Diversity & Inclusion Statement
Greetings, St. Dunstan’s Members and Friends. As current President of St. Dunstan’s Theatre, I’m proud to share the following with you:
In June, 2020, I had the opportunity to participate with leadership from community theatres around Michigan in the seminar, “Toward an Anti-Racist Michigan Theatre.” Michigan actors and directors shared experiences they have had at community theatres in Michigan dealing with racism and microaggressions. After sharing their experiences, the actors and directors, along with the seminar facilitators, asked for help from the theatre leadership to work with their theatres to combat racism and put systems in place to support marginalized community members.
It was a huge learning experience for me. First, I had no idea what microaggressions were. I learned that microaggressions can be jokes that, while not overtly and intentionally racist, play on racial stereotypes (such as doing a neck roll to "sound black"), they can mean using different ways of talking to actors/directors/crew members based on skin color, and they can be comments/notes/directions given using racial stereotypes (such as telling an actor to be more or less "hood" or "urban"). These examples of microaggressions were the personal experiences of actors and directors in local community theatres.
We also learned about the need to impact our theatres by welcoming and including more diversity in our theatre leadership in order to impact theatre policies and programming. Programming can be impacted by choosing scripts written by non-white playwrights and choosing shows that tell stories about characters from marginalized communities.
The Board has been discussing this and working over the last several months on a statement to put on the website. (You may have noticed it on the Board meeting agenda and in the meeting minutes for July 2020, November 2020, March 2021, and April 2021.) When putting together inclusive language that would encompass the intended message and embody the spirit of St. Dunstan's, we considered several factors:
-The current climate of society makes this issue very important for us to address.
-Community theatre members who have been victims of racism are ASKING FOR OUR HELP, so we are not being condescending by offering to "fix a problem that's not there."
-If we have a statement it will be above and beyond legally-required non-discrimination policies.
-This should not be a "pro-forma" statement that we are making in order to be "politically correct."
-This is a living statement, not a "one-and-done" policy--it will evolve with the community and show that we are actively seeking change.
-Input, feedback, and discussion from all St. Dunstan's members are welcome and encouraged at ANY time.