“…it falls on all of us – to work together to create a ‘new normal’ in which the legacy of bigotry and unequal treatment no longer infects our institutions or our hearts.” – President Barack Obama

July 2023 – Accountability Report

American Blues Theater made a lifelong commitment to Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access (IDEA) and to utilize anti-racist practices. We have share our progress and changes mentioned in our initial response to the We See You White American Theater Demands, including eliminating 10 out of 12s and the 6-day rehearsal week; creating a Blues Affinity Space for artists of color; and adding land acknowledgments to our website, production process, and printed materials. We provide funding and access to ongoing EDI and anti-racism trainings for the Board of Directors, artists, and staff; and pay artist for their time during workshops, rehearsal, and readings, and for performing at benefits and events.  

We understand that this commitment requires ongoing learning, growth, and evolution. We continue to expand beyond our initial efforts in numerous initiatives. Staff, artists, and the Board have participated in workshops and classes including diversity and inclusion training, implicit bias training, crisis intervention and de-escalation techniques, bystander intervention training, and sexual harassment prevention training. Staff and artists completed a 16-week cultural equity learning course, and upon completion developed an internal 1619 Project study group. Staff participated in equity-centered organizational goals training, as well as disability justice in the arts, anti-racist theater, and workshops on accessibility for audience, and for staff and artists. 

We hired an Antiracism Consultant who provided a full company keynote, as well as ongoing meetings with staff and artists. She works with us on every production to ensure that we are meeting our commitments. We expanded our accessibility request form for guest artists, and ask patrons about their accessibility needs through our online ticketing system. We provide emotional-well being resources for artists and patrons. We continue to be a leader in artist pay rates among theaters our size as well as paying above the Chicago minimum wage. We continue to provide some programming via Zoom, ensuring access to the arts for those with accessibility issues that prevent them from in-person attendance. We provide captioning services for our Zoom events, accessibility options for in-person shows, and we will provide Spanish language captioning for an upcoming production, making the show accessible for monolingual Spanish speakers and those with Spanish as their primary language.

The Ensemble and Artistic Affiliates have identified organization values to guide our path forward, including collaboration, service, inclusion, courage, equity, and integrity. We live our commitment every day, and the work continues.

March 18, 2021 – Statement of Solidarity with AAPI

We stand in solidarity with the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community against hate and racist. @StopAAPIHate received nearly 3,800 self-reported incidents of anti-Asian hate from March 2020 to February 2021, with Asian women twice as likely to be targeted.

Organizations & actions to take in support of the AAPI community; Compiled by Playbill

August 24, 2020 – Response to We See You White American Theater Demands

To all Creators, Organizers, and Supporters of We See You White American Theater Demands,

In early June, horrified and grieving over the killings, violent acts, and abuse to Black, Brown, Indigenous, and other underrepresented populations, American Blues Theater committed to becoming an actively anti-racist organization.

We knew posting a simple statement of solidarity was not enough. Statements without action are performative, value signaling, and do nothing to eradicate the white supremacy and systemic racism with which America was founded and has prospered.

Systems change begins with self. Early this summer, we began to reflect, have complex and honest conversations about our identity as a theater and as a community of Ensemble members, and educate ourselves. We formed an anti-racism committee, began trainings in workplace bias, cultural equity, and anti-racism pedagogy.

Then in July, we received the We See You White American Theater Demands.

Each action item in the document was born from your painful, personal experiences in white American Theaters – including ours. In cultural humility and transparency, we acknowledge there were items listed we hadn’t ever considered – proving the necessity of the document’s creation.

Your courage and efforts in creating this document have been heard. They have been read, studied, noted, and used as a blueprint in which to build an equitable house.

American Blues Theater commits to making impactful and essential changes. For accountability and transparency, we will update the public on our anti-racist work in the coming months on our website, social media, and additional communications. The following is in no way the exhaustive list:

  • Add Land Acknowledgments to our website, lobby, programs, first rehearsal and first day of tech, and other measures to amplify and honor Indigenous people.
  • Add ongoing, repeatable Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion (EDI) and anti-racism trainings for administration, artists, and governing bodies of American Blues Theater.
  • Add EDI and anti-racism trainings as a line item in the budget.
  • Add Blues Black, Indigenous, Latine, AAPI (Asian American & Pacific Islander), SWANA (South & West Asian/North African) artists and other artists of color Affinity Space.
  • Eliminate 10 out of 12s.
  • Eliminate 6-day rehearsal week.
  • Pay artists for performing at benefits and fundraising events.
  • Pay playwrights for work during rehearsals, workshops, and readings.
  • Provide financial planning to our employees.
  • Invest in Black, Indigenous, Latine, AAPI, SWANA artist and other artists of color leaders and their training.

The work goes on as long as we breathe.

In solidarity. In tribute. In service.

June 17, 2020 – Committed to Becoming Antiracist Organization

We grieve for the Black, Brown, Indigenous, and other underrepresented communities who have lost lives to racist violence and hatred. We support the demands for justice.

We know statements are not enough. We’ve reflected since our statement of solidarity (May 30), and understand that we, like so many other American theaters, profited from systemic racism in this country. Our privilege must be acknowledged. We must do better.

We must create a culture of racial equity across all areas of our organization. This is not a quick fix. American Blues Theater commits to these lifelong pursuits:

–to produce and amplify more voices from Black artists and artists of color in our mainstage programming.

–to increase representation in governance; to hire more Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) and other underrepresented communities in staff and artistic positions.

–to further invest in our community service and arts education in under-resourced schools and neighborhoods.

–to deepen our public discussions and forums, providing pathways and opportunities for change.

–to educate and train the American Blues Theater family in becoming an actively anti-racist organization.

–to provide space and care for our Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) and other underrepresented artists and patrons.

–to undergo an annual, organizational audit by third-party anti-racism professionals to hold ourselves accountable.

May 30, 2020 – Statement of Solidarity

We make these commitments to you and ourselves. We are dedicated to become an actively anti-racist organization. All action items will be specific, measurable, and timely to align with our promises, values, and mission.

American Blues Theater stands in solidarity against racism and hate.

Watch the Arts Alliance Illinois webinar “Arts and Culture as Part of the Solution: Intro to Systemic Racism”.

Learn more through the Obama Foundation – Anguish & Action.

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