A message from our leadership on systemic racism
UPDATE: Tuesday, June 30, 2020
Dear Bard patrons, partners and community members,
We are thankful for the feedback that we received since releasing our statement on systemic racism. Since then, many members of our community have shared past experiences and we have received much constructive feedback. We look forward to incorporating this feedback into our plans moving forward.
We also heard that not everyone is comfortable speaking directly to us or our Board of Directors, and given that feedback, we have engaged facilitators to help bridge these conversations and provide support. Those who participate in these consultations will be compensated for their time and effort.
We have also formed a working group and hired community members to join us in addressing the issues of systemic racism. This group will work with all individuals and departments in our organization, including our Board of Directors, and will reach out to our community. This group and its members are not in place to segregate this work, but to ensure our accountability and a renewed commitment to the work.
By early September, we will announce our next set of goals and clear, actionable and measurable plans. We expect these goals and plans will evolve over time, however it is important to us that we create and publicly share concrete plans in a regular and timely way. It is also important to us that these actions will balance urgency with proper processes in order to minimize harm.
As in our original statement, we continue to encourage you to reach out to us directly if you are comfortable, or alternatively, to speak with one of our facilitators. Their contact information will be shared in the coming weeks on our website. We are listening and we want to hear from you.
Thursday, June 11, 2020
Dear Bard patrons, partners and friends,
We are sharing this message with you today to open a door and begin a new kind of dialogue between us.
We are a Shakespeare Festival whose performance venue is located on Sen’ákw, the site of a vibrant Coast Salish village which was the home of Indigenous nations for thousands of years. In recent years, our status as occupants of that space has prompted us to embark on a process of internal examination and change. We’ve considered what it means for us in the 21st century to be a presenter of plays written 400 years ago that are rooted in colonial arts practice. We have made some progress towards understanding and change-making, while fully recognizing we have so much more to do.
Now we have become witnesses to the profoundly powerful events in the days following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. We have seen anti-Black, anti-Indigenous and anti-Asian racism and its impact in a visceral way. We have been reminded that it is systemic in this country, and has destroyed the rights and very existence of so many Black, Indigenous and racialized people.
Last week our Bard employee group set aside a dedicated period of time to explore and share with each other things we didn’t know – and need to learn – to gain a deeper understanding of the ways racism exists within ourselves, within our community and beyond – and how each of us is complicit in its existence. Our board of directors are also engaged in reflection, discussion and listening – and are committed to action and accountability.
We acknowledge that we have made mistakes and missed opportunities in the past, as individuals and as an organization. We are determined to forge a new path as change agents and as citizens, and we are resolved to do this work with greater focus, more energy and more resources.
What will that mean in practice?
We’ve set up an internal working group as a next step and are actively dedicating resources to make sure we are discussing the issues, identifying overt and unconscious biases in ourselves and making sure our short and long-term actions reflect and embed our learning. We are making a public commitment to do more, both as individuals and as an organization, and we commit to sharing our plans with you and others as we develop them in the coming weeks and beyond.
It also means we are inviting you to speak your truth to us. We want to hear from those of you who see opportunities for us to do better. If you’d like to ask questions, share thoughts, or propose ways we can change, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com; if you would like your message to go to our Board of Directors, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. In the time of COVID-19, we can’t safely gather together in person for this vital dialogue, but we are committed to launching a new level of active communication within and outside our organization, through all the ways we are able to offer and others you may suggest.
With our thanks for the time you’ve taken to read these words and consider their meaning, and for the ways you choose to respond.