To our students, families, alumni, and friends,
There are no words to describe how we’re feeling at this moment in time. Commonwealth Theatre Center cares deeply for its students, families, and the entire Kentuckiana community. We pride ourselves on the development and empowerment of creative, impassioned problem-solvers. Because of this, it is important to all of us that we’re leading by example in every facet of our work and holding one another accountable. To this point, we’d like to share our thoughts with you.
The global health crisis of the past few months has now intersected with another crisis. Civil unrest is sweeping across our nation and our city, its roots in the centuries-old social and economic injustices that still pervade – and poison – our community today. The grief and anger being expressed in Louisville runs deep, as structural racism has disadvantaged Black Americans and other people of color for far too long.
We have recognized for a while that there is a lot of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion work to be done at CTC. We began this work in earnest this past February as a Board-led initiative, but it is clear now that we must step up our efforts. Over the past week, CTC staff have been leaning into difficult, complicated conversations about our role in the ongoing movement for justice, which has deepened our resolve to do this work and inspired us to do better.
We’ve discussed using company vehicles to transport supplies to the demonstrations, creating a reading group for students, staff, and parents to learn about our personal roles in white fragility and systemic racism, and to provide an open forum for our Black students and alumni to discuss action steps needed to break those cycles. We’ve debated the pros and cons of taking up space on social media. We’ve paused our ongoing Chats with Charlie and Hangs with Heather in order to listen and to leave more room for Black activists and organizers in social media feeds. We’ve also discussed adapting our programmatic offerings (both Conservatory and Outreach) to better suit the movement underway.
As we commit to continuing to educate ourselves and doing the hard internal work, it was acknowledged that white voices should not be the ones leading these conversations. To that point, we want to invite CTC’s Black artist educators to be involved, if they choose, in helping us craft those initiatives and to give them space to offer any other ideas. We realize that no one person can speak for an entire movement, which is why we’re also asking for additional help from our students and alumni of color who have expressed interest in supporting us as we learn more about what we can, and should, be doing right now.
We can say in no uncertain terms that we support the call of our Black friends and neighbors for justice in the deaths of #BreonnaTaylor, #TonyMcDade, #GeorgeFloyd, #DavidMcAtee, and the countless others who have fallen victim to racial oppression. We commit to doing the work necessary to make permanent change happen both within our organization and in our community. And we will take this passion for justice and integrate it into our work, because the next generation of creative problem-solvers will need every tool necessary to amplify their voices for all to hear.
-The staff & teaching artists of Commonwealth Theatre Center
(We plan to use our location at 1123 Payne Street as a place where demonstrators and supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement can pick up water and other supplies this weekend. Stay tuned for more updates and ways you can help us distribute those supplies.)