Black Lives Matter
BCA RACIAL EQUITY COMMITMENT
Black Lives Matter. It is incumbent upon us to act accordingly, and to identify those ways that we, as a leading cultural organization, can stop perpetuating pervasive and systemic white supremacist practices and lead through our actions.
Boston Center for the Arts (BCA) is committed to doing the hard work of dismantling even the most subtle forms of white supremacy in our organization, in our practices, and in the work we do to help make Boston a place where ALL artists can live and thrive.
Starting in 2020, Boston Center for the Arts committed significant resources and time to the hard work of dismantling systems and practices that inhibit our ability to function as an anti-racist organization. We recognize that this work needs to be deep and long-term.
The steps outlined below are just the beginning of this ongoing work.
Decentralize Decision-Making Power
In 2021 we implemented a full organizational restructure that included:
- A comprehensive salary survey to identify and rectify pay inequities for BIPOC staff
- A complete overhaul of our recruitment and hiring processes through an anti-racist lens that includes training for staff in management and hiring positions
- The creation of a senior leadership team that reflects a rich mix of backgrounds and lived experiences
- A complete review of employee benefits that support and create pathways to success and advancement. For instance, annual stipends for staff professional development
- Clear job descriptions, responsibilities and the role of each staff member alongside the BCA strategic plan
- Adopting an anti-racist lens in making decisions. Employing a line of inquiry to ensure we are prioritizing our anti-racist commitments
- Providing regularly scheduled pathways and structures for anonymous critical feedback
- Adding anti-racist accountability to performance evaluations. Holding staff and leaders accountable to acknowledging mistakes and constantly checking ourselves for fragility
- Providing space and time for staff to continue the development of staff-led EDAI education
- A commitment to finalize a critical review of staff retention and a commitment to investing in resources to better understand BIPOC staff needs
Commitment to Learning and Unlearning
BCA commits to making space for continuous learning. In 2020 and in 2022 we invested in the Cultural Equity Learning Community (CELC) for every member of our staff. We have further committed to an annual investment in Racial Equity Training for staff, Board of Directors, and resident artists starting in 2023.
Through this commitment to learning and unlearning, we asked ourselves the following questions:
- How can we distribute power differently so that it is shared more diffusely across the organization?
- How can we be open to learning on the job, making mistakes, and trying new things?
- How can we have a climate or culture that makes it easy for people to learn and change?
- How can we help ourselves learn to talk about very complex issues, especially where we have very little shared experience?
- How can we make visible and value different forms of knowledge within our organization?
- How can we make time to reflect on our ways of doing and thinking?
- How can we empower staff to propose solutions to organizational challenges?
Continual Re-Evaluation of our Racial Equity Strategy
We commit to being a people-first, learning organization, drawing on the connections that staff and Board have developed with BIPOC artists and community leaders and we will work on slow and genuine trust-building, placing value in long-term sustainable relationships, not prioritizing immediate, performative results.
Racial Equity Team
A Racial Equity Team was formed in the first quarter of 2021 with members of our staff, Board of Directors, and affiliated artists to work with Steward Cultural Development Group (SCDG) (see below) to develop a comprehensive Racial Equity Audit and hold the organization accountable for its implementation with actionable, time-based goals and checkpoints.
Perform a comprehensive Racial Equity Audit
In March 2021, Boston Center for the Arts (BCA) obtained the services of Steward Cultural Development Group (SCDG) — a nationwide capacity building and organizational development consulting agency — “to conduct an organization-wide racial equity audit of the organization’s internal documents, policies, and external communications as they reflect and/or pertain to BCA’s goal to dismantle white supremacist practices and build equitable policies and language to improve racial equity within the organization” (Request for Proposals: BCA Racial Equity Audit). The organization’s vision states, “we [BCA] believe in the equitable access to resources, opportunities, and experiences. Centering artists as essential to social and cultural movement, BCA is reimagining the role an arts institution can play in the community it serves” (Request for Proposals: BCA Racial Equity Audit: About).”
After a 10-month audit, SCDG made the following observations and recommendations:
- BCA must acknowledge the shifting demographics and contributions of Boston’s artist communities and shift its culture and structure to accommodate these changes.
- BCA should provide pathways for artists of all backgrounds to access opportunities and resources.
- Create relationships with key partners within and outside of the arts & culture sector to provide wraparound support for artists across neighborhoods.
Recommendations and Resources
These recommendations are largely, but not exclusively, operational to encourage integration across all BCA functional areas.
- Develop a Comprehensive Equity and Anti-Racism Action Plan
- Solicit broad support for change and risk management, equity, capacity building and capital needs
- Area-specific recommendations include governance, administration, programs, resource management, communications, and operations
Additionally, the organization must understand that there are “best practices” that are appreciated across a great majority of arts and cultural organizations. Therefore, SCDG recommended BCA adopt the philosophy that practice should be informed by the organization’s stated ideology and desired outcomes. SCDG further suggested that any potential informed practice could be based on the following frameworks:
Emergent Strategy as defined by adrienne marie brown
Systems Thinking as defined by Leyla Acaroglu
Five Elements of a Thriving Justice Ecosystem as defined by Change Elemental
Execute An Equity And Anti-Racism Planning Process
Following the conclusion of the Comprehensive Racial Equity Audit, BCA conducted a comprehensive national search during the summer of 2022 to select a partner to help BCA execute our Equity and Anti-Racism Planning Process. From among the three finalist organizations, BCA chose to partner with YW Boston in the fall of 2022. The formal work between YW Boston and the staff and Board of BCA began in earnest in December, 2022. This work will unfold over the course of the following 16 months.
And to fund this vital work, BCA is pleased to acknowledge that the First Republic Bank Foundation awarded BCA a grant to fully fund our Equity and Anti-Racism Action Planning Process we are conducting with YW Boston.