Racial Equity Accountability Report: July 1, 2021
July 1, 2021
A little over a year ago, George Floyd was murdered as the world watched. Knowing the fate of Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many other Black lives lost to racial hatred called each of us to reckon with our part in an unjust system. And, like many other organizations, Seattle Arts & Lectures expressed our solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. We expressed our outrage and our heartbreak, and we also clarified what we had—too quietly—been working on. We committed to saying aloud, to you, how we are moving forward in our journey to becoming an anti-racist organization.
I am writing today to share with you the first of what will be regular racial equity accountability updates to come. Each of our four teams highlighted the top three actions, areas of work, or long-term opportunities for change that our staff have worked on over the last year.
We want you to know that we’re striving to work towards racial equity at all times, in all parts of our organization. And, though we will inevitably make mistakes, we commit to telling you what we’ve been doing in this area going forward. To be transparent about this important work, twice a year—in July and in January—we will share how racial equity has shaped our efforts over the previous six months.We feel deep gratitude towards those who have contributed time and emotional labor into providing SAL with feedback.
We hope that this update provides a doorway, rather than a window, into anti-racist actions at SAL, and the many ways that literature, storytelling, and words can bring joy, hope, and justice to the process of dismantling white supremacy culture. We invite your questions, comments, and conversation, as always. And we are grateful for all the ways you stay curious as we learn and grow together.
Interim Executive Director
- Prioritized additional Writers in the Schools (WITS) subsidies (on top of the typical sliding scale contribution, in which SAL provides 60-95% of the actual program cost) to historically underfunded schools serving majority populations of students who qualify for free and reduced-price meals. This year, 10 of our 23 partnering public schools serve 50% or more students who qualify for free and reduced-price meals and 58% or more students who identify as Black, Indigenous, and people of color.
- Extended our 3-year pilot program with schools new to the WITS program with the highest free and reduced-price meal rates—extending the additional SAL subsidy of the pilot program throughout this school closure year to provide long-term investments and build partnership and trust in the WITS program.
- Invested in ongoing race and equity professional development training opportunities for WITS writers—both for current writers and to build pipelines for future WITS writer development. This included supporting the development of an Indigenous literature and land-based pedagogy curriculum and budgeting for a WITS writer apprentice program in the coming year.
- Followed through with our continued commitment to ensure at least 50% of our speakers identify as Black, Indigenous, and people of color, and curated a season that held many conversations about racial equity and justice, as well as creativity, joy, and thought. Planned the launch of a paid, guest-curated community series to share curatorial power with writers who are Black, Indigenous, and people of color.
- Partnered with CD Forum to co-present and split revenue for an event with Kimberly Drew and Jenna Wortham, which celebrated their anthology, Black Futures. Partnered with Marguerite Casey Foundation to present two free community events centered on anti-racism with Heather McGhee (The Sum of Us) and Dorothy A. Brown (The Whiteness of Wealth).
- In an effort to begin addressing the intersections of class and racism at SAL, we opened up a new $10 reduced-price ticket level at 84% of our events. We committed to offering digital access for every event going forward, which lowers social, physical, and economic barriers to access.
- Focused on using a strengths-based approach in our fundraising communications that does not perpetuate racial stereotypes or tokenization in our printed and online materials, event programs, or videos. Spent thoughtful time with the students, writers, and community members we invited to participate in our fundraising to thoroughly explain the context, goals, and audience of each event.
- In conversations with donors and funders, we were explicit about SAL’s commitment to anti-racism and racial equity, and that the need to provide competitive salaries and benefits to our staff is an equity issue.
- Regularly engaged in resources focused on equity issues in fundraising to learn more about how we can integrate racial equity and social justice into fundraising at SAL. This includes the Community-Centric Fundraising group (including their Aligned Actions Tool), the Advancement NW 2021 Annual Conference, which focused entirely on equity and social and racial justice issues, the Nonprofit AF blog with Vu Le, and the Nonprofit Quarterly.
- Engaged the entire team in a facilitated session with racial equity consultants Kyana Wheeler and Diana Falchuk in the fall of 2020. The full staff has contracted to work with Kyana and Diana since 2018, and the Leadership Team has worked with Diana several times a year since 2019 to specifically address leading with an equity lens as an all-white, all-female Leadership Team.
- Organized white affinity learning groups for white staff to better understand and interrogate our own roles in perpetuating systems of oppression and structural racism, and dedicated the same financial resources to our Black, Indigenous, and staff of color to support their wellness and professional development as they see fit.
- Spent the year in deep staff conversations to determine our organizational values, intentionally slowing down the process and examining each value through an equity lens.
- Devoted time for each team, on a biweekly basis, to discuss readings, articles, books, and podcasts that are informing our efforts to incorporate equity and anti-racism into our particular work areas and all of our work together.