A STATEMENT OF ACTION
Written by Marc Antonio Pritchett (Newest member of our team of Artistic Directors)
This is an unprecedented time. The ongoing pandemic has brought with it an unimaginable tragedy and suffering, but it has also brought to light the very real effects of disparity in our country. Simply glance at the chart below (or any from a trustworthy source) and it is crystal clear why black and brown communities have been hit so hard by Covid-19.
This virus has laid bare a cancer that has been eating away at our world since the dawn of civilization. Resource disparity is the river from which all the streams of inequality flow. This problem is far beyond the scope of a theatre company to address directly but even the mightiest of engineering achievements began with a small-scale proof of concept. It is our goal to become that proof of concept.
OUR RESPONSE TO THE WAT LIST OF DEMANDS
In truth, our response to these issues began before the list was even created. It started with our company coming to grips with its own failings and seeking a way to do better. The EDI Committee was formed in 2016 by Kimberly Atkinson and Amir Levi. Among their many achievements was the creation of We The People which launched on September 11, 2017. Still going strong, this brave program of political action theatre continues to elevate the stories of the underserved members of our community while simultaneously raising money for the charities that serve them. In 2018, our programming began to better reflect our community through the increased diversity of our producers, writers, and directors, as well as our artistic leadership. Our will to keep up the momentum was followed in 2019 by another diverse season and the election of Vanessa Stewart to our team of Artistic Directors. The combination of Aviva Pressman, Adriana Colon and Vanessa Stewart represented the first time in history our artistic leadership was entirely female. This was followed up with what would have been our Jubilee season, and if not for the shut down, we would have presented our most diverse season ever. In 2020, I became the first black person to hold the title of artistic director since Gerald McClanahan finished his term in 2003. While our history of diversity issues is undeniable, an objective assessment of our evolution in recent years demonstrates that we have indeed changed course and more importantly, we have demonstrated the will and discipline to stay on that course.
As mentioned above, the pandemic has brought to light the crippling impact of disparity. Black and brown people are dying at an alarming rate because we have been unfairly denied access to health care. Our upward mobility has been so unjustly stifled that the majority of us are forced into jobs that place us directly in the path of this virus. This system was not created with us in mind, and until the powers that be accept that and take the necessary steps to change it, things will only get worse.
To make matters worse, the increase in divisive politics has created a world in which organizations are so concerned with being called out or “cancelled” that they have lost sight of what they are actually fighting for. This has created an environment where any initiative that departs from the norm, no matter how logically sound, is viewed with suspicion. We all feel immense pressure to play defense, to react to the outrage of the day, to follow, or else. Social justice does many things, but I think we can all agree that it does not do nuance. Maybe this is the time to change that.
This recent string of tragedies has generated a nationwide thirst for change and the necessary time needed to reflect on what we can do to achieve it. This is truly an unprecedented time and we cannot afford to waste it. So how does one make this push any different from the countless failed attempts that proceeded it? By being honest about the state of the world we live in, by being united in our actions and by keeping our focus on the only metric that matters: improving access and increasing opportunities for the underserved members of our community. Furthermore, we must have the will and discipline to hold that course until the scales are permanently balanced and we have a system that works for all of us. So here is our pledge to you.
WE WILL HAVE THE COURAGE TO LEAD
Every action we take during this precious moment in history will address disparity as directly as humanly possible. We will not let optics pressure us into actions that are inconsequential or outright destructive to our overarching goal of increasing opportunities. We will not measure success by the number of diverse faces we are able to display on our website, or by optics of any kind. The true measure of our success will be how much access and opportunity we are able to generate and sustain for the underserved members of our community. Every action will open a door that was previously closed, and in this we will give the underserved the power to rise to their full potential and ultimately chart their own course in life. By becoming a vehicle of opportunity our company will naturally become more diverse, and this change will stand the test of time because it will have been done organically. On that day, we will no longer need to split focus between the needs of our company and the needs of our community, because on that day they will be one and the same.
The fact that we have four performance spaces, as well as a bar on-site, has made us an unofficial hub for many in the Los Angeles theatre community. We intend to create tangible and lasting change, and it is by leaning into this role that we can accomplish it. By leveraging our membership, our facilities and the ever-growing virtual technologies that this crisis has given rise to, we have the power to reach more people than ever before. By working synergistically with our sister companies, we can exponentially increase the scope and impact of their actions as well as our own. Most importantly, by focusing the might of the Los Angeles theatre community directly on the heart of the problem, we simultaneously impact every inequity that stems from it. Resource disparity is the river from which all the streams of inequality flow. This is the head of the snake. If every business/organization focused on creating opportunities for those that have been denied them, and on removing the filters that have limited their upward mobility, we could end disparity in our lifetimes. And this is not just a problem for the disenfranchised members of our society. Given the sheer number of people our system unfairly filters out, it is likely that our society has suppressed the potential of countless souls that would’ve been invaluable in our fight against the biological threat we are facing right now… This is the clear and present danger that imperils all of our futures and there is nothing more important.
On this webpage, in addition to our growing list of initiatives, you will find the road map we will employ to maximize our effectiveness and the scope of our reach like never before. It outlines how we intend to maintain focus and avoid the pitfalls that have plagued efforts like this in the past. It is a living document that will evolve as needed to keep us on course. No more distractions, no more wasted time. We can and we will do better. We will not waste this once in a lifetime chance to make a permanent difference in our community. We will have the courage to lead.
With love and determination,
Adriana Colon, Vanessa Stewart and Marc Antonio Pritchett
Administrative Department Heads
Bruno Oliver, Padraic Duffy and Heatherlynn Gonzalez
(on behalf of the entirety of the Sacred Fools Theatre Company)