A More Equitable MayDay
Some folks are not sure what HOBT means when we say we have a problem with cultural appropriation, microaggressions, and a MayDay process that marginalized artists of color. And we understand that most people watching the parade don’t see a problem that needs solving.
Though the first Sunday in May in past years may have looked like a diverse celebration, it has usually been at the expense of authentic relationships and inclusion with non-white communities. We are choosing to listen to and prioritize the lived experiences of IBPOC artists who tell us that they have felt marginalized by HOBT’s MayDay process. Changing the world starts with changing ourselves.
What MayDay Artists Tell Us
HOBT's MayDay process brought together the work of up to 1,000 people to build a parade, festival and ceremony attended by thousands on the first Sunday in May. Nearly every aspect of the parade and ceremony were built from scratch each year in a community build process that did not begin until April. Artistic creation of this scale in such a brief timeline fosters a sense of urgency that asked too few people to do too much work over too short a period of time, for too little compensation, particularly artists of color. The feverish pace of the work did not make time to address microaggressions, opaque decision-making, and cultural appropriation. It also replicated systemic oppressions of unpaid emotional labor for women and femmes and communities of color.
Former MayDay artists Insights:
"[the MayDay Parade] hadn't genuinely made itself safe for people who aren't liberal in a white, South Side kind of way.... There's a lot of work to be done around the soul and identity of this space that goes beyond mission statements.”
"It's hard to establish trust when you are invited into a space and you think it's a genuine invitation to collaborate. You share your ideas, your culture and [then] you see these ideas implemented and put on display without referencing you, your work and your culture. When it happens over and over again, you don't want to go back."
"There was a toxic environment. There were micro-aggressions. I was overworked. Everyone else says, 'That’s the MayDay process'. We should do it with love, with care – not the way we really did it. I love this job, but I won’t be coming back. It’s not my job to explain to you what a micro-aggression is."
View the community feedback survey about MayDay conducted by Imagine Deliver, Juxtaposition Arts & HOBT
The quotes shared here represent many comments from artists of color that were shared both throughout the Imagine MayDay Community Engagement Survey Process and in MayDay Artist Evaluations year after year.
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 has fostered White Supremacy in our work in a way that is antithetical to HOBT’s values. We have a moral obligation to dismantle White Supremacy embedded in HOBT's process and culture.
In 2022, we are investing in MayDay Council and community partners to host smaller celebrations throughout the month of May. This transition to a shared, sustainable, community owned MayDay Season is informed by reflections from community and MayDay Council's subsequent recommendations.
HOBT Culture Change Resources
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. Here are some of the resources we have engaged with since 2017 to deepen our understanding and commitment to action.
- Characteristics of White Supremacy Culture Explores fifteen characteristics of White Supremacy Culture, how they show up, and what we can do to address them.
- Me & White Supremacy Originally a workbook, Me & White Supremacy is now in the process of being published. Me & White Supremacy leads readers through a journey of understanding their white privilege and participation in white supremacy so that they can stop (often unconsciously) inflicting damage on black, indigenous and people of color, and in turn, help other white people do better, too.
- My Grandmother’s Hands by Resmaa Menakem My Grandmother's Hands invites each of us to heal the racial trauma that lives in our bodies.
- Emergent Strategy by adrienne maree brown 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.