In a blogpost we published on the AOK website on June 1, we expressed our outrage at the murder of George Floyd and our solidarity with the struggle against police brutality against people of color and for the end of white supremacy. You can read that post by clicking here.

But we know we must do more than offer words. We realize that AOK, as an organization that was mostly started and is staffed by white people, that works largely with young artists of color and is committed in its mission statement to increasing equity, has a special responsibility to not only talk the talk of anti-racism, but to walk the walk. We have a special responsibility to reflect on our own behavior, be open to criticism and recognize what our blind spots are and how we might be acting out of unawareness of our privilege as white people. We have a special responsibility to ensure our programming, our norms of behavior and our culture create safe spaces for young artists of color. We have a special responsibility to provide opportunities to the white members of our community to reflect on our own privilege and how to give it up. We have a special responsibility to ensure that the artists of color we work with have a say in how things are done at AOK at all levels and that the staff and board are reflective of the young artists we serve.

To meet these responsibilities and to increase our ability to live up to our mission and provide a safe space for the artists we work with, we make the following commitments in 2020/21 to:

  1. Increase representation on our governing board so that it is at least 50% people of color.
  2. Ensure representation on our governing board by young artists of color who’ve participated in AOK programming.
  3. Continue our commitment to providing residencies primarily to young, emerging artists of color.
  4. Use all future staff turnover as an opportunity to increase the diversity of our staff.
  5. Conduct periodic anti-racist trainings for our staff and board.
  6. Institute regular opportunities for white members of our community to learn about and grow beyond our privilege.
  7. Raise at least $5,000 to provide micro-grants to help members of our artist community get through this unprecedented time and create work that brings hope and healing into the world. We will share the guidelines and application for these grants soon.

These steps will help us deepen and sustain a climate of open-ness and trust and a culture of clear communication, respect and accountability so that we are able to learn and improve based on feedback and reflection in our commitment to creating a truly and consistently welcoming, safe and nourishing experience for the young artists of color we work with.

This is a challenging time, on multiple fronts. It is also as an opportunity for us to learn how to be a more anti-racist organization in fact, not just in words.  We look forward to your partnership in this important work.

In solidarity,
Kathy and David
Co-founders, AOK