by Ashleigh Gordon
This has been a challenging week, few months, year, or 400+ years depending on your vantage point. As scores of organizations release solidarity statements, I can’t help but wonder:
If as a sector we can fundamentally shift our thinking and approach to creating, sharing, collaborating, managing, and engaging with art during a few months of a young health pandemic, why is it so difficult to do the same during a centuries-long racial one?
There was certainly no blueprint, no “How to Do Arts During a Pandemic” textbook. Yet the sector is rising to the challenge and doing so creatively and quickly. Dollars, maintaining relevance, and fighting for one’s survival undoubtedly have something to do with this phenomenon. On the ironic side, there have been, and continue to be centers, institutions, resources, facilitation guides, and countless case studies not only highlighting the inequities under our noses, but providing how-to solutions (read: doing the hard thinking for you) with little tangible results. Devaluing the need to invest dollars in equity work, upholding a narrow definition of what culture is relevant and for whom, and choosing to not fight for the survival of cultures, stories, histories, and voices that continue to be marginalized to the point of near erasure has something to do with this phenomenon.
In response to the outpouring of solidarity statements and uptick in Black Lives Matter hashtags, I’m reminded of a statement by Nikki Giovanni, whose Poem for Nina is the inspiration behind our organizational name and whose birthday is also today:
“Mistakes are a fact of life: It is the response to the error that counts.”
If you’re one of the countless organizations that have acknowledged your mistakes, great. There are and will be more mistakes, so keep looking. If you have not acknowledged your mistakes, dig deeper because they’re there. But beyond a well-penned “We see you Black community” statement, we need to actually do better and do differently. Otherwise, by definition, we are insane to think anything new will actually result.
Some thoughts on how to do better and do differently, now and always:
1. Remove colonial language in all aspects of your institution because language matters.
2. Remove a dominant white culture value system because perspective matters.
As we are all well aware of and feeling, this is undoubtedly a challenging situation. The mistakes are known, the errors documented with solutions named and yet to be realized. All that is missing?
Your motivation and action.
~ Ashleigh Gordon
Artistic and Executive Director
Castle of our Skins
Writings, musings, photos, links, and videos about Black Artistry of ALL varieties!
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