Our Letter In Response To The “We See You” Statement
Dear Friends —
On June 8, 2020, a collective of over 300 BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) theatre makers known as We See You White American Theatre issued a letter addressing the systemic racism in our field. Then, a month later, on July 8, a call to action was issued. This call provided specific demands for institutions across the theatre world including academic and professional training programs, the press, and Broadway, Off-Broadway, and regional theatres.
In conjunction, the We See You statement and the list of demands provided an indictment of the way things are, and a pathway forward to how things should be.
We at Long Wharf Theatre are seen by this letter. We are part of the White American Theatre that has exploited and dehumanized BIPOC creators and we accept the call to transform.
We acknowledge, and are grateful for, the immense amount of labor our BIPOC colleagues expended crafting this comprehensive, though not exhaustive, list of changes that our field must undertake to dismantle its participation and replication of the white supremacist systems that exist beyond the walls of our theatre. Often, in predominately white spaces, conversations on dismantling systems of oppression center around not knowing what steps to take. The theatre makers who created this collection of demands have given the American theatre industry a gift in laying out these steps. To ignore this gift would be a direct affront to our colleagues who are demanding overdue change.
We are now assembling an action plan in tandem with our Black Lives Matter statement. We accept and acknowledge that, as a predominantly white institution, we must reckon with the systems of white supremacy that support us in maintaining a position of power in our community and in the American theatre.
The development of this plan is one small step towards ending oppressive practices.
In the spirit of transparency and accountability, we commit to sharing the process we are undertaking to create our action plan as it develops:
- We began by immediately sharing the demands with our full staff. We made them essential reading and a recurring topic at our weekly all-staff and leadership team meetings.
- In order to disrupt traditional top-down decision-making systems which are structured to keep power where it already exists, on Monday, August 24, our full staff gathered virtually with an outside facilitator to begin the process of internalizing the demands and creating a framework for implementing them.
- Our full staff will continue this work in, at least, two additional facilitated conversations over the coming months. Our Board of Directors has added a session centering the We See You demands to their planned work with artEquity.
- We will share progress reports on our social channels and website as we proceed. These reports will keep our community informed of the actions we are taking to dismantle systems of racism and oppression in our work.
In addition to the steps above, here are other actions we have taken to transform our culture and institute new ways of working:
- Beginning last year we eliminated the 10/12 tech process.
- We offer a land acknowledgement at all first rehearsals and will expand that practice into other spaces.
- We will continue to build upon our anti-racism learning library for our staff and Board of Directors.
- When we are able to gather audiences in our space, we will work with the New Haven Free Public Library to offer a micro-branch in our lobby focused on anti-racism and the BIPOC experience.
- We will create recurring affinity spaces for our staff and Board of Directors to reckon with their participation in white supremacist systems and identify steps for growth from their positionalities.
- As we make theatre, we will commission a majority of BIPOC artists and writers and build sustained relationships with them, offering them the level of creative and financial support that white creators have long enjoyed.
We are committed to moving through this process with rigor, transparency, and openness.
We are committed to moving our theatre, and our community, towards healing and restoration.
We have a tremendous amount of work to do, and will be accountable to ourselves, to each other, and to you.
We thank We See You White American Theatre for pushing us forward on the path to becoming an anti-racist theatre that centers not only the creative work of BIPOC theatre makers, but also their visions for social and economic transformation. We are excited to do the hard work necessary to be a radically inclusive theatre for our community. Please be on the lookout for our progress reports as we continue to share our work.
Long Wharf Theatre