Yesterday we shared demands, put forth by AS220’s Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPoC) staff, necessary for AS220 to become an anti-racist organization. Click here to read them.
These demands are reasonable and achievable, and AS220 is committed to working collaboratively and creatively as a staff and community to realize all of them in time. Recognizing that there are no quick fixes to the deep-rooted issues around racism, we have formed a Racial Justice Initiative that you can participate in, that will work towards this goal. Please read on for more information.
We are enthusiastic and excited about putting in the work to move AS220 forward with these demands as the heart of our strategic plan and our future, and we are proud to work together to create a better AS220 for all of us. AS220’s white staff and AS220’s Board of Directors also want to acknowledge the leadership, labor, and love that BIPoC staff put into creating these demands and sustaining this organization.
AS220’s work is driven by our vision statement, which reads: “AS220 envisions a just world where all people can reach their full creative potential.”
However, we all still live in a very different world where the potential of one’s life – or death – is determined by race. The most recent murders of Black people in America – including Breonna Taylor and George Floyd – at the hands of police, have once again served as a reminder of this reality.
The U.S. was founded on, and still operates on, racist anti-Black systems of oppression that permeate all aspects of life in this country. While systemic racism is a part of all systems – including healthcare, education, housing, and the arts – we recognize that policing and law enforcement have the most direct detrimental effects on the Black community.
Black Lives Matter.
AS220 stands with the demand that the City of Providence defund the police and invest in community-centered resources and BIPoC led and owned organizations.
AS220 has been led, staffed, supported by, and served as a venue for predominately white people since our founding. This is not to erase the work of Black, Indigenous and People of Color throughout our history, but to be clear about the truth of that history. AS220 has participated in the systems, institutions, and culture of American society – white supremacy culture (What do we mean when we use terms like “systemic racism” or “white supremacy culture”? There are many incredible Black scholars whose work you can read, but the Dismantling Racism website has a basic introduction – click here). AS220 has in turn absorbed and perpetuated racist policies and practices in our work, leading to the exclusion of Black, Indigenous and People of Color at all levels of our organization:board, staff, residents, and participating artists.
Despite this, there is a long history of BIPoC staff, many based at AS220 Youth, doing crucial work – in addition to their official job description and at personal expense – inside AS220 to create spaces where non-white voices and cultures are centered. In a strategic manner, these BIPoC staff members have taken it upon themselves to spread these values across the organization and push us in an anti-racist direction.
It is well past time for AS220 to honor the work that these staff have undertaken on their own with little or no resources to do so, by making anti-racist work our top priority in our next strategic plan.
AS220 began a Racial Justice Initiative in 2019. Our goal is to co-create an anti-racist and liberatory culture at AS220. This work is foundational to our vision of a just and equitable world where all people can realize their full creative potential.
As part of this initiative, this past February all staff of AS220 and several members of our Board of Directors participated in an Undoing Racism training facilitated by The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond. This was an important step towards becoming an anti-racist organization and putting racial justice at the heart of AS220’s work. The Racial Justice Initiative includes a framework with three key pillars – Community, Education and Policy – through which we will collaboratively work to address the demands presented by our BIPoC staff.
We would like to invite members of the community to engage in this process with our staff and Board members. If you would like to be a part of AS220’s Racial Justice Initiative, please complete this form: as220.org/racial-justice-initiative-form.
We look forward to working with AS220’s immediate community, and the community of the city of Providence at large, to achieve the demands put forth by our BIPoC staff. Together we can co-create AS220 as an anti-racist organization and realize our vision of a just and equitable world where all people can realize their full creative potential.