Resetting the Bones: Our Journey Towards Anti-Oppression
“I’m not interested in anybody’s guilt. Guilt is a luxury that we can no longer afford. I know you didn’t do it, and I didn’t do it either, but I am responsible for it because I am a man and a citizen of this country and you are responsible for it, too, for the very same reason… Anyone who is trying to be conscious must begin to dismiss the vocabulary which we’ve used so long to cover it up, to lie about the way things are.”
~ James Baldwin
A few weeks ago, Adam Huttler, Fractured Atlas’s CEO, wrote a blog post in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. In that short post, he clearly stated our commitment to fighting systemic racism and other forms of oppression. However, while the post hinted that we felt our statement was long overdue, it stopped short of sharing how Fractured Atlas has navigated deep discussions about our place in the social justice movement for almost two years. Our guilt, and a desire to not seem “trite” or late to the protest had paralyzed us.
As uncomfortable as it is to acknowledge when it comes to anti-oppression efforts, organizations, like people, evolve over time and at an individual pace. In 2012, when Trayvon Martin was killed, igniting the first tiny spark of the Black Lives Matter movement, Fractured Atlas was a little over 10 years old. Our staff of 25 was comprised of 24 white employees and one Asian American employee. By August 9, 2014, the date of Michael Brown’s death, those staffing numbers had improved slightly and 28% of our 36 employees were people of color.
The national dialogue, led by Black Lives Matter and other citizen activists, spurred Fractured Atlas’s leadership to proactively address the challenges faced by an organization with a predominately white staff, board, and leadership. We realized that if we’re serious about our core mission — to eliminate practical barriers to artistic expression — then we must attack issues of injustice head on. Fractured Atlas has always been about leveraging technology products and resources to level the playing field for independent grassroots artists, small arts organizations with few or no staff, and within communities of color. We believe that diverse organizations with inclusive policies and equitable practices promote honest discussions and the very best business decisions. This is what Fractured Atlas strives to become, and we know that we can’t rely solely on technology to get us the whole way there.
By the time we issued our statement in support of Black Lives Matter, immediately after Terence Crutcher and Keith Lamont Scott were killed within 72 hours of each other in September, our staff had both grown and become more representative of our nation as a whole. 38% of our staff are people of color, 56% are women, and our senior management team has been strengthened by welcoming voices that aren’t white and male into our daily conversations and into the boardroom.
While measurable, the numbers fail to tell the full story of how far we think we’ve come and how far we still have to go. In 2015, staff members advocated for a formal organization-wide diversity, equity, and inclusion process that would position Fractured Atlas as a model for anti-oppression practices within the national arts community. To that end, staff have been working with YK Hong, a nationally recognized anti-oppression activist and trainer. Through individual conversations and several full-day trainings, Fractured Atlas’s staff have had an opportunity to share personal experiences from the workplace and their everyday lives. We have also had an opportunity to push for concrete changes in the way we work internally, and in the way we support others as they work towards new levels of consciousness. Specifically, one area we have identified for growth and ongoing support is including stronger anti-oppression training for our program support team as they interact with our larger community of artists with the goal of spreading awareness around microaggressions, cultural appropriation, and the power of art to change society.
As part of Fractured Atlas’s commitment to supporting individual artists and the arts sector overall in firmly planting themselves in justice, we are especially committed to ensuring that our environment, and those created by our member artists, are welcoming to all individuals, regardless of race and ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and disability, or any other bias that may present itself. Each day we are working, to paraphrase Mr. Baldwin, to dismiss the vocabulary we have hidden behind for so very long.
We acknowledge that this process is ongoing, and will likely continue for as long as Fractured Atlas is in operation. In the coming weeks, we will be sharing our anti-oppression statement as a means of providing guidelines for our community. We will continue to work closely with each other and with YK Hong in the hopes of establishing shared language, developing common understanding, and incorporating values that allow each of us to work to our highest purpose.
We hope that you will continue to not only follow us on this journey, but to engage with us as necessary and in whatever way you feel comfortable.
About Fractured Atlas
Fractured Atlas is a nonprofit organization that helps over 1.2 million artists of all stripes with the business aspects of their work.