Creating an Organization that Embraces Equity, Inclusion, and Supports an Anti-Racist Vision for the American Theater.
Like many organizations and individuals, WHAT has embarked on a journey of reflection and self-evaluation in response to the nation-wide recognition, in the wake of horrific violence targeting communities of color, that the American story has been built upon, and continues to perpetuate, a predominately white narrative that excludes, marginalizes, silences, and erases voices both from and reflective of communities of color. This narrative perpetuates racist mindsets which in turn support and perpetuate a history of violence and systemic inequality for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) communities, artists, and individuals.
This process is often uncomfortable; revealing truths about ourselves, our biases, and our institution, that must be challenged. It is a time to examine the ways things have always been done, to look deeply and sincerely at our failure to embrace and support artists of color on and off our stages, to understand why voices of color have been excluded from our decision making, and how we have failed our audience and community. We are committed to leaning in to these difficult conversations. We know that we have much work to do and a long path ahead. By embracing this work, we commit to creating a stronger organization that reflects our community’s values, and ends the perpetuation of a harmful and exclusionary narrative.
As we work to develop new policies and initiatives we embrace the following principles:
Listening: As a theater company we pride ourselves in our ability to tell stories, but now is a time to listen; to hear and understand how we can better serve BIPOC artists and audience members, to understand how we have fallen short in amplifying their voices and stories, and how we have failed to create a welcoming environment for people of color.
Reflection: We look inward and challenge the status quo. We examine our past, and understand how through our work onstage, and in the decision-making process that supports that work, we perpetuate the white narrative to the exclusion of diverse voices and experiences. We continue this work even when we reveal uncomfortable truths or feel personally challenged by our discoveries.
Action: We must develop policies and initiatives that actively challenge racist beliefs, actions, and systems, and create opportunities for BIPOC artists and staff. We must use our unique platform to amplify marginalized voices from BIPOC artists through greater representation both on and offstage. We commit to creating policies that are actionable. We must hold ourselves to account for both our successes and failures.
Engagement: We must come together as a community, artists and audience together, to share stories, experiences, and reflections that provoke thoughtful, heartfelt, and transformative conversations.
On this journey, we will stumble and we will fall short of expectations at times. But we will persevere and stand firm in our commitment to shaping a future for WHAT, and indeed the American theater, that changes the prevailing narrative, that amplifies BIPOC voices and experiences, that ends systemic inequality, and actively promotes a culture of equity, inclusivity, and an anti-racist vision.
Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater acknowledges that it resides and operates on land originally belonging to the Wôpanâak (or Wampanoag) and the Nauset tribes. While the Nauset tribe is no more, their heritage lives on in the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, who were re-acknowledged as a federally recognized tribe in 2007.
WHAT accepts that this acknowledgement is just a tiny step in the journey to reckon with the effects of the colonial past in this reegion. We remain committed to learning more of our past, and being an active ally in the present.
To learn more about the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, please visit https://mashpeewampanoagtribe-nsn.gov
WHAT acknowledges that much of this nation was built by the labor and at the expense of forcibly enslaved Black and African diasporic peoples. We acknowledge that this system of abuse and oppression echoes forward and affects our system today. We are indebted to the labor and unwilling sacrifice of those whose freedom was denied them; and acknowledge the tremors of that violence throughout the generations and the resulting impact and generational trauma still felt and witnessed today.