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ATHE Responds to Uprisings, Will Work Towards Racial Justice

Wednesday, June 3, 2020  
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The Time is Always Right to do What's Right

ATHE identifies as an anti-racist organization, yet the fact that we have not yet responded to the uprisings and protests taking place throughout the United States and around the world shows we have more work to do. As an organization we plan to move forward by reimagining racial justice within our organization, institutions and activities; modeling a path forward with our actions, not just our words. Theatre and performance have the power to change the world; we have a responsibility to use that power.

The events leading up to the recent uprisings and protests began long before now. This is a culmination of terror and injustice inflicted upon Black people from at least 1619 onwards. The particular inciting incidents, the lynchings of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery and the murders of Breonna Taylor, David McAtee, and countless others come in the midst of an unprecedented health and economic global pandemic that is disproportionately killing Black and Brown people.

In this disease pandemic moment, ATHE leadership and membership have acted swiftly in converting to remote teaching learning, sharing resources, offering encouragement and support broadly, but we must also commit to further swift action in addressing the ongoing pandemic of white supremacy and racism, specifically, anti-Black racism, in this instance.

For years, individual members and focus groups like the Black Theatre Association have been engaging in the mostly uncompensated, emotional labor of trying to make our institutions, departments, programs, classrooms and rehearsal rooms more equitable and appreciative of cultural diversity. Many of them, particularly our colleagues from the global majority, do so in the face of backlash that too often hinders their career progress and affects their health. These courageous individuals are frequently told that change is slow in coming because of bureaucracy in institutions. We recognize that much change has been swift and thorough when it came down to the impact of the coronavirus on the institutions’ bottom line.

Our organization, as well as individual members like Dr. Daphnie Sicre, have stood up and helped lead our field in the move to remote teaching. We can and will commit to using that same energy and enthusiasm to better support our members and colleagues in shifting the institutional structures that allows racism and white supremacy to flourish in our programs, curriculum, department structure and operations, including season selection, casting, and other areas.

Recognizing there are various forms of oppression that need to be addressed, we are choosing to make a stand here and now on the pandemic of racism and white supremacy in order to open pathways and possibilities for eradicating exclusionary practices in academia and professional theatre. This is not a sprint. It is a marathon, one that we recognize is long overdue.

Over the next few weeks and months we will identify specific targeted actions and commitments. The Governing Council has several concrete proposals tabled that we will be considering at our next meeting and we anticipate announcing those in the next few weeks. ATHE accepts proposals from all members; if you have a specific initiative that you would like us to consider in relation to any of this, please contact our current VP of Advocacy, Dr. Monica White Ndounou, who has been working with various organizations for many years in preparation for a paradigm-shifting moment like this.

Recognizing that our colleagues of the global majority have carried a disproportionate share of the burden of combating racial injustice in our field without consistent support, we are calling on allies and accomplices to step up. We are eager to work with those who will support these initiatives and offer additional suggestions for how we can be most supportive for our members, particularly those most impacted by anti-Black racism.

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