We’re in a moment where workplaces are having more serious conversations about how to become more equitable, less racist, less oppressive. If you aren’t in management, HR, or operations, it can feel like you’re waiting around for the decision-makers at your organization to implement change, however long-overdue.
Maybe you’ve recently published a statement in support of Black Lives Matter and committed publicly to begin working towards being an anti-racist organization. Maybe folks internally or externally are asking what changes you plan to make after seeing that statement. Maybe you think that you’ll have your staff go through a full staff training and will be “done with it.” Maybe you’re a white person in an organization who thinks that it’s not something you need to worry about because it’s something that some other department needs to figure out. That’s not enough. If we are committing to being anti-racist organizations, we have a lot of work to do that touches every organization and every department. There is a lot of rightful skepticism about statements companies are making right now, so how can we as organizations work towards making sure these statements are not hollow or performative?
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By now, you’ve almost certainly seen the Angela Davis quote that reads “In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.” We have to do more than share a somber tweet or email to members and donors. Anti-racism is an ongoing commitment and practice. For individuals and organizations, it involves examining the way our organizations operate, who and how we hire, how people are compensated, how meetings are conducted, who receives funding, and other structural considerations.
As we can see in the widespread protests against the murder of George Floyd, people are filled with rage and grief at his individual death and at the systemic violence against Black people in this country. As an organization committed to anti-racism and anti-oppression, we are all feeling that rage and grief ourselves.
Julia Barry with co-organizers Rev. Adriene Thorne, Dusty Francis, and Dionne McClain-Freeney Julia Barry, along with co-organizers Rev. Adriene Thorne, Dusty Francis, and Dionne McClain-Freeney, is the creator of “Habitat: Home,” a nationwide community-building project powered by art. Through collaborative making and multidisciplinary performances about ‘home,’ artists and residents across America work toward a more peaceful, healthy country. Julia is based in Brooklyn, New York and has been a Fractured Atlas member for almost a year.
Note: The librarian’s last name is Reading. How awesome is that?! (Also note, my mom saved everything.) Around Memorial Day each year when my sister and I were kids, our parents would take us to the McCollough Branch of the Evansville Public Library. It was that annual rite of passage — the summer reading challenge! We’d select a hefty stack of books, and then hope to God come Labor Day we’d have read enough of them to earn that sweet certificate for a free scoop of Baskin Robbins ice cream.
[This time of year brings a whole host of looking back, looking forward pieces. Instead of a round-up of the top books or movies, or predictions about what’s to come in 2019, I thought it might be a good time to check in on our anti-racism, anti-oppression journey at Fractured Atlas.]
In October 2016, Fractured Atlas presented its commitment to anti-racism/anti-oppression. Specifically, 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. [Emphasis added.]
In October 2017, Fractured Atlas began meeting in race-based caucuses. Several months later, we shared a list of the resources that the White Caucus had been reading and discussing in the hopes that that resource list could help other white people on the long journey of anti-racism.
As part of our commitment to anti-racism and anti-oppression, Fractured Atlas has been hosting race-based caucuses since late 2016. Each space serves a unique role in our work. We’re sharing our experiences in the hopes that more organizations will implement the practice.