When a Black femme confronts you for actively promoting and wielding white supremacy culture, you listen and course correct. Instead, I was met with a stay-in-your-place defensive response. White violence always begins with lack of transparency, power shielding, refusal for accountability, defense at naming harm, etc. It is this ocean of everyday unchecked white violence that actively drowns Black life, from microaggressions to modern day lynchings. White folks — you actively foster environments that lead to Black harm. Gather yourselves and check yourselves at every dynamic you participate in — not just in response to another hashtag, but from the source.
I will never be silent in the face of white supremacy, whether its impact is personal or with the people. Never. White dominant arts organizations — your lack of accountability to communities you “serve” is unacceptable.
It is time for you to do the work. Lose the ego, ignore the clout, and do the hard, gritty, uncomfortable work to uproot white supremacy in all areas of your life and organizations. Suggestions:
- Teach each other how to undo Anti-Blackness, Transphobia, Xenophobia, etc.
- Call each other in. A white affinity group is not enough. Start talking white Accountability and Reparation.
- If antiracism is not in your mission or your work — you are not an arts and social justice hub. Read that again.
- With that, stop hiding behind your use of “equity” and “social justice”, without doing the work.
- Share your power as much as you share the names and images of Black artists involved with your institution.
- Drop the ego.
- Pay your front line staff — who are artists — a living wage, not minimum or one dollar up from it, especially when you have an 8-million-dollar budget.
- Listen to your Black staff. Pay attention to high turnover rates of staff of color. Pay people for doing labor in their exit interviews and advocacy efforts while educating you.
- Stop Gaslighting. Instead, open up your processes and lead with transparency.
- When a Black person tells you — actually when several Black people have told you — that you have white supremacy in your culture, LISTEN. Do not defend yourself. Change.
- Get trained — People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond’s Undoing Racism Training is great for that. Get trained once and then get trained again, from
- somewhere else.
- Move beyond theory. Don’t stop at the training.
- Create abundance, rather than promote false scarcity.
- Give your power away. If you thrive and rely on artists being dependent on you, you are not serving artists — you are promoting an abusive relationship with white supremacy and capitalism. If you are a non profit organization — focus on creating a future where you are no longer necessary.
To be defensive in the face of racism is to actively choose your white comfort and denial is to actively engage in white supremacy. To actively uphold white supremacy culture is to be an active white supremacist. Period.
At this point, I have zero desire to keep working with Gibney. I write this letter for all to read, including other Black artists, because I will not participate in protecting white supremacy. Because organizations who do not listen with care, and mainly with clout, are unacceptable. I have missed so many warning signs, because I was caught up in accolades and success. That is my doing. This is my undoing. I will no longer choose my own benefit if it means that I participate in upholding power and white supremacy by ignoring the flags. That makes me complicit too. As I actively work to undo this, I return to my values: My community.
Thank you to all the Black femmes who have warned me, taught me, held me, and supported me in this journey and beyond. You know who you are. And thank you for holding me accountable always.
I return to my personal mission: to create, build, and practice healing and liberation in Black queer and trans communities through performance. I’m turning my attention to where it belongs — creating, making, and shaping the worlds I want to live in. My ask is that any Black queer, trans, nonbinary folks continue to make community with each other and connect with me — let’s build together! Let’s care for one another and co-create.