Anti-Racism Commitment

 

"The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." – Lao-Tzu. 
 
We care about you. We want you to feel safe here. We want you to feel that the stories on our stage are for you and about you. We want you to feel that you are a valued part of this place. 
 
If the sentences above don't ring true in your ears, we are writing this for you.
 
One of Theatre NOVA's founding principles is social justice. We consider anti-racism to be a core tenet of our organization. Thanks to the critical work of Black Lives Matter, We See You, White American Theatre, and those closer to home like Black Literature and Art Queens Network, we have been assessing how well we live up to those principles.
 
This assessment is one step in the work of lifetimes, and as an organization currently led by white people, we don't always see the ways that the systems of white supremacy influence us. So it is imperative that we frequently re-examine our organization with rigorous scrutiny, inside and out. We thank these organizations for holding us accountable.
 
We are particularly thankful to individuals who have provided insight into ways in which unconscious bias has harmed BIPOC members of our artist community. This new awareness inspires us to continue our anti-racism and anti-oppression work with greater clarity and renewed passion. 
 
Our vision has always been to foster an organizational culture with equity in its bloodstream. To be a powerful and authentic ally for BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities, with protected safe creative spaces for all of our artists. And when things go wrong, to be an organization that centers the needs of any person who has been harmed regardless of their position.  

We are a long way from that vision, but we are taking another step.
 
We know that institutionalized statements offering solidarity without accountability have the potential to do further harm, and we are grateful for the chance to restate and refine our commitments to this work with the benefit of the insight so many have shared.
 
As we continue this work, we commit to:

  • Examine the ways our leadership leans into its privilege and promotes the status quo.

  • Examine the ways our organization de-centers BIPOC and LGBTQ+ members, their voices, and their artistry, and work to center them. 

  • Invite more BIPOC and LGBTQ+ members to leadership positions on the board and staff.

  • Be less defensive when asked to change. Be more open to change when we need to.

  • Pay careful attention to critiques, comments, and feedback from community members, cast members, artists, audiences, and volunteers who have perspectives to share.

  • Examine and increase the percentage of directors and designers hired each season who identify as BIPOC and LGBTQ+.

  • Examine and increase the percentage of plays by BIPOC, LGBTQ+ and women writers.

  • Continue to challenge the notion of white being the neutral default in casting as we strengthen our commitment to color-conscious casting. Examine and increase the percentage of BIPOC actors in larger roles and productions.

  • Work toward a goal of having 50% of our staff, board, and artists be BIPOC and LGBTQ+ by 2026.

  • Eliminate hiring criteria that focus on years of experience or required degrees. 

  • Ensure that no themes or characters of any play we produce are promoting harmful or damaging caricatures or tokenism.

  • Request BIPOC reviewers, especially for shows with BIPOC themes and characters.

  • Provide anti-racist onboarding and ongoing training for all board members and staff.

  • Promote a working environment that actively works against racism, harassment, discrimination, and white supremacy.

  • Create confidential and safe methods of reporting issues and make them available to all artists and staff members. Develop systems for repairing harm when necessary.

  • Invest resources in outreach to BIPOC communities, LGBTQIA+ communities, and disabled communities for distribution of casting notices, designer job postings, and other opportunities.

  • Create a core values statement and include it in every staff and artist contract. Become more aware of how core values are embodied by leadership and throughout the organization. Create systems of accountability for staff members who do not live up to those core values.

  • Research and start a BIPOC affinity group within Theatre NOVA as a safe space for discussions and advocacy.

  • Create an anonymous and confidential survey for BIPOC and LGBTQ+ artists to give feedback on their experience.

  • Compensate all BIPOC artists who consult and provide feedback on anti-racism in the workspace.

  • Update our employee handbook and policies to include an anti-racist code of conduct. 

  • Continue to program stories that illuminate social issues, highlighting diversity and inclusive stories which include race, religion, and gender identity.

  • Include quality-of-life measures in all production schedules, including rehearsals, tech rehearsals, and build schedules.

  • Examine compensation and ways that low wages may be a barrier for certain members of our community. Work toward the goal of providing compensation that is not prohibitive for all but those who "can afford to work in the theatre."

  • Create a preferred vendor list of local, regional, and national vendors that support our values of equity, diversity, and inclusion.

  • Commit to take allegations of harassment and abuse seriously and address each individual claim quickly, decisively, and in its full complexity. 

  • Post this statement and these commitments in a visible place on our website and in our physical space.

  • Review and assign timelines to all of these commitments to develop time-sensitive accountability.

  • Designate a senior staff member responsible for the implementation and oversight of these efforts.

 

We acknowledge that Theatre NOVA is located on land granted by the Anishinaabeg Council of Three Fires of the Odawa, Ojibwe, and Potawatomi peoples, and the Wyandot (Huron) peoples of the Northwestern confederacy. We acknowledge their elders, both past and present, as well as future generations. We recognize that we are part of a society founded upon the erasures of many Indigenous peoples, including those on whose land this building is located. This acknowledgment is part of our participation in the process of dismantling the legacies of settler colonialism.


We understand that dialogue requires trust, and we consider the actionable items above a starting point to affirm and build trust in our organization with those we serve and support and with those who may have been harmed in a work environment here. 

These commitments are from the heart. This work necessitates personal reflection, and the answers are not easy nor comfortable. NOVA is committed to doing this work inside and outside of our organization. 

And there is much work to be done. 
 

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