HOBT’s work toward Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Like many other institutions, HOBT has much work to do in identifying and dismantling roots of White Supremacy Culture in our work. HOBT has long been aware that, while our audiences and our artist pool represent a diverse cross-section of the communities present in HOBT’s core neighborhoods, at the decision-making level our staff and board are almost entirely White European-Americans. HOBT understands that nearly all-white leadership is unacceptable in an organization with a mission to bring people together for the common good and based in neighborhoods where people of color make up a majority of the population.
MayDay artists of color tell us that these dynamics are not unique to HOBT. These are the ways that White Supremacy Culture creates obstacles for people of color in other workplaces as well as in housing, education, and the justice system. HOBT did not invent White Supremacy, but we have been fostering it in our work in a way that is antithetical to HOBT’s values.
HOBT has invested significant time and resources since summer 2017 to better understand ourselves as an organization, and to identify what changes will be necessary to more authentically represent the communities present in HOBT’s core neighborhoods. HOBT’s artists of color have been essential to this work. We are humbled by their gracious contributions to helping HOBT understand where our practices must change, and helping us to imagine how to better live into our values.
In the summer of 2017, the HOBT board engaged in a training session to begin the process of understanding our own culture as individuals and as an organization as a way to better understand our relationship with other cultures. All board, staff, and MayDay artists were provided copies of adrienne maree brown’s EMERGENT STRATEGY, and participated in group discussions aimed at building common vocabulary around the change work we want to do together. In the fall of 2017, HOBT staff began attending twice-monthly meetings dedicated to exploring various aspects of HOBT’s Culture and goals for change.
In early 2018, HOBT’s Executive Director began conversations with MayDay artists of color about changes needed to the MayDay process to address cultural appropriation, microaggressions, and a sense of urgency that blocks out new ideas. In the spring of 2018, HOBT’s board approved a strategic framework that calls for the development of an organization-wide Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Plan. Over the summer of 2018, all board and staff completed an Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) assessment and attended a one-on-one session with a certified IDI assessor to review assessment results and individual development goals.
Also over the summer, HOBT engaged consultants including Nadja Rubenova, Sandra Richardson, Susan Raffo and Marie Michael to facilitate further discussions with MayDay artists about changes needed within the MayDay process. These consultants provided a more objective view of HOBT’s culture and balanced patience with the challenges of the work with firm insistence that we can do better. This work led to the development of a set of written agreements that will be used as part of the 2019 MayDay process and will be used to evaluate HOBT’s progress.
And we know this is not enough. Culture change takes time and commitment. We certainly do not claim to have fully addressed the issue, but staff, board and artists have a shared understanding that only by fully embracing this work can we carry the organization forward. And now, just as this 18 months of work is starting to show up in changes to HOBT policies and practices, the organization will reduce staff and programming. On its face, this will make the work more challenging. In the short term, a smaller staff is not likely to be more diverse. HOBT is making changes to the MayDay process just as it begins a conversation about turning that process over to others.
At the same time, this 18-months of work has prepared HOBT to ensure that considerations of diversity, equity and inclusion are present in every level of discussion and planning for what happens next with MayDay, with the Avalon Theater, and with the other valuable work HOBT has built with our neighbors.