Where are we at in our equity process?
We’d love to invite you along our journey towards equity.
Joe Goode Performance Group was established in 1986 to support the artistic work of Joe, a white, cis-male, gay choreographer. At the height of the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco, uplifting Joe’s voice was a radical act. Like many other organizations that formed during that time, we took on the traditional 501c3 model in order to seek resources, artistic opportunities, and “legitimacy.” The company toured across the nation and world sharing LGBTQ stories, building a reputation, a performing company, educational programs, and eventually, acquiring our own studio theater.
Our mission has long been to “promote understanding, compassion, and tolerance.” Yet, as an organization, we have not explicitly centered anti-racism, disability justice, or trans rights.
As we are learning, being an equity-centered, anti-racist organization reaches far beyond history, mission, and intention. And so, in 2019 we set out on a process of self-reflection, inquiry, and action that is ongoing.
In March 2019 – Adriana Marcial & Melissa Lewis attended the Moving Toward Equity and Justice Workshop, organized by the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation: to create the conditions to deepen diversity, equity, and inclusion practices in the Performing Arts community by helping grantees focus on their organization’s internal DEI work in different stages of their equity journey, from relative novices to advanced practitioners, and seek to deepen that work through peer learning.
The workshop concluded with an announcement of a pilot OE-EID grant opportunity, designed to help grantees develop their internal capacity for equity, inclusion and diversity. A major component of the application was a self-assessment with this “Continuum on Becoming an Anti-Racist Multicultural Organization” chart; Melissa scored JGPG at a 2 (internally) / 3 (externally).
The goal of the proposal: to map JGPG’s internal organizational structure and culture from a racial equity lens in order to articulate actionable changes we can make to more fully live up to our ideals.
In May 2019, JGPG’s application to this grant was accepted; in July, upon Michelle Reynolds joining JGPG as ED, the search for a consultant team began.
Consultants & Equity Map Process
In November of 2019, JGPG began working with StarLion Collective‘s Ada Palotai + Cristy Chung to internally map JGPG’s organizational structure, power, and equity.
The method is being led by Ada + Cristy, co-designed with our Equity Design Team — a team of JGPG ambassadors from across the organization: Amy Luckey (Board), Melissa Lewis (Program Manager), Michelle Reynolds (Executive Director), Nicole Maimon (Annex Artist Coordinator), Patricia West (Education Co-Coordinator & Dancer), and Wailana Simcock (Teaching Artist & Dancer). Sierra Don (Front 0f House) worked on this team for its very first chapter in 2019.
Here’s a basic outline of the process so far:
- Collaborative Survey Design
- Staff and Board all completing the 1-hr long assessment
- Focus Groups (2): Board & Staff
- Longform interviews with Joe Goode, Michelle Reynolds, Melissa Lewis
- Data Analysis by consultants of all raw data / sense-making with the Design Team
- Report back to everyone at JGPG with recommendations for continued work, a ‘task force’ team future future engagement, ongoing learning, actions, etc.
- **Assemble a new Equity Working Group (2021-2022) tasked with mapping out an action plan (guided by the 2020 Final Report) that will pave the path for ongoing organizational changes at JGPG. **
- Re-engage consultant support to facilitate strategic mapping/planning process
- Share Equity Working Group action plan with all staff
*** Where we currently are ***
For anyone interested, we are proud to share our 2020 Final Equity Report PDF. Please reach out with any questions!
Our New Equity Working Group is comprised of 8 staff: Alyssandra Wu (Annex Front of House), Becca Dean (Teaching Artist – Dance for Parkinson’s), Damara Ganley (Education Coordinator, Performer, Teaching Artist), Joe Goode (Artistic Director), Lisa Clapper (Board Member), Megan Lowe (Teaching Artist), Melissa Lewis (Administrative), Patricia West (Education Coordinator, Performer, Teaching Artist). Stay tuned for more updates and sharings of their emergent work!
Parallel to the above work, JGPG staff collected in June 2020 to discuss our responses from watching The Dance Union’s Town Hall.
From that initial meeting, it became clear that regular meetings with all regular staff were necessary and supportive of a non-linear / iterative dialoguing towards asking and understanding what anti-racism / white supremacy at JGPG looks like. These meetings are ongoing, with rotating facilitation, relationship-building, and shared discussion. Resources shared and discussed include:
- An Open Letter to Arts Organizations Rampant with White Supremacy by Nana Chinara
- The Dance Union Dismantling White Supremacy within Dance Institutions – A Response #2 Streamed on June 15, 2020
- Here/Now: How we got here (And how we never get here again) – APAP BREAK/ROOM Conversation with Sozo Creative
- How to Manage When Things Are Not Okay (And Haven’t Been For Centuries) from The Management Center
- Value-Driven (Re)Structuring of an Arts Organization pt 1 + pt 2 Taking Action Towards Distributed Leadership from Hope Mohr Dance
- Safe Spaces, Brave Spaces and Why We Gon’ Be Alright
- Until Black Women Are Free, None of Us will Be Free
- Compassionate Labor Deserves Rest – 6 Dancing Around Race Reflections
- We See You, White American Theater: Statement // Demands
- Anti-Racist Dictionary
- Characteristics of white supremacist culture + Antidotes – Showing Up for Racial Justice
Thank you to all the creators of the above, and friends/supporters who have shared these with our team!
We are learning, making mistakes, growing, practicing how to heal harm, and doing our best to listen deeply to each other — and are committed to our ongoing transformations as an organization at the nexus of artistic legacy & new cultural activity.
We acknowledge our work is just a beginning, and never-ending. It is non-linear, ongoing, and essential. As we continue, we plan to extend our learning process organization-wide, revisit and revise our mission and values statements, build more transparency, and make ongoing changes to organizational culture and operations. We seek to unpack habits/manifestations that do not serve our mission/values. We truly welcome any feedback or questions from any staff, audiences, students, renters, and members of our community.
Racial Equity Statement
In transparency, we had a grant deadline for the California Arts Council to fund JGPG’s Inspired Bodies youth education program. They had a new requirement for a 300-word racial equity statement – which JGPG has never before written. Our regular core staff (+Equity-involved Board members) were invited to collaborate on this short piece of writing, which is a collage of words written by staff over the last year. We see it as a very early beginning – doing our best to speak our values – a living document that we imagine will change lots over time. The submitted statement is below:
“As a community of artists, educators, production staff, and administrators, Joe Goode Performance Group is reimagining and dedicating ourselves to the principles of anti-racism alongside LGBTQ+ inclusivity. First, we are here to collaborate on uplifting the artistic dreams of Black, Indigenous, People of Color.
This is one iteration of an evolving document. Our journey towards racial equity is imperfect; we have not ‘arrived’ and never will—our methods will evolve as we learn and move together. As Venue Manager Grisel Torres writes, “in Spanish you don’t say ‘this is the right time,’ you say ‘es el momento’ because the moment has come to you.”
The performing arts organizations which have thrived in San Francisco have been primarily white-founded (including JGPG), benefiting from the inherent systems of white supremacy that uphold such entities in this country and region. We question their very impetus and are forging a way that works for us. We are committed to dismantling these systems and their silent violence in our organization, community, society, and body.
The embodiment of anti-racism at JGPG is supported by these guiding values:
- We are perfect in our imperfection.
- We create felt material by making art about where we are right now and approaching it from a human place.
- We listen (to ourselves, to others, to the work) to foster understanding, connection, and community.
- We make art with the people in the room – their bodies, stories, and sensibilities.
JGPG is learning how to center anti-racism with collective leadership and we thank our staff for bringing these values into practice—anti-racist working dialogue groups, weaving in embodiment and storytelling into meetings, co-leadership and horizontal ideation in programs, collaborative budgeting, transparency in communications, and prioritizing direct pay to working artists.
Our work is rooted and lifted by each person our organization holds.”
Staff AAPI Affinity Group
In response to the long history of AAPI harm that is also erupting in our current moment, JGPG has recently gathered an affinity group space with all people the JGPG staff list that identify as part of the Asian Diaspora. This new AAPI Affinity Gathering aims to be a hangout, a space to be with each other, to meet each other, to see each other, to share and learn more about each other, to buoy JGPG in a supportive space. And perhaps eventually discuss how staff would like to create some action or expression of their experiences via the JGPG channel.