George Floyd. Breonna Taylor. Tony McDade. Ahmaud Arbery. We speak their names to honor their humanity and mourn their deaths. I know that many of you, like us, have been deeply impacted by the drumbeat of violence against Black people by the police, and the protests and civil unrest that have swept the country over the past few days. These most recent killings along with so many others are a product of systemic racism and oppression. Arts Council Santa Cruz County stands in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and protestors throughout the world demanding change.
As I write this message, I acknowledge what arises in me as a white man leading an organization with an expressed commitment to racial equity. There is a voice in my head that regularly holds me back. It warns that I might say the wrong thing, that I might offend supporters or partners or people of color. I recognize that fearful voice as a part of internalized white supremacy culture, a voice that reinforces what I now call my frozen white silence, but it is time to stop listening to that silencing voice! I offer my deepest thanks to the staff of color at the Arts Council, especially Mireya Gomez-Contreras and Hannah Garcia, who urged me to stand in courage and helped shape this message.
For those who are traumatized, angry, and exhausted from the centuries-long struggle for freedom and justice, we know that seeing you is not enough. We know that chanting and protesting alone will not bring about the new world you deserve. Arts Council Santa Cruz County seeks not only to support and amplify the voices of artists of color in our community but also to acknowledge and heal racial disparities within our organization.
Three years ago, we made a commitment to becoming a racially equitable organization. Since then, we’ve made tangible progress by increasing funding to communities of color, working towards having a staff and board that reflect the community we serve, and establishing an equity committee to hold us accountable to our commitments. This is forever work, and our work has just begun.
We will continue listening, educating ourselves, and taking anti-racist action through our programs and partnerships and through re-distribution of resources and power. We’re committed to amplifying the voices, desires, and artistic expression of artists and arts organizations led by and for people of color. We will use our voice, influence, and resources to fight local racial inequities.
We encourage all to take action now (Movement for Black Lives Week of Action and guide to ways you can help)! To those who are new to the conversation of racial equity, join us by educating yourselves on the history of racial oppression in this country (racial equity tools), learn how to be an ally (anti-racist resource list), and move past any voices that hold you back. To the leaders in this work, we invite you to work with us and hold us accountable to our commitment to racial justice. To the artists (and, are we not all artists endowed with the creative spark of life and the power to use our imaginations to create a better world?), we invite you to use the energy of this powerful and precious moment to create and share work that inspires lasting change.
something is terribly wrong
if the pain
and outrage of people
makes you more uncomfortable
than the murder itself
These are challenging times, and they are a call to wake up, to feel the pain, to see its roots, and to do what is needed to heal. This is hard work. It asks us to be bigger than our fear, to make our hearts big enough to value and love those we do not understand. Like art, this work invites us in, challenges us, and, if we are open, helps us see the world in a whole new way.
Jim & the Arts Council Team