National Sawdust DEI/Anti-Racism Commitment

National Sawdust programs have always sought to lay a foundation for civic and artistic dialogue that takes on the complex realities of gender disparities, racial inequities, climate change, and disabilities that are both visible and invisible. At the same time, we acknowledge that National Sawdust is a predominantly white arts institution where the programming has historically been more diverse than the staff and board. 

In response to the 2020 national uprising against systemic racism, National Sawdust embarked on a process with staff and board that asked at this historic moment of reckoning with democracy and systemic racism, how can we contribute to an intersectional plan of action that prioritizes accountability and implementation over statements of solidarity. This process included a five-month series of workshops with racial equity consultant and philanthropic advisor June Wilson and participating in the #ArtsGoBlack anti-racism training provided by the Caribbean Cultural Center.

This work strengthened National Sawdust’s commitment to arts citizenship and deepened our understanding of the degree to which we, as individuals leading an organization and participating in the cultural sector and in society at-large, must begin the process of dismantling the ongoing legacies of settler colonialism and of giving visibility to the exclusions and erasures of indigenous and enslaved peoples that have shaped the systems and cultural norms of our country. The path ahead is as vast and necessary as it is challenging and rewarding.

National Sawdust has identified the following principles and guidelines to inform our anti-racism, inclusion, diversity, equity, access, and racial justice work moving forward:

  • We will practice active listening so that we can be open to ideas and perspectives that are different from our own. 
  • We prioritize empathy for one another as we confront difficult realities and disparate understandings of race and culture.
  • We allow ourselves to be vulnerable and to make mistakes so that we can learn and become more effective in our anti-racist outlooks and communication.
  • We acknowledge that this work is lifelong and that it is not linear.
  • We commit to the basic principles of human rights embodied in the Carribean Cultural Center’s #ArtsGoBlack initiative:
    • Organizations committed to a vibrant, vital, and relevant arts and culture ecosystem reaffirm that indiscriminate murder of Black men, women, and other people of color cannot be tolerated in a civilized society;
    • It is not enough for an organization to support equality if they will not confront racism in word and deed;
    • It is not enough for an organization to believe in racial and social justice unless action is taken to end racial and social injustice.
    • It is not enough for an organization to express solidarity with the Black community without taking actions that actualizes that solidarity;
    • It is not enough for an organization to reject racism while supporting white privilege in its funding or program decisions;
    • It is not enough for an organization to “care” about people of color without reallocating resources that move care into action.

These guidelines, and principles are interdependent with National Sawdusts core values:

NS believes that the arts are critical in understanding, interpreting, and giving voice to the world we live in…

-NS believes that art is the foundation of identity, reaching across local and global divides, helping us to understand the past, envision and give voice to the future…

-NS believes in the power of diverse and inclusive music discovery and artistic collaboration, expression and voice– to entertain us, educate us, and inspire us…

-NS believes in bringing to life content that is rooted in values with a point of view—citizen artistry–content that invites us to be better people and create a better world…to regenerate the artistic voice in community, with all audiences.

ACTIONS

  • The board nominating committee will serve a dual purpose as the board inclusion and equity committee. This committee is charged with identifying and cultivating diverse board members who are passionate about National Sawdust’s mission and programs as well as creating a board culture that is inclusive and works to overcome inequalities of race, economics, and privilege using the NS values, principles, and guidelines for anti-racism work.
  • The board will commit financial resources to support and amplify National Sawdust’s goals for anti-racism, diversity, and equity.
  • As National Sawdust rebuilds its staff after the pandemic, it will prioritize opportunities for people of color.
  • National Sawdust will continue its curatorial commitment to presenting artists of diverse ethnicities, genders, and aesthetics. Staff will work to build relationships with audiences representing the same levels of diversity.
  • National Sawdust will integrate what it has learned from its anti-racism work into how it onboards new staff, board members, and consultants.
  • National Sawdust will provide forums for staff to continue their personal learning and professional development about anti-racism, inclusion, diversity, equity, and racial justice.
  • National Sawdust will offer Juneteenth and Election Day as paid staff holidays.
  • National Sawdust will create an anti-racism, equity, and inclusion resources page on its website to document its work and its goals on these issues.