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From Josh Abrams: An Apology & Next Steps for ATHE

Wednesday, June 24, 2020  
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A Message from ATHE President Josh Abrams

ATHE President Josh Abrams issued the following statement via email today, June 24.


Dear ATHE Community,

On June 3, ATHE published a statement, which led with the statement “ATHE identifies as an antiracist organization”. This is an aspirational statement, but does not match the lived experience of too many of our BIPOC members. I was wrong and I’m sorry. Since that time, several people have come forward to me with testimonies that have made this very clear.

I apologise to our members, former members, and members of the community for any pain that those words inflicted. As ATHE’s President, I acknowledge that people have been hurt by racist acts inside ATHE and ATHE’s complicity. I acknowledge the courage of individuals in coming forward to share these with me. We can and must do better. I am committed to this, and I will be working with the Governing Council to ensure that we make significant changes to move both ATHE and the field forward towards a moment when ATHE will truly be an anti-racist organization. We are compiling a list of specific initiatives and commitments to announce at the Annual Membership Meeting at this year’s conference. Please contact me at president@athe.org with suggestions, comments and testimonies about how we have let down our BIPOC community. I am here to listen and I will respond and ensure that ATHE commits to addressing these needs and providing accountability.

Along with a committed and generous group of volunteers including both past and present BTA leadership, VP Advocacy Dr Monica White Ndounou, VP Conference 2020 Carlos Alexis Cruz, his committee, Executive Director Aimee Zygmonski, and I are working together to try to shift some of the overall discourse of the virtual conference. We continue to recognise the work of individual members and focus groups, which makes up the majority of the conference programming, including focus groups who have added panels on the current moment. In addition to this, we are looking across the possibilities of all-conference programming, which we continue to adapt and develop. Two plenaries had been put in place in April and May around challenges to pedagogy and performance in shifting online. We are working on confirming details for several events focused on centering Black voices and anti-racist practice within the conference, including a likely plenary event in event in the first week and a follow-up event in the second week, the latter hopefully in conjunction with the Black Theatre Network’s Virtual Convening. As well, Nicole Brewer will be delivering an ATHE workshop on anti-racist theatre making. We hope to make specific announcements of the content and shape of these sessions over the next couple of weeks, but we want to take the time to ensure that these sessions are truly effective and worthwhile. I thank you for your patience.

Thank you and all my best,

Josh
_______________________

Joshua Abrams
President
Association for Theatre in Higher Education, 2019-2021



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