What Is Our Responsibility To Stand Up For Racial Justice?

Written by Stacie Sanders Evans,
President and CEO of Young Audiences/Arts for Learning

In November, the Director of Arts Administrators of Color, Quanice Floyd, penned an op-ed with the title The Failure of Arts Organizations to Move Toward Racial Equity that called on the national arts advocacy group Americans for the Arts (AftA) to increase transparency and accountability and make progress toward racial equity in its role as a national leader in the arts and culture sector.

My hope is that you will read this piece to understand the many concerns of artists and arts administrators of color; and the many opportunities that AftA was given to respond to these concerns. No wonder Ms. Floyd put the call out for Black, Indigenous, and other POC artists, arts leaders—and the organizations that serve them—“to come together to build agency, support one another, shift the current systems that have alienated members of our community since their inception, and invest in ourselves when these organizations will not.”

Ms. Floyd’s courage in standing up to a titan in the arts caught the attention of many who had observed or experienced harmful actions as well—and resulted in leaders in the arts to call for five actions listed here. The Washington Post has now elevated the voices who are calling for change at AftA. My hope is you will read both of these articles, too.

What Ms. Floyd did, she shouldn’t have had to do. Imagine the risk she had to take in her professional life to call out someone, and an organization with so much power? She displayed a love for our field and a belief in the potential of AftA to do and be better—these are two things we have yet to see from AftA’s board of directors. It is out of love that I write this piece and use our platform to amplify Ms. Floyd’s voice.

Many of you know our organization and me, so you know I am white and lead a nonprofit that predominantly serves Black and brown students in Baltimore City. Our community of staff, board, artists, and teacher faculty has become increasingly and intentionally more racially diverse to better reflect the young people we reach.

What some of you may not know is that Black and brown artists of Young Audiences have loved me and our organization in the same way that Ms. Floyd loves this field and AftA. These artists have shared that there have been times when they have felt hurt, unseen, and ignored by Young Audiences. Their sharing these experiences was a tremendous gift to me—because it helped me understand what I was doing to get in the way of my own commitment to advancing race equity through our work in schools and our organizational structures—but it is a gift that they should never have had to give. We can’t continue to expect people of color to continue these acts of love at their own peril.

It is always Young Audiences’ responsibility to stand up for racial justice. We stand with Ms. Floyd and ask that you do so, too.

Black Lives Matter

Black lives matter. Young Audiences stands with those fighting for justice in Maryland, Minneapolis, Louisville, and across our country. We honor those who have been murdered and otherwise harmed by our nation’s systemic racism and police brutality.

We recognize that #BlackLivesMatter is a movement, not a moment, and as an organization it is our responsibility to be engaged and stay engaged—both in this powerful moment, and in those that follow. We acknowledge that our organization has benefitted from systems of oppression, and in the fight for racial justice, we must continue to examine and change our own organizational practices and culture.

Artists shape culture. Artists help us to see, understand, and express injustice. And, if we want to build a world that is just—we as a society need to be able to imagine that world. The arts are critical to that. 

Knowing that this time, while not new, is extremely challenging for Black people, we wanted to share a Black only healing space that some may be interested in: 

  • The Healing Hour: On Thursday, June 4, a safe space on Zoom for Black voices to process feelings surrounding black lives lost to police brutality, hosted by a Black clinician Brie Sutton, LGPC

We also want to share some of the organizations and resources that we have found valuable in our learning. The resources below are just some of many resources to explore. 

We are committed to continuing to learn. To listen. To question. To be questioned. To respond. To act. We look forward to growing together.

Resources

Organizations:

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