imagine you to be a white cis male you're either good looking, funny or old. You're the one who usually doesn't have to audition and you get cast as Gaston or maybe you're a bit edgier and you get cast in that menagerie show or the one where the old people fight and there's posters of old white people looking serious - that one or something. Anyways YOU are going to email this blog to the AD, the GM, the Associate AD and the BOD - yes you're going to have to go to their website and look them up and you can write in the subject line "A Matter Requiring Your Urgent Attention".
2. AD and arts leadership receiving this you're going to take this as a thank you. Try not to waste Gaston's time by asking him questions he doesn't know like what is the experience of BIPOC people at my theatre.
3. Then AD's and Arts leadership you are going to set up a series of meetings to go over all past complaints regarding racism, HR complaints of inaccessibility, the Me Too's you hoped nobody would come back to and any other ones you didn't comprehensively address because you hid them from your BOD and or you denied them. BOD's I offer you look at anyone who was "let go" in the last 5 years especially if there was no change in any leadership.
4. You are going to start a task force and or a committee and set up a BOD meeting to sign off on redistributing funds to take another look at your strategic plan and omg if you don't have one you're going to create a 5 year one. Then you're going to make a clear plan, with dates and fiscal commitments to rid your organization of anti-Black, anti-Indigenous and anti-disabled and patriarchal policies and procedures.
5. You might need to hire a consultant, a BIPOC one or an agency to guide you through this, fixing the violence of your organization is going to cost you but I think you will find that losing your job will cost you more.
6. You are also going to have community members on this committee, you're going to give bi-weekly updates on your progress all your constituents and you're going to be as transparent as you can - and some of you are going to have to look up what that word means.
You are going to refuse temporal facade like actions that lead to no meaningful change.
You are not going to normalize the societal consumption of marginalized peoples' pain to motivate and activate you because this forces BIPOC's to do painful work with no real commitment for actual systemic reform.
In a time where a global Black rebellion is occurring and so much evidential violence has already occurred and has so clearly been illuminated no theatre in canada needs to hear any more reasons to rigorously invest in institutional racial reform. Needing more is gaslighting and white supremacist behaviour.
AD's I also recommend you work swiftly because I fear if you don't and your BOD starts doing these investigations we, the BIPOC community, are going to remember that you failed to spear head this, you failed to do your job and we will not be generous with our accounts of your violent legacy.
Work passionately and with succession planning in mind knowing that you will not be the person to complete this work. Either because you lack the capacity and competency and you will be let go or forced to resign because of your gross racist negligence. But also because if you manage to stay on you know this work will take generations.
To the BIPOC and marginalized artists and those who have been traumatized and victims of institutional ignorance and racialized pain, check out this vlog and know I bear witness to you, I believe you. I radically empathize with what you have endured without you having to presence that pain and possibly retraumatize yourself.
You do not need to further expose yourself to violence especially if the arts leaders who were there when the incidents occured are still there. Be wary of looking to them for "help" or a meaningful witness when they have made no public commitment to eradicate their racist and white supremacist behaviours.
And remember I bear witness to you right now, I bear witness slaxts.
Arts leaders consider this your notice. Your conscious ignorance, your gross artistic leadership negligence and disrespect to BIPOC artists in your community whos care you were charged with is no longer being accepted. Cosmic speed to you and your staff and the inconvenient, challenging and rigorous work you must go and do now and for the years to come.
You’ve been marked and your next actions forward will determine the extent of your future participation in the theatrical ecology - remember you determine this.
If you work in theatre, share this - your amplification will help reduce the need for already marginalized artists to have to further exhaust themselves - share and share and share so no arts leadership has any excuse to deny their complicity in creating a racist canadian theatre sector.
Happy sunday, you have been served.
With resistance and BIPOC power,
Kim Senklip Harvey.
P.s I have spent 2 years working on helping you, for no charge with this blog and my podcast. I offer it all to you and your team to activate change. There are many resources here that can connect you to anti-racism policy and procedural work.