Seattle Choruses originally posted a statement responding to the violence against Black and brown people and the protests gripping not just our city but the nation. Our response was tepid at best and we were rightly called out for it. What follows is an amended statement, first presented as a personal message from Executive Director Karen Lane to our members.
Our Mission: Our voices transform society through innovative and entertaining programs that build community, illuminate the experiences of LGBTQ people and their allies, expand inclusion, and inspire justice.
The charge to expand inclusion and inspire justice is not a destination we have reached. It is indeed a path that we walk quite imperfectly.
We acknowledge that our public statement regarding the senseless deaths of Black people at the hands of police brutality and the ensuing righteous protests was soft and late. Our delay caused a vacuum of silence that harmed our Black members. We also acknowledge that the statement served as but one more painful microaggression against our Black members.
As we review the circumstances of the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Tony McDade and Manuel Ellis, we know they are but the latest lives robbed in a long history of violence against BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) people. There are so many others not known as it seems to take bystander video for the dignity of the world knowing their names and any chance at justice.
We are not interested in going back to ‘normal.' Normal is racist. Normal is comfortable only for white people and predominantly white organizations like ours. We do not like being uncomfortable any more than the next person. But Black people have lived discomfort, fear, bias, physical threat, discrimination in hiring, inaccessibility to economic prosperity, and marginalization in healthcare and housing their entire lives. And young POC have particularly suffered the school-to-prison pipeline. We are angry. We do want police reform if not defunding or reallocation of funds to community programs if that is the best way forward. We do want prison reform. If current police structure continues, we do demand changes to use of force policy. We do demand swift and fierce accountability for racial profiling and brutality against the Black citizens police are supposed to protect and serve but have not for 400 years.
We cannot make those changes. We can participate in protesting. We can disrupt and interrupt when we, as white people, hear a racist notion or word come from a white friend or family member.
Organizationally, there are things that we must do that are only a start – the tip of the iceberg. We are committed to playing our role in the breakdown of systemic racism that leaves the Black community unsafe and unequal in America.
- Unravel the layers of white privilege within our organization and ask to be held accountable.
- Review and revise policies in hiring and Board membership.
- Seek to expand the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Committee and ensure that the weight of breaking down white privilege is not on the very people oppressed.
- Increase the resources of the EDI committee to ensure ongoing and meaningful anti-racist training for Board and Staff. The committee has worked hard since its founding first as a task force.
- We will ensure that new members participate in anti-racist training and will work with EDI to determine the best presentation at the time.
- We will participate in actions toward reconciliation and reform: We will listen, learn, integrate, and take corrective action in our efforts to dismantle our complicity in perpetuating systemic racism.
We must ensure that POC are not simply given a chair in the office, in the Boardroom, or in the rehearsal hall – but that we have committed to the work of creating an inviting and safe space for POC to be able to bring their whole selves without fear.
Our choruses are hundreds of voices coming together to share stories of joy and hope and loss and pain. We will not ignore the stories of traumatized Black Americans who are plagued by daily violence.
April Cook, Secretary
Ed Darr, Treasurer