Response to BIPOC Demands for White American Theatre
As a part of our commitment to doing the ongoing anti-racist work our organization needs, our staff read BIPOC Demands for White American Theatre. The document was received this past summer by our staff, board members, and members of our EDI committee. In September, our staff engaged in group discussions with regards to the document laid out by BIPOC organizers and artists. We received each demand individually and gave them careful consideration. We were unable to get through the entire document, but agreed to revisit and finish reading at a later date. Many of the demands are already codified in our policies. Some of the demands are in progress and need improvement. Some of the demands are steps we hadn’t considered. We embrace and respect this document and honor the efforts poured into it.
Here are some new steps we are adding to our social accountability:
We will include a digital land acknowledgement by August 2021 and will explore our options for including a physical acknowledgment in our lobby.
We will craft a social media policy to better define our responsibility to our artists.
We put in writing our elimination of “10 out of 12s” of which we made official in November 2019.
We will make our employee handbook publicly accessible to make our organization’s policies more transparent.
We will work to create better paid internships.
These are in addition to our current EDI practices, and action steps described below. These are not our first steps, nor our last, but the next steps in our pursuit to make Northlight an anti-racist organization.
In 2018, as part of an initiative through the League of Resident Theatres and as a response to community input around the casting process of The Book of Will, Northlight formed an Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee. The purpose of the EDI Committee is to evaluate internal systems and take actionable steps toward lasting institutional change. This committee, which consisted of both internal and external stakeholders, generated a list of action items in November of 2018. Since then, Northlight has worked toward implementing the items on this list.
In June 2020, after the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, Northlight issued a statement of solidarity and promised action. We acknowledged that we are a predominantly White organization serving a mostly White audience, and we re-committed to doing the ongoing, internal, antiracist work our organization needs in order to become a better ally. We started with the following items, which are ongoing:
- Reassessing our mission statement and identifying core values to better reflect our pledge and our responsibility
- Unlearning and relearning with antiracist literature through staff led self-education days
- Making a commitment to engage our staff in antiracist training before the end of 2020
In the weeks since our statement, we have evaluated our progress on the original list of action items and added new actions based on discussions among the staff and board. Below, we are providing two lists: one of action items currently in progress, and one of practices that are now fully implemented at Northlight.
CURRENT ACTION ITEMS
The following items are a combination of those proposed in November 2018 and those added by the current EDI Committee. These items will be part of Northlight’s regular practices and systems by August 2021, unless otherwise noted. Many of these items will be implemented once we are able to be fully operational again.
- Literary staff will hire a diverse group of people to read plays to ensure more representative input on scripts in consideration for production with a focus on racial, gender, and geographic diversity.
- We will continue to implement industry best practices in intimacy, fight choreography, etc. and we will develop a system by which actors can express the need for the aforementioned experts.
- We will offer programming that allows us to have difficult and necessary conversations with our audience on topics related to equity. We will provide opportunities for our audience to reflect, expand, dive deep into this work through pursuing civic dramaturgy and consensus organizing. We will provide training opportunities for our audience engagement facilitators and/or hire experts in related fields whenever possible.
- We will offer programming that features underrepresented people in positive and compassionate ways beyond the struggles and traumas associated with their marginalization.
- We will maintain an Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion committee and that committee will reflect the diversity of all of the communities we serve in our artistic, educational, and community outreach programming.
- We will add a member of the EDI committee to hiring processes for full-time staff. This person will not be the Department Head, Executive Director, or Managing Director.
- All Northlight staff will continue the anti-racism and EDI self education that we have started as a staff. Staff will participate in a professionally led EDI training.
- We will create an EDI resource guide with materials for staff, cast, and crew that will outline our practices and will be frequently updated.
- We will create a protocol for hiring teaching artists to include all EDI practices to ensure schools and community organizations are working with a cohort of teaching artists that reflect the demographics of their students and communities.
- Education will recruit students to serve on Northlight’s Youth Council with a focus on racial, gender, and geographic diversity.
- We will build the framework for programs that provide opportunities for BIPOC artists in the areas of design, technical theatre, and stage management/crew.
- Through a partnership with local universities, Northlight will provide opportunities for MFA or undergraduate students to design and/or assistant design in Northlight’s season.
- Through partnerships with community organizations and schools, Northlight will provide paid learning opportunities for young people to gain more experience in technical theatre and stage management.
- Northlight will grow its internship program to foster mentorship in all departments.
- While North Shore Center for the Performing Arts does not have gender neutral bathrooms for our patrons, we commit to building them into our new space in Evanston. We will clearly publicize to patrons all information about our current facilities on Northlight’s website.
- In addition to closed captioning, Northlight will offer relaxed performances and ASL interpreted performances for the 2021-2022 season. We will also work to grow our audience accessibility programming in our new space in Evanston.
Additional action items are being discussed at the committee level in the areas of fundraising and sponsorship, board and board development, audience development, and production.
Click here to see a list of Northlight’s current Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion practices.
We hope those reading this message will join us in our pursuit. To start: our friends at the Evanston Public Library have compiled a list of antiracist reading and resources; and the Black Business Consortium of Evanston offers a local directory of Black-owned businesses to support.