[Blackstudies-l] Statement from the International Association of Blacks in Dance

Maria Lima lima at geneseo.edu
Thu Jun 18 16:14:06 EDT 2020

---------- Forwarded message ---------
From: Mark Broomfield <broomfield at geneseo.edu>


*Dear White American Dance Community:*

The International Association of Blacks in Dance (IABD) stands with the
Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) theatremakers. We support
their call and affirm *The Ground We Stand On*
<https://www.weseeyouwat.com/> .

We, who are Black, Brown and People of the Global Majority, come together
to say to the White American Dance Community: The time of your systems of
race preference is over. We are listening, we are watching and are no
longer waiting for your stamp of approval.

*Fact:* America was founded on White supremacy. From 1619, when captured
Black people were first brought to these shores, we were enslaved,
considered to be property and counted as three-fifths of a person. Ten of
the first 12 presidents of this country owned slaves and were part of
writing and upholding the law of the land that slaves could not grow or
possess their own food, gather in groups, or learn to read.

White American Dance Community, you have designed the system of White
supremacy, privilege, institutional racism, micro-aggressions, oppression
and stood guard over them. It is time that you face it, own it, unlearn it
and dismantle it.

*Can You Hear Me Now?*

*Your system:* predominately White dance companies, predominately White
administrative and production staff, predominately White suburban dance
studios, predominately White dance higher education programs, predominately
White agents, critics, curators, educators, funders, historians, managers,
presenters, producers and scholars. You all fit together to keep Black,
Brown and People of the Global Majority down. Yes, you make your “checked
the box” hires to pay lip-service to diversity. Yet, unless we follow the
stereotypes you created and are coarse and outrageous, extreme with race
rage, risky with sexual/gender statements, or incorporate hip-hop, social
dance and other dance forms, we remain invisible to you.

*ATTENTION White American Dance Community:* Many of you have released
statements about BLACK LIVES MATTER. Understand that this moment is about
the survival of Black, Brown and People of the Global majority. We—our
lives, livelihood and institutions—are at risk. If BLACK LIVES MATTER, then
Black Voices matter. Our voices are our dances and they articulate our
culture. You have specifically had your “knee on the neck” of Black
individuals, and our cultural establishments since their inception. Our
organizations were formed as a means of protest, survival and social change
in response to fact that we were not included. Spare us the statement that
BLACK LIVES MATTER if you can’t support Black culture.

*Can You Hear Me Now?*

*White American Dance Community*

A statement is not enough. The ongoing conversations regarding inclusion,
diversity, equity, and access, leadership training, EDI statements and
plans, education programs, diversity hiring, racial equity workshops for
staff and boards in front of donors and foundations as a way to reform
these systems are not enough. There has been no movement. Neither the
gatekeepers nor the center of power have shifted. Lasting change is not
possible without system change.

*White American Ballet Companies*

So many of you rushed to statements yet in the effort to be anti-racist you
neglected to put forward the very questions you should have been struggling
with. What do your Black artists and staff members need right now? What
type of organizational culture has leadership and staff maintained that
oftentimes left Black artists and staff feeling unsupported? Have you
institutionalized practices like dependence on *Nutcracker* to be the
financial safety net to balance the poorly attended but well-funded new
ballet by a White choreographer? Have you engaged your artists, board,
audiences with meaningful conversations on color-conscious casting, body
image, equal access to resources and support? Lasting change is not
possible without system change.

*White American Dance Critics*

White Dance Critics are gatekeepers. They must not only have cultural
literacy and competency, they must value our cultural expression to be able
to review our dances. Reviews are a critical element of artistic
sustainability and they also are used to decide whether or not to support a
production. The responsibility of the dance critic is to provide the reader
with an in-depth analysis and sense of the work. It has been the history of
White Dance Critics to be dismissive or treat our work as primitive. Where
are the Black Dance Critics?  Lasting change is not possible without system

*White American Dance Agents, Curators, Managers, Presenters, Producers*
We can no longer accept that you “can’t find us” or “you don’t know where
to look.” Having only one Black dance company a year during Black history
month in a season or the inequitable fee and pay structures for booking and
touring engagements, is upholding the system of power. Let’s get rid of
that list. We have watched you pit Black dance companies against one
another and treat them differently from their White counterparts. And by
the way, people’s homes are not equal to hotel rooms, no matter how nice
they might be. Lasting change is not possible without system change.

*White American Dance Education Programs*

White supremacy in higher education practices upholds the system. Ballet
and modern are requirements to receive a degree, but our dance forms are
all electives. The dance curricula and teachings continue to be centered in
White European structures and the history and many contributions of Blacks
in dance and dance forms of the African diaspora are not included. Also,
who is the dance faculty, scholars, the administration? They must be
representative of all. So, too, Black dances and voices must be included in
the audition process. Lasting change is not possible without system change.

*White American Dance Hiring Practices*

Hiring remains a closed system that upholds white supremacy culture. There
are plenty of Black choreographers, designers, production staff and
dance-related personnel for this industry. The excuse that an individual is
not ready for “the big time” is a code for racism. The failure to seek out,
hire, promote and fairly compensate your Black artists, administrators,
choreographers, designers, and faculty silences their voices and
underestimates their power to lift up your organization out of darkness.
Having the fortitude to create space for the Black voice to thrive within
your institution would disrupt old practices and demonstrate a commitment
to not only Black people but to actually do better. Lasting change is not
possible without system change.

*White American Dance Marketing*

Marketing and Sales materials of White American Dance companies long
reflected a White supremacist aesthetic. Now that lip service is being paid
to diversity, equity, and inclusion, Black, Brown and People of the Global
Majority’s bodies are showing up everywhere. More specifically, these
bodies are placed on the cover of marketing materials but not as actual
leads or principals in a performance. Authentically connecting to a
community with the desire to build a relationship, has to be more than skin
deep. Stop trying to bait us. Lasting change is not possible without system

*So, Can You Hear Me Now?*

We need you to own this. Deal with your Whiteness. There is a cycle in this
country that needs to be broken. You have to do the work. Breaking the
cycle takes longer than overnight. Read those books, listen to those
podcasts. Process the true history. Only then will lasting change come to
the system.

For those of you who immediately pushed back from the table and claimed
that their organization was ready to dismantle the white supremacy culture
and systems in our field, *we invite you to join us *as we proactively work
to eradicate them. We’ve been speaking about these systems for far too
long. Now is the time to dismantle them. We must take action.

White American Ballet and Dance Companies, Agents, Critics, Curators,
Educators, Faculty in K-12 and Higher Education, Managers, Presenters,
Producers, Scholars, and White Dance Education Programs, you have to see
us. Now is the time for you to ask yourselves why you continue to uphold
White supremacist practices in dance and why Black people remain invisible
in history and every aspect of this field.

We have had enough. Your silence is no longer acceptable. If you want to
earn our trust and attention, it must be more than just a statement. You
either see all of us as part of this community or you don’t. Change is a
form of action. What does it mean for you to really stand in solidarity
with us… You are either for *Black Lives Matter* or you are not.

*I Said, Can You Hear Me Now?*

Because we don’t hear you at all.


The International Association of Blacks in Dance
    Black, Brown and People of the Global Majority in the Dance Community


Mark Broomfield, PhD, MFA
Associate Professor of Dance Studies
Geneseo Dance Ensemble, Associate Director
Website: www.markbroomfield.org
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