To our RAWdance family:
This June, we wrote to you in response to the devastating ongoing actions against Black and Brown Americans, and the powerful protests that fight for a more equitable, anti-racist country. It was and still remains a crucial and undeniable imperative to face these injustices together and make the changes required to improve the state of our society for our future. We are still mourning, we are still hurting, and we are still ready to grow and be better.
Since then, RAWdance has focused on thoughtfully implementing the commitments we made in our initial letter, and continuing to formalize equity work in our practices from now into the future. In the hopes of continuing to prioritize transparency and accountability, we’re sharing what actions we’ve taken, and how we will continue the work.
1. With the consultation of our dancers, RAWdance chose Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be an Anti-Racist as the selected text to read as a group to support our further edification on anti-racist practices. RAWdance purchased copies of the book for dancers and staff, and all individuals were compensated for their time spent reading. Upon completing the text, staff and dancers participated in a conversation with facilitator Ravi Lau, who was introduced to us through our Board President emeritus Giselle Chow. Using the text as a launching point, the purpose of this initial conversation was to build a foundation for continued dialogue, reflection, honest feedback, and ongoing improvement within our company and in our engagements as individual artists with our local communities.
2. In parallel to our work with the dancers and staff, our board also committed to read Kendi’s text this summer. The book was the jumping off point to a series of three workshops with the full board, also facilitated by Lau. These workshops and associated required readings covered topics including Kendi’s text, equity in the performing arts field in general, and future applications to RAWdance’s programming in specific. The series was completed in October, but is just the beginning of the board’s role in our continued JEDI (justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion) commitments.
3. Concurrent to these sessions, RAWdance’s staff and board have been developing a new Strategic Plan to use as a blueprint for the company in the years to come. Equity, diversity, inclusion, and justice work is woven through all sections of the plan in addition to being included as a specific goal with its own objectives. This planning process has involved surveying audiences/supporters/community members, one-on-one conversations, and focus groups with our company dancers and peer community artists. The feedback was integral to the development of the finalized plan and will ensure that our future work is in alignment with the needs of our community, the skills of our artists, and the mission of our organization.
Though the planning is still in process, RAWdance has already committed to launching a pilot fellowship program for a cohort of emerging dance makers, prioritizing artists who identify as Black, Indigenous, and/or People of Color. These paid, personalized fellowships will create space for dialogue, partnership, and exchange between the participating artists and all the people who make up RAWdance, including the company’s Co-ADs, dancers, board members, collaborators, and supporters. We are committing an initial $20,000 of our budget to this program in 2021.
4. Megan Kurashige, a Bay Area dance artist and our CONCEPT series Coordinator since 2017, formally stepped into a broader role as an equal fourth voice on our CONCEPT series curatorial team. Her pay has increased to reflect this added responsibility and her role was vital in curating our first CONCEPT series: Digital Edition this August. This is a first step in an ongoing and more robust investigation of equity in our broader curatorial practice and we are thankful for Megan’s perspective!
5. In addition to the above steps, RAWdance’s Co-Artistic Directors and Program Manager are each individually engaging with this work in different ways. The lists below are in no way comprehensive, but include a sample of the work. Some actions include:
– Reading texts such as Caste, Between the World and Me, So you Want to Talk About Race, Emergent Strategy, and The Making of Asian America.
– Listening to podcasts such as “Code Switch”, “Politically Re-Active”, “Black Wall Street”, “Floodlines”, “About Race”, and “White Lies”.
– Participating in workshops and conferences such as HMD’s 2020 Bridge Project POWER SHIFT: “Artists as Agents of Change”, Women of Color in the Arts’ “Speak on It: The Wisdom of Black Women Arts Leaders”, APAP BREAK/ROOM Conversations, and Arts Administrators of Color Annual Convening.
As we stated in our first letter, these actions are in no way sufficient or finite. They are steps we have taken over the last 4 months and we will continue on our path to a deeper, ongoing examination of how our programming, curation, administration, and artistic work can better support our fellow artists and our broader community. We strive to continue to listen more deeply. And we invite thoughts on resources and further steps we can take as we commit to this work for the long term.
Katie, Wendy, Ryan, and Aiyana, Co-Artistic Directors and Program Manager
Click here if you’d like to read our initial letter written in June 2020.