Spotlight: Supporting Black Communities and Voices

In the past week, we have seen a long overdue outpouring of support for the Black community--support that was rightfully prompted by the murder of George Floyd at the hands of the police. Anti-Blackness is a prejudice that pervades all aspects of life, including the arts and culture. If we are to truly stand as a creative community, we must be active in combating racism and uplifting the vibrant and irreplaceable work of our Black community members. So this week, we want use this space to highlight the work of a few organizations that have used their time and resources over the past two weeks to amplify the anti-racist work we must commit to. 

Before Gov. Baker’s stay at home and safer at home orders, we shared office space with StageSource, an organization led by Black and Queer people, dedicated to serving New England theatre artists through networking and development opportunities and committed to building an accessible, diverse community. Their work has only grown more important in the previous months, and catalyzed by events of the past two weeks, they developed a list of Anti-Racism Resources to help guide those who want to become involved with the work. If you’re looking to donate your money, there’s a number of organizations listed, and if you’re looking to donate your time, they have graciously curated a list of materials to read or watch, and actions to take. Most notably, their set of guidelines for “Alternatives to Calling the Cops” lays out the principles of why the policing system as it stands today is so harmful for Black and other marginalized communities, and offers solutions you can implement to make your community safer for all without a need to involve the police.

If you’re looking for more ways to get involved, SpeakEasy Stage Company has outlined the three principles that they as an organization are committed to taking to become more active allies against racism: Educate, Engage, Support. They invite their patrons to join their work, and have compiled Black Lives Matter Resources, including a list of Black-led organizations to support, action items to engage with, and a list of materials to educate those who want to learn more. The Educate list is significantly comprehensive, directing readers towards books, plays, films, articles, podcasts--whichever medium you may find the most beneficial to your work. 

But perhaps one of the most beneficial steps we can take to support anti-racist work is to give our support and resources to it. Black-led organizations are historically underfunded, and the generational wealth accumulated by white families is not often distributed to communities in need. And within the arts and culture community itself, we too often center and prioritize white voices and narratives over those of Black people and non-Black people of color. We are grateful for the many cultural organizations who fight hard to represent, amplify, and celebrate the stories of those who are historically marginalized. They too are in need of greater support. 

If you are able, we encourage you to follow the lead of the Mayor’s Office of Arts & Culture Boston in their call to support, follow, and promote Black-founded and Black-run arts and culture organizations and creative businesses. 

And leadership goes beyond Boston. Elevated Thought, a Lawrence-based non-profit, donated $250 to four different racial, social, and economic justice organizations in order to affirm Black lives. Kudos to Elevated Thought for finding ways outside of their  established programming to live out their mission to support connections between art and social justice for young people and providing them with opportunities to build change through creativity. In addition to calling on their supporters to also make a donation, Elevated Thought also amplified a series of funds that support Black trans, non-binary, and queer people in support of Pride month. 

We’d also like to direct you to the Cultural Equity Learning Community, powered by Arts Connect International (ACI) in partnership with the Mayor’s Office of Arts & Culture and The Boston Foundation. If you are a white leader in the arts and culture sector, and/or work with a predominately white institution, ACI invites you to join them for a cultural equity learning community, including a go-at-your-own pace learning course with 2 units and complimentary wrap-around learning support.

It doesn’t stop there. After educating and supporting, we need to take action. Within the pillars of our society are deeply-rooted systems of structural inequality that perpetuate active violence on Black lives everyday. Policies like those developed by Movement for Black Lives work to repair the harm of centuries of oppression and marginalization and build a more equitable, just future. These are policies that organizations across the Commonwealth can pledge to support and build into their everyday operation. MassBudget utilized M4BL’s policy platform to reflect on their role and pledges to offer their expertise to advance the Economic Justice, Invest-Divest, and Reparations platforms. Now is the time to look inward at our work and orient it more clearly towards anti-racist objectives. 

In all of this deep work, we’re grounded in the reminder that artists and creatives know how to use art to express conflicting emotions at once—anger, sadness, fear—in a way that can help us make sense of tragedy and injustice. Last week in Springfield, Wane One painted a mural-- “Say their Names”--on the side of the Martin Luther King Jr. Family Services building. The mural displays over 70 names of people of color who died at the hands of the police, and was made possible through sponsorship by Art for the Soul Gallery and Commonwealth Murals. Recognizing that the true extent of that list of names will never be known, the mural is a poignant reminder of the brutality and violence faced every day by Black people and non-Black people of color. American culture as it stands currently does not uplift or value the lives of our Black community members, and until we work to change that, that list of names will grow ever longer. Racist violence must end, and we must all do the work to make it happen. That is why we at MASSCreative state unequivocally: Black Lives Matter.

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