Anti-Racism Work | Alabama Shakespeare Festival

Anti-Racism Work + Commitments

Anti-Racism Statement

December 8, 2020

ASF commits to anti-racism in its systems, practices, and theatre-making. As a storytelling institution charged with building community, we believe our civic, not-for-profit mission cannot be achieved with racist policies, ideals, or thinking in place. We commit to a conscious decision to make frequent, consistent, equitable choices daily. These choices require ongoing self-awareness and self-reflection as we move through life. We commit to combating discriminatory treatments, unfair policies, or biased practices based on race that result in inequitable outcomes for whites over Black, Indigenous, and People of Color and extend considerably beyond prejudice.

Actions Towards Anti-Racism

On June 1, 2020, Alabama Shakespeare Festival publicly committed to standing in solidarity with Black communities in Alabama and across the country. We believe action is required to truly stand in solidarity.

In developing an action plan to meet the need for equity, inclusion, and diversity in our industry and in our own house, we follow the wisdom of Black artists and staff in clearly including Indigenous People and all People of Color in our self-examination and development.

To our BIPOC community and theatre-makers:  We see you. We hear you.

We see that your stories have been absent from our stages. We hear that you have experienced hurt, suppression, and exclusion by the predominantly white institutions that control much of American theater, and we understand ASF has been complicit in, and the beneficiary of, this culture. We know this reckoning is long overdue.

In 2015, the ASF Board of Directors rewrote its mission with a new goal “to build community by engaging, entertaining, and inspiring people with transformative theatrical performances.” Adopting new core values of heritage, excellence, community, accessibility, life-long learning, and stewardship, the Trustees acknowledged the organization’s need to play a stronger role in Montgomery and Alabama. Recognizing the richness of the human experience and the uniqueness of our region — a place born of close family ties, at times torn by social strife, but always reaching for reconciliation and renewal — the organization set forth a series of actions to make lasting change on and off its stages. These actions included revised bylaws, new Board committee structure with rotating leadership, a new management reporting structure, and a change in institutional leadership.

We know great work still needs to be done.

Today we share not our first steps nor our last steps but our next steps in becoming “a truly sustainable, anti-racist theatrical ecosystem.” We are committing to consistent, regular education and examination of our processes, systems, and culture. We are committing to a culture of respect and accountability. We acknowledge for great change to happen it must be accompanied by action and knowledge.

ASF is determined to make anti-racism and equity, diversity and inclusion integral parts of its institutional culture. ASF will approve an anti-racism statement and belief structure alongside its mission, vision, and values. This statement will become a fundamental component of our systems, working procedures, and organizational documents.

ASF commits to developing and funding mandatory recurring anti-racism and EDI training for staff and artists. This training will also be a fundamental part of ASF’s onboarding process for new employees as well as visiting creative teams. In addition to training, ASF commits to developing and funding intervention and mediation programs and protocols with designated staff and management. ASF commits to a permanent budget line for this annual work.

To lead our efforts internally, ASF has created a Task Force Towards Being an Anti-Racist Theater, which is composed of 50% BIPOC staff members. The Task Force will lead regular convenings with the full company and guide the implementation of action steps.

ASF will continue these established practices, which we are proud to state publicly:

  • hiring diverse creative teams for all productions.
  • building relationships with and hiring BIPOC artists from our local area.
  • producing BIPOC stories in both our larger space and smaller space.
  • having its play reading group membership be 50% BIPOC members.
  • partnering with the Montgomery Public Schools to produce a show featuring the students (MPS is 91% BIPOC students).

ASF will recognize Juneteenth as an annual paid holiday.

ASF will implement a deep interrogation as to where BIPOC artists are hired in the season.

ASF will center the creative work of BIPOC theater-makers; this includes but is not limited to commissioning, development, season planning, and production.

ASF is re-evaluating and re-imagining its weekly rehearsal schedule in order for artists, technicians, and staff to have a more humane and healthier lifestyle.

ASF will create a relationship with Alabama State University (an HBCU located in Montgomery) for BIPOC technical/design students to learn and be paid for their internships.

ASF will insist its casting director commit to our anti-racism statement.

ASF commits to centering local businesses owned and operated by BIPOC individuals as well as companies with publicly stated anti-racism principles. We are creating a Preferred Vendor list culled from each department in the organization.

ASF will review all hiring practices and promotion procedures to ensure that they are anti-racist and anti-oppressive. To this end we believe: The systematic oppression of Black and Indigenous people and People of Color are unequivocal barriers to the future we envision. Creating intentional partnerships with a range of organizations or educational institutions helps ASF look beyond our own networks and consider a more diverse pool of qualified candidates. Hiring on potential recognizes the unique capacity of candidates to adapt and grow on the job.

This includes explicitly stating our organizational culture and values around anti-racism within every job description to foster personal and collective accountability to these principles within our staff.

ASF commits to transparent access to its policies and practices toward equity, diversity, and inclusion for BIPOC board members, employees, visiting creative teams and artists, and audiences. This includes salary and hiring practices, and board orientation and partnership makeups and selection practices.

ASF is committed to learning about and acknowledging the Indigenous People who were the traditional stewards of the land on which ASF is built.

ASF commits to educating all funders of ASF’s anti-racism policies. Additionally, ASF will research foundations and corporations to ensure they also are not supporting racist policies.

We acknowledge that ASF is in the midst of this work. Our action plan will evolve and become more detailed as we learn from each other. We are rebuilding ASF for a post-pandemic world, and we are determined to establish ASF as an anti-racist organization dedicated to serving this beloved community that we call home.

Statement of Solidarity

June 1, 2020

The mission of ASF begins with the commitment to BUILD COMMUNITY. That action means nothing without stating unequivocally that BLACK LIVES MATTER.

Our Black brothers and sisters have endured senseless murders for hundreds of years. We mourn the loss of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and Breonna Taylor, and countless others.  They should each be alive right now.

Our country’s systems and structures are rife with intentional and inherent racism. We see this firsthand in our healthcare systems and economy as the Covid pandemic disproportionately affects Black communities.

As a theatre, we believe stories matter. Stories have been used to dehumanize, destroy, and humiliate; stories have also been used to empower, empathize, and embolden communities. Too many stories have been left off our stages at ASF. We commit to being better storytellers and citizens. If we are to be a theater that BUILDS COMMUNITY, we must use our greatest tool of storytelling to effect change.

ASF commits to fighting racism in our institutions (ASF included) and in our community. ASF will not stand nor tolerate racism in any form. We will stand in solidarity with our Black artists, Black staff members, and the Black community. We see you. We hear you. We pledge to BUILD COMMUNITY where you are seen and heard.

Enough is enough.

—All of us at Alabama Shakespeare Festival

Watch this page for progress on our journey.

Updated December 15, 2020

// Explore Media IAWL