In late May, Delaware Shakespeare released an anti-racism statement in support of the Black Lives Matter protests against the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, and too many more members of the Black community.
In the following days and weeks, the theatre industry, along with many other industries in our country, has engaged in a process to look within itself and identify how it is complicit in upholding structures of white supremacy. Delaware Shakespeare has joined in this process, and acknowledges these actions are far too long in coming.
Delaware Shakespeare acknowledges and expresses gratitude to BIPOC theatre artists for their labor in driving these necessary actions and the demand for accountability.
As we move forward, Delaware Shakespeare commits to becoming an anti-racist theatre, which, in the words of Nicole M. Brewer, promotes “anti-racist ideas, values, and policies that counter the oppression of any people” during every aspect of our work.
We recognize that central to this process for Delaware Shakespeare is asking the question, “In what ways can a theatre dedicated to the works of William Shakespeare, often held up as the epitome of white European culture, authentically and consistently advance principles of anti-racism?”
In the short-term, Delaware Shakespeare has taken the following steps to turn its Black Lives Matter statement into action:
- Held June 30 online discussion on “Othello and Systemic Racism” with Lindsay Smiling and Newton Buchanan, which raised $1,400 for the Delaware Coalition to Dismantle the New Jim Crow.
- Hired four part-time associate artists for the duration of 2020 through NEA CARES Act grant, two of whom are BIPOC artists. Associate artists will be developing and implementing COVID-safe programming.
- Begun a six-week staff and board book study of Ibram X. Kendi’s “How To Be An Antiracist” as part of YWCA Delaware’s “Dialogue to Action” program (to be completed by end of August).
- Scheduled cultural competency training with YWCA Delaware to be held at September board meeting.
- Posted current Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion-related action steps from 2019-2021 Strategic Plan on website, which includes goal of doubling non-white audience members at our Summer Festival in two years.
- Brainstormed diversity metrics that we will measure and report each year (% BIPOC board, staff, actors, creative team members, audience). Retroactive stats dating back to 2016 can be found HERE.
- Begun amplifying at least one social media post from a BIPOC arts and culture organization or individual artist each week.
In the long-term, Delaware Shakespeare has established a board-level working group tasked with developing anti-racism policies within six months (by the end of January 2021). This process shall include, but not be limited to:
- Holding Sharing & Recommendation Sessions with BIPOC artists and audience members to allow for the sharing of their past experiences with Delaware Shakespeare and offering recommendations for improvement
- Developing an anti-racism code of conduct to be issued to and accepted by every board member, staff, artist, and production crew
- Developing anti-racism board/organizational policies
- Compensating BIPOC artists and audience members for participation in developing these policies and participating in the Sharing & Recommendation Sessions
- Establishing ongoing anti-racism training procedures
- Developing an anti-racism statement to be read at every first rehearsal and annual board meeting
- Developing a Land Acknowledgement to be read at every performance, first rehearsal, and annual board meeting
- Examining the #WeSeeYou White American Theatre BIPOC Demands; assessing how Delaware Shakespeare has fallen short in creating the supportive work environment detailed in the document; including policies to address shortcomings in overall anti-racism policies
We will share our actions throughout this process, and invite your feedback to these ongoing efforts. We understand that transparency and accountability are necessary to earn the ongoing trust of BIPOC artists and audiences. Delaware Shakespeare intends to build a more just and equitable theatre organization, and hopes that our actions can contribute to larger-scale, positive social change in our community.