On Equity and Justice
In response to the powerful and necessary We See You White American Theatre and Regional Living Document demands, the humans who make up Crowded Fire want to let the wider community know where we stand and what we are working on together.
Crowded Fire became the organization it is today thanks to the Bay Area’s BIPOC theater community. This company’s work, culture, and organization could not have emerged without these artists — we artists — and we marvel every day at the support, trust, and power that we have co-created together. Artists of every background have found real opportunities for growth here and agency in their work.
But that does not erase Crowded Fire’s founding within a theater tradition of white supremacist frameworks, and our existence in a wider field based in a problematic capitalist economy. We are deeply embedded in a system that harms BIPOC people daily, hourly, a system that silences and erases our work. We have those toxic frameworks in our own house. We, too, need to learn and evolve.
In this potent moment, bursting with the energy that We See You White American Theatre and the Living Document have called up, Crowded Fire recognizes a need to respond clearly and directly to these demands. We have a great amount of work that we need to do in order to continue on our pathway to becoming a fully anti-racist organization.
With the full participation of our small staff, and in-depth conversations with other stakeholders such as Resident Artists and Board members, we’re currently in the process of going through each line of the documents, evaluating our existing systems that address them, and identifying needed action items. Within two months, we’ll have a comprehensive action plan that we will make public, but here’s a brief snapshot of where our work stands:
Some action items are in areas where we’re behind in our work, and it is going to take time to meet the rigor of the robust blueprints provided by We See You White American Theatre and the Living Document.
- Creating a safe and anti-racist space, including providing more consideration of the trauma we ask our artists and staff to face, as well as more — and more regularly scheduled — anti-racist, bystander intervention, implicit bias, and anti-oppression trainings.
- Initiating real connections with local Ohlone tribes, with actions that go beyond a land acknowledgement, including budgeting for events, tickets, and the Shuumi Land Tax. (Lobby signage is currently in practice; theater friends, reach out if you’re interested in using this commissioned art from NSRGNTS!)
Some action items are easily within our reach, and will be ‘done’ within the month. (See below for explanations on the air-quotes.)
- Amending our board bylaws with more inclusive policies that increase access for and responsibility to our community, including removing the financial give/get component and increasing artistic representation.
- Making it easier to access any and all information about the behind-the-scenes work at Crowded Fire, including adding budgets and salary information to the Crowded Fire website, in a prominent and easily accessible area.
- A comprehensive code of conduct, including an Anti-Racism Policy, Sexual Harassment Policy, and details on accountability and communication avenues.
Some action items are already in practice; these will continue to evolve as we evolve. This work is never done, and we continue it joyfully. This is the complex, important work that we have always loved.
- BIPOC representation in staff and leadership.
- BIPOC representation in programming.
- Fair payment of BIPOC artists and staff.
- Starting in 2020, Crowded Fire committed to paying all our artists as staff instead of independent contractors. We spent years preparing for this right-size adjustment as part of Crowded Fire’s long-term equity plan, and so we were prepared to respond to AB5’s new employment criteria.
This update is already TL;DR, so we’re going to hold this to just a couple of items in each in-process category. But we will always answer your questions, directly and honestly. Reach out. We’re happy to give more details on any of the above plans — even the items that will take longer still have short-term, not-enough-but-at-least-it’s-a-start immediate action items attached to them — or to share our plans around any demand on the Living Document, We See You White American Theatre, or your own personal list.
We may tend to be playful in our communications, but we’ll speak very simply now, to honor the importance of these movements and this moment. This is life and death. These issues have been ignored for too long, in our region, in our field, in our country. Circumstances are converging, making this a moment, the moment, for real change, and we MUST rise to that call.
We humans who make up Crowded Fire Theater would like to share our deepest love and respect for all the members of the We See You White American Theatre group who created this amazing blueprint for dismantling oppression in our theater. And love and respect for our local artists connected to the Living Document, who are struggling with a heavy burden of emotional work while facing a backlash of overwhelming white feelings. If you would like to support that work, you can donate here.