As Ibram X. Kendi writes in his book, How to Be an Antiracist, “One either allows racial inequities to persevere, as a racist, or confronts racial inequities, as an antiracist. There is no in-between safe space of “not racist.” The claim of “not racist” neutrality is a mask for racism.” At Surel’s Place, we choose antiracism, and we will not be complicit moving forward.

WHY DOES THIS MATTER AT SUREL’S PLACE
Understanding how the white/male centeredness of the arts sector fits into the grotesque American tradition of precise, dedicated, and constant reimaginings of systemic and individual racism is paramount to Surel’s Place ability to meet our mission in the future.  We can no longer pretend that saying “Everyone is Welcome” is the same as welcoming every body, knowing that there are countless centuries and horrific reasons why BIPOC community members have come to distrust art institutions.

To meet our mission—to serve artists, to elevate their voices and further their careers—Surel’s Place must do this work.  We believe that art is a medium of connection, that art can increase understanding of all of the ways it is to be human.  We fail if our work only elevates white artists or certain types of art.  Our mission is to art and artists, and we now must dedicate ourselves to erasing the “whites only” part of our past, which, while written in ink invisible to our white leadership, has been clearly visible to BIPOC members of our community.

Our founders and board have unanimously committed Surel’s Place to this journey, budgeting time and dollars to the work of antiracism alongside The Boise Arts, Culture, and History Antiracism Coalition. Our community is full of voices, and it’s time for us to create a safe space for all where we celebrate, support, and elevate minoritized artists.

HOW SUREL’S PLACE WILL GROW AS AN ANTIRACIST ORGANIZATION
To that end, we have budgeted dollars and hours for education and training at all levels of our organization, and our strategic plan has antiracism present throughout—in leadership, programming, development, staffing, and public engagement. 

Since summer of 2020, this work has included:

  • paying staff to reading and discuss works of anti-racist philosophy, and offering to pay staff who want to do human rights volunteer work. 
  • working to identify white-centered language in our policies and communication to help communicate that Surel’s Place is an organization that listens to be better and strives to use language that does not alienate or threaten.
  • investing in black-led antiracism trainings for our board to ensure that the organization’s leadership is not merely approving staff members’ work, but is also doing the work alongside them.    
  • collaborating with the Idaho Museum of International Diaspora, welcoming many of their artists and partners to participate at Surel’s Place both as artists and as review panel members to help diversity our programming both by serving more BIPOC artists and by offering BIPOC creatives leadership roles in determining our programming.
  • consulting with black-led local organizations to ensure that the messaging and reality of Surel’s Place is actually welcoming and supportive of BIPOC artists.
  • working to ensure that our opportunities are reaching BIPOC artists through networking, meaningful programming and working to decrease barriers for BIPOC artists who want to participate at Surel’s Place.
  • adopting the role of fiscal sponsor for artists and organizations in the community that cannot (yet or otherwise) receive support from funders who can only donate to 501c3s.
  • participating as leadership in the Boise Area Arts, Culture, and History Antiracism Coalition in working groups and through outreach to other organizations who want to begin this work. (see below)

HOW WE WILL MEASURE OUR GROWTH
The future of this work is certain at Surel’s Place. We will continue current collaborations and work to establish more partnerships with BIPOC creatives and BIPOC-led businesses and organizations.   We will be succeeding if we have successfully created a safe space in which BIPOC artists feel safe and supported.  We will be succeeding if our staff is well-prepared to have on-the-spot difficult conversations when they identify racism in our midst, with both internal and external stakeholders.  They will be empowered to confront racism, knowing that what’s at stake at any given moment is more important than any dollar amount or stakeholder alliance. 

At Surel’s Place, doing this work in a public way is imperative.  Whether on our site or in our space, patrons will understand that this work is a priority at Surel’s Place. 

These changes take time, but within five years, our path will be positive if BIPOC voices are essential parts of our leadership and if our programming serves more BIPOC patrons and artists (local, national, and international).  Leadership opportunities, true leadership that affects our programming, development, and community work are bountiful, and there will always be space for BIPOC review panelists, board members, and volunteers.  And, though our staff turnover is nearly nonexistent, we will always strongly encourage people of color to apply for any open positions.

Antiracism Resources

SCAFFOLDED ANTIRACISM RESOURCE LIST
Created by students in the Master’s Program at Princeton’s Divinity School, this is a list of readings, podcasts, social media accounts and videos scaffolded to stages of the racist/antiracist continuum.  Readings for children and teens are also included.


BOISE AREA ARTS & CULTURE ANTIRACISM COALITION STATEMENT
Our Coalition of arts and culture organizations is committed to dismantling systemic racism in our arts community. This includes the oppressive impacts of segregation, mass incarceration, and educational, economic and environmental discrimination; all of which are born from slavery. The arts and culture community has perpetuated white supremacy through appropriation and tokenization, such as recruiting Black people for shows, exhibits and performances without integrating them into positions of sustained leadership. Although there has never been a time in America when Black art wasn’t a driving cultural force, we have used a white lens to define quality and influence. This must end.

We believe Idahoans will benefit from holding each other accountable to create an equitable and inclusive community where Black art matters.  

Coalition organizations commit to the following:

  • Include members of the Black community in the creation of programming and content. 
  • Support the Black community with access to space and resources for independent projects or programs.
  • Prioritize intentional recruitment and hiring practices of Black staff, leadership and board members, by expanding recruitment outside existing networks.
  • Create anti-racist policies within governing and management documents, at board and staff levels.
  • Articulate the necessity of cultivating a deeper understanding of the communities that we serve, and incorporate their perspectives, needs, feedback, and priorities into our strategic decisions.
  • Provide time and resources on an annual basis for board and staff to attend ongoing professional, Black-led anti-racism training.
  • Commit to the ongoing practice of anti-racism as individuals and organizations by fostering a culture of accountability and receptivity to learning.

By making our commitment to anti-racism visible through our programs and organizational practices, our Coalition aims to inspire audience members and donors to grow with us in creating a community where Black Lives Matter.


WHY BLACK SPECIFIC?

Some people will wonder why the statement is specific to Black people. It didn’t start out that way, but as we delved into this together and really listened, we realized quite clearly how throughout our American history, when civil rights efforts are more broad, it is always Black people who are left behind, as replacements for slavery and rights restrictions are implemented incessantly.

There are reasons why such a small percentage of Idaho’s population is Black.  This is not by accident.  Since Idaho’s beginnings, racism has been prevalent in our state, and anti-Black racism has been here, sometimes in the shadows and often times loud and visible to all.  Now, it is not enough to say we welcome Black people to our programming.  We have to learn how to invite Black people in ways that help break down the barriers and rational distrust that have been the results of the racism that has been and is so prominent in our country, state, and cultures.

In addition, because social hierarchy is extremely important to humans, individual people often tend to want to assert their higher places on the ladder.  This happens within communities of people, too.  For so long, white people have staked claimed on the highest rung of the American ladder, which leaves communities of color to claim remaining spaces.  Without exception, this results in Black people being shoved down to the lowest rung, despite everything Black people have contributed since Africans were  kidnapped and enslaved to build this country.  Anti-Black racism is prevalent amongst many communities of color, specifically, and when civil-rights pushes become broad, it is always the Black people who are left behind.  It is uniquely difficult and dangerous to be Black in our country–to go grocery shopping, drive a car, play in a park, sit at a cafe, or even to enter or sleep in your own house.

We did this.  We can work to learn to be a part of its undoing.    And if the word “we” is problematic for some, those people need to consider why they can be so full of pride and ownership for the accomplishments of our country without also acknowledging the horrors of it.  And for people who say they don’t do racist things and are therefor innocent, a reminder that benefitting from racist systems makes one complicit.  Deciding not to listen to this is a way of denying the very air we breathe.  Some of us get way more oxygen.

We believe that when we lift the least among us, all will be lifted. For us at Surel’s Place, signing this statement, specific to Black people, is not a difficult thing.  There is room for this work in our organization and community.  Boise is a loving, open, beautiful place, and we can certainly muster up extra love and air through action for those of among us who have experienced a dearth of love and support and opportunity.

Does this mean we only want to serve and support Black artists?  No.  Does it mean we will accept a Black artist whose work is sub-par or offensive?  Of course not.  We are an arts organization, which holds that good art, created with a mixture of technical skill and singular creativity, tells the story of what it is to be human.  What this means is that we will have an antiracist lens in determining what we consider quality.  We will have an antiracist lens when we support all of our artists and patrons, no matter their color. If we do a better job of this, our programming will be better.  We are failing if we do not do a better job of inviting, supporting, amplifying, and celebrating the Black perspective and experience, as our programming would be incomplete.

Many doors are locked for artists of color.  Many artists of color have been denied so much of the opportunity that our country has promised to us all, including by arts organizations who purport to be progressive.  At Surel’s Place our doors will not just be unlocked; they will be wide open with clear, enthusiastic, and constant invitations to allow us the privilege of supporting Black artists, yes, along with Indigenous artists, other artists of color, and white artists who all have insights into the human experience that will teach, delight, challenge, and inspire us.

Find out how you or your organization can connect with the Coalition by filling out this form linked here.