Earlier this month, ACF hosted our annual Artist Equity Summit online and in downtown St. Paul in partnership with the St. Paul Neighborhood Network. Focusing on the theme of Follow Through, we brought together composers, artists, activists, and community leaders through music and conversation. Over the course of two days, we heard performances from YallaDrum!, Jada Brown, and ACF Awardees. We were urged by artist Tish Jones to “not hold onto the idea that [white supremacy] is only affecting or talking about white people.” We were encouraged by composer Brent Michael Davids to learn from Native languages, where there is “no translatable word for music,” reflecting the ways in which Native cultures are “more holistic, more integrative, and more concerned with all life existence.”
Convenings like this month’s summit are an important part of ACF’s broader racial equity work. In September 2020, we published our comprehensive Statement of Commitment to Racial Equity that illustrated the organization’s intentions and outlined ACF’s actionable goals embedded within its five-year plan. The statement and its glossary of terms are a result of an 18-month process of learning, focus groups, and public forums that build on critical race theory and other resources shared in the statement.
Since releasing the statement, our Equity Committee, comprised of ACF staff and board members, has stewarded and monitored our progress toward these goals. We have achieved success, learned from failures, and discussed policies and decisions that challenge our assumptions.
This is our report card to you, our community, about our first year of this endeavor. We will continue to release these reports on an annual basis and invite you to question, comment on, and keep us accountable to our equity promises.
We invite you to watch the 30-minute video presentation of this report card by ACF President & CEO Vanessa Rose and ACF board member Garrett McQueen for greater context; highlights of our report card are below.
2020-2021 In Review (Highlights)
The goals from the ACF’s Statement of Commitment to Racial Equity are interwoven into ACF’s Five Year Strategic Framework. Here is what we accomplished in the first year:
- Discontinued ACF’s longstanding Membership Program, making all resources available to everyone
- Board/staff/artist focus group reviewed and changed all of ACF’s funding program requirements and processes
- Added interview process for all panel “curators” to ensure biases were considered within the makeup of the awards selection panel
- Launched the ACF Help Desk to encourage inquiries from artists and their collaborators for resources, guidance, and connections
- Piloted new model for innova record label: curatorial process selecting recording projects in various stages; no administrative fees; free guidance for all artists working on recordings
- Initiated a standing board and staff Equity Committee to create and publish ACF’s Commitment to Equity and ensure progress towards our equity goals
- Started year-long partnership with Innocent Technologies (includes board and staff training and ongoing guidance)
- Hired Nonprofit HR support (BIPOC led)
- Revised employee policies to offer more equitable policies (vacation; parental leave; work preferences) and explicit conduct and anti-harassment policies
- Required all employees to take anti-harassment training
- Revamped hiring process and practices, integrating more transparency in description and diverse selection group
- Transferred investments to a firm that prioritizes DEIA
- Hosted free, public monthly study groups on different themes related to equity
- Launched migration to Salesforce to better track our progress
Watch all of the archived videos from ACF’s 2021 Artist Equity Summit on I CARE IF YOU LISTEN .TV:
- Panel 1: Labels and Language: What does your commitment actually mean?
Panelists: Kathy Mouacheupao, Lady Midnight, Julian Condie, and Lee Bynum
- YallaDrum! Ensemble Performance
- Panel 2: Follow-Through: Moving Through the Backlash
Panelists: Tish Jones, Khaldoun Samman, Kathryn Haddad, and Marianne Combs
- Land Acknowledgement and Music Presentation by Jada Brown
- Panel 3: What We Learn from Indigenous Cultures
Panelists: Jessica Bissett Perea (Dena’ina), Nina Sun Eidsheim, Sharon M. Day (Ojibwe), Sir Curtis Kirby III (Bois Forte Band of Ojibwe and African American descent), and Brent Michael Davids (Mohican/Munsee)
We are grateful for the support of Saint Paul’s STAR program for this event. This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.
I CARE IF YOU LISTEN is an editorially-independent program of the American Composers Forum, funded with generous donor and institutional support. Opinions expressed are solely those of the author and may not represent the views of ICIYL or ACF.