Statement on the Murder of George Floyd and Our Commitment to Racial Justice

June 3, 2020

WESTAF Community,

We at the Western States Arts Federation (WESTAF), like others who share a commitment to advancing racial equity, are deeply affected by the events of the last few weeks and their impact across the nation. We join with many others nationwide in condemning the recent death of George Floyd in circumstances that involved police use-of-force. 

We also stand with others in honoring the names of others who have died in similar circumstances whether at the hands of police or vigilantes. Amadou Diallo. Manuel Loggins, Jr. Ronald Madison. Kendra James. Sean Bell. Eric Garner. Michael Brown. Alton Sterling. Ahmaud Arbery. Philando Castile. Samuel DuBose. Terrence Crutcher. Trayvon Martin. Sandra Bland. Breonna Taylor. There are many more names than we can list and still others that we do not know.

As an organization, we recognize that racial injustice continues to deeply affect the lives of our team members and the individuals and communities served through our work. We have seen the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on communities of color and these new incidents of racial injustice only amplify this crisis.

For our staff suffering pain from these tragedies, our leadership stands with you, and we are not only listening but are also committed to ensuring that you feel safe and able to express your thoughts, feelings, and concerns. 

For the artists, arts organizations, and communities served by our work, WESTAF will continue to support leaders of color, advance equity through grantmaking, and center the concerns of underrepresented communities as we convene networks and advance wider agendas in the field. We do so recognizing that the arts have played a role in injustice in its own ways, far too often and for too long profiting from the labor, culture, and experiences of African Americans with little recognition of the value of these contributions. 

We, as artist activist and Black Lives Matter organizer Noni Limar counsels all of us, recognize the power of the arts to redefine narratives, shift culture, imagine freedom, influence, and heal. Now, more than ever, the voices of our artists must be heard, as they can play a vital role in raising awareness and exposing and dismantling systems of oppression and state-sanctioned violence.

WESTAF commits to employing intentional practices that aim to remove historic, societal, and systemic barriers to creating a more equitable arts and culture field. We reaffirm with fresh urgency and renewed momentum our commitment to providing programs and partnering with individuals and organizations to diversify leadership in the arts. We will continue to:

  • Build a cohort of Black, Indigenous and people of color cultural leaders in the western United States who are committed to the advancement of the arts through its Leaders of Color Program.
  • Provide opportunities for Black, Indigenous and people of color arts professionals to establish networks that support their career and advocate for the cultural interests of the communities they represent and serve.
  • Facilitate the creation of new programs or partnerships that advocate for representative and inclusive leadership in public sector arts agencies and arts organizations in a manner that brings the perspectives of historically marginalized communities into focus. 
  • Proactively engage arts and culture organizations and state arts agencies in the WESTAF region to better understand and adopt inclusive practices.
  • Train with equity consultants who identify as people of color to provide the tools and information that will allow staff to gain a deeper understanding of WESTAF’s commitment to equity, what that means, why it is important and ways to advance inclusion and equity in their day-to-day lives in and outside the office.
  • Increase opportunities, benefits, and resources for historically underrepresented communities in a manner that results in quantifiable and systemic change. 
  • Seek out and nurture reciprocal relationships and alliances with members of underrepresented communities to increase awareness of and sensitivity to their aspirations and expressed needs. 
  • Maintain our commitment to the development of leaders of color within our staff, organization, and the board and encourage hiring practices that work toward giving underserved communities of color greater access to our job postings.

We must do everything we can in the West and beyond to amplify marginalized voices, lift up underserved communities, and redress systemic inequities in the arts, culture, and creative sectors. There is so much at stake, so we must do it with honesty, humanity, humility, and an ever-present willingness to acknowledge our own privileges, prejudices, and failings, while committing to a more just and equitable future. This is the work that lies ahead for us.