COMMUNITY UPDATE #1 – OCTOBER 31, 2020
On September 25, 2020, Rainbow Stage posted a “Statement Against Racism” that resulted in understandable anger and hurt in our community. We are very appreciative of all the letters, emails, phone calls and meetings that have since occurred. We would like to thank the community for believing in us enough to share their thoughts and feelings and to help us move forward in a positive and less harmful way.
Between September 25-27, we reached out to the Professional Association of Canadian Theatre’s (PACT) leadership and received valuable support, resources and wisdom. We identified how Rainbow Stage failed to acknowledge past racist behaviour, failed to seek proper consultation from PACT and IBPOC community members on creating our statement – which resulted in the use of hurtful language – and failed to show an adequate plan to move forward. It was agreed that the first course of action was to post an apology and then remove the initial statement from our website.
Our apology was posted on September 27. The apology also outlined our next steps, which were to post a community update on or before October 31 outlining our plans for anti-oppression and anti-racism training, other actions we have taken over the past month and specific plans for moving forward. This is that update.
ANTI OPPRESSION, ANTI-RACISM TRAINING
On October 5, Rainbow Stage’s leadership (Board Chair, Board Vice-Chair, Executive Director, Artistic Director and Assistant Executive Director) met with PACT’s leadership (Board President, Board Vice President and Executive Director) for consultation and guidance on next steps and future actions.
PACT provided Rainbow Stage with a list of training consultants to consider, with all of us agreeing that hiring a consultant with lived experience on Treaty One territory and a connection to the Winnipeg theatre community would be ideal.
Rainbow Stage also received recommendations for training consultants from several of our PACT theatre members and members of the theatre community. Over the past month, the recommendations were compiled, researched, and discussed. Thank you to each and every one of you who sent us your recommendations.
Rainbow Stage’s Board of Directors and staff are excited to be working with Guided Conversations Canada and their Guided Conversations Towards Reconciliation, Anti-Oppression & Social Justice Strategies. We are currently finalizing the scheduling for three sessions to occur in November and December.
Additionally, on October 21, Rainbow Stage’s Artistic Director, Carson Nattrass, began one-on-one sessions with Seraph-Eden Boroditsky (Guided Conversations Canada) to begin his own personal journey to educate himself about reconciliation, anti-racism, active allyship, and to begin repairing his relationship with the theatre community.
BOARD and BOARD COMMITTEES
Representation on our Board of Directors has been identified as one of the most impactful actions Rainbow Stage can take.
With two spots currently open on our Board, and some Directors nearing the end of their terms, our Board is committed to prioritizing the recruitment of new Directors that better represent the diverse Manitoba community that we serve. Moving forward, we will accomplish this recruitment by identifying barriers to IBPOC and other equity-seeking groups that bar access to our organization at the board level and ensuring we continually strive to make our board and organization open, welcoming and safe to every member of our community.
By our next update, we commit to updating our Board of Directors page on our website. This update will better explain the role of our Governance Board, what areas of expertise are desired to improve our board and how one can submit interest in joining our board. We will also list our Board Committees, their role and how one can submit interest in joining them. Board committee work is an effective way to get involved with the company and have an immediate impact on current and future initiatives.
The purpose of strategic planning is to set overall goals for the organization and to develop a plan to achieve them. It involves stepping back from our day-to-day operations, asking where we are headed and what our priorities should be.
In our next update we will share the details of our plans to review and update our strategic plan. With appropriate consultation and guidance in place, our aim is for our next strategic plan to incorporate new initiatives and clear goals that will foster a more diverse and inclusive company on and off the stage. The target date for completing our revised strategic plan is March 26, 2021.
Our Artistic Director continues to meet one-on-one with members of the Rainbow Stage community (alumni, patrons, donors, partners) who have expressed their anger, pain and disappointment directly or indirectly. He has been speaking with industry leaders across the country to share Rainbow Stage’s mistakes and to discuss the work that is happening in other regions and how to build a healthier organization and healthier relationships moving forward.
By our next community update, we will be updating our website to better communicate how groups who are under-represented in our industry can get involved at every level of Rainbow Stage, including Auditions, Professional Training and Education and Outreach programming, as well as identifying barriers and clarifying how these programs function and are supported.
Rainbow Stage is also currently exploring the world of livestream and podcast media. Rainbow Stage intends to develop a series of podcasts, interviews, and educational initiatives to foster important and difficult conversations that exist in our industry, amplify the voices of IBPOC and other equity-seeking groups in our community, provide more accessible professional development opportunities and promote more community sharing and engagement.
QUESTIONS & CONCERNS FROM OUR INITIAL STATEMENT
Many questions and concerns were raised as a result of our initial statement and we thank the community for sharing these with us. Our community’s feedback is necessary and appreciated.
It has been recommended to us that before we begin addressing these questions and concerns publicly, we first complete our Anti-Oppression and Social Justice Strategy workshops and subsequent consultations.
We have been compiling these questions and concerns into a living document, reflecting on them and aim to discuss them thoroughly and act on them within our training and consultancy. Following that, we will address them through future community updates, our actions and the implementation of new initiatives.
NEXT COMMUNITY UPDATE
Rainbow Stage will be sharing its next community update by January 31, 2021. Our aim is to report on the results and impact of our anti-racism/anti-oppression training, update on the progress with our Board and Board Committee recruitment, update on other actions taken and outline our next steps moving forward.
Rainbow Stage was born out of the community, for the community. We are committed to providing transparency to and agency for the community we serve.
Apology From Rainbow Stage
Re: Our Statement Against Racism in the Theatre
Rainbow Stage deeply apologizes for the pain our statement against racism has caused in the community. We recognize the impact the statement has had is one of disappointment and damage. Thank you for reaching out to us through letters, emails, and phone calls to inform us of our mistakes. We take responsibility and are committed to correcting them.
In our statement, we failed to recognize past and present racist behaviour. We apologize for the racism, racial caricatures, tokenism, cultural misrepresentation, and cultural appropriation that has existed on our stage and behind the scenes. We acknowledge the hurt this has caused members of the Indigenous community, the Black community and all People of Colour (the IBPOC community) over the last 66 years and we are committed to ensuring actions and decisions like these never occur within our organization again.
In our desire to communicate how committed and excited we are about developing new works as a part of our programming, the words we chose were hurtful. We are grateful to our community for communicating how words such as ‘non-traditional programming’, ‘measured risks’, and others are injurious and dangerous. We did not understand this, but now recognize that using out-dated phrases like these make IBPOC members feel othered, devalued, and excluded. We take responsibility for this and will ensure that the words we choose when we communicate speak to the equality and equity we seek to create in our company.
We did not properly consult with members of the IBPOC community or the Professional Association of Canadian Theatres (PACT) on our statement. This was an egregious oversight and we deeply regret not taking the crucial steps to educate ourselves prior to speaking on this most important issue. The Rainbow Stage family deserves a revised statement that includes meaningful consultation. This revised statement will address specific plans to diversify our board and administration, our education, outreach and professional development initiatives, and the art we present on our stage.
Rainbow Stage will announce the details of anti-oppression training for our board and staff on or before October 31st, following consultation with PACT and its members. Further, we will commit to releasing a plan for moving forward at that time.
Thank you for caring for us, sharing your feelings, and offering thoughtful advice so that we may correct our mistakes and begin the process of healing. We sincerely ask for forgiveness from our community; especially those individuals and communities we have directly impacted. Rainbow Stage is fully committed to learning, addressing essential change and being the strongest ally we can to ensure that transformation happens within our company.
With gratitude and deepest respect,
The Executive Committee of the Board of Rainbow Stage
Julie Eccles, Executive Director
Carson Nattrass, Artistic Director