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The Work of Being A Better Ally: My Action Statement

I need to apologize to all of you. I haven’t made a public statement this week, and I should have. I assume that people know my heart, and that isn’t fair. I need to use my privilege right now.

Black lives matter. Unequivocally. Let me start there. If you don’t believe that, or want to all lives matter me, please look in your heart and ask why you think that a statement about the humanity and dignity of Black people feels in any way a question.

I am beyond sickened by the murders of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd, three recent examples of the violence on Black people in the United States. But being sad or upset isn’t enough. It isn’t nearly enough.

Rather than clutching my pearls and crying white lady tears, I’m thinking about my action plan moving forward. Here’s what my work in progress looks like right now. 

  1. Work on being a better ally. Call out racism. Lift up BIPOC voices. Be better.
  2. Learn. I need to become fiercely, loudly and actively anti-racist. It’s not up to other people to teach me, I need to learn. That means reading. Watching. Listening. Showing up. I’m working on my own syllabus for the summer, and starting with White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo. My book list for June is large, and that’s as it should be. I will be posting resources on my page, but for now I encourage folks to use Google. There are so many resources out there. There’s no excuse for not knowing. Don’t expect other people, especially people of color, to be the teachers. Learn.
  3. Listen. I am listening to people’s stories and feeling their pain. My tendency is to fix, but that’s not my role right now. My role is to make space for people to share their experience, and believe them. Believe them. Let myself feel their pain, and use that to fuel my action.
  4. Push myself to be uncomfortable in my activism. I believe in leading with kindness, always. That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t push myself out of my comfort zone. Every day.
  5. Work to dismantle white supremacy and the systemic racism that is part of every structure of our lives. Including artistic structures. The old models don’t work. They haven’t worked for a long time. We need to build new models, from the ground up, that do work. I look forward to working on that. 
  6. Believe that better is possible. I see my nieces and nephews, I hear from my former students, I feel the passion of young leaders and I believe that better is possible. There is SO MUCH work to do, but the generations behind me deserve my best efforts to leave them a better world.
  7. Lead with love. That doesn’t mean that I’m going to put up with hate. It does mean that I’m going to make sure that hate doesn’t find a place to live in my heart, because that’s a poison.

I am a work in progress. I have been an optimistic person, but these days I think that optimism may be a privilege that I am afforded, but others are not. Instead, I aspire to be a fierce ally, an advocate, and a decent human being who believes in the dignity of others. 

The United States was built on a promise that it has never lived up to. I hope, and pray, that now is the time we can all step up, lean in, and make that promise a reality for all people.

A lot of organizations are making statements of solidarity right now, and that’s important. But as a friend pointed out, if these statements are not followed up by real action, real change, then trust will be irrevocably broken. For performing arts companies, take this Covid-19 time to get your house in order, dig deep, and make the changes that need to happen. Your work is too important not to do that. I believe that creative energy will save us all, but only if we lift up all of the voices in our communities.

Black lives matter. My friends, I see you. I stand with you. I support you. I’ll do better.

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