Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Anti-Racism: NWCT Action Items & Updates

NWCT has heard the request for transparency around the anti-racist work happening in our organization. Below is a reverse-chronological list of updates, statements, and actions we’ve taken since June 1, 2020:

  • Winter 2021: Commitment to incorporating anti-racist books and resources gathered over the past year into educational curriculum.
  • September 2021: Revised the scholarship application process to remove unnecessary requirements that may have been barriers. Began advertising the scholarship program more broadly to reach more families. 
  • September 2021: Created a new wage structure with standard and transparent tracks and raises
  • Summer 2021: Implemented internal feedback forms for staff and teaching artists to provide feedback anonymously or engage in conversation with leadership depending on their preference. Leadership addresses feedback regularly.
  • Summer 2021: Restructured the organization with the goal of breaking down internal silos and incorporating more voices into decision making. Results so far include:
    • Expanding the leadership team.
    • Increased support for outreach and community programming.
    • Redesigned audition processes and advanced training programs.
    • Greater transparency in decision making.
    • Strengthened and unified program evaluation processes. 
  • June 2021: Staff reported a culture shift due working with TYA’s Anti-Racist and Anti-Oppressive Futures for Theatre for Young Audiences (ARAO): An Interactive Guide in the following ways:
    • Increased comfort in speaking up and practicing active listening.
    • Examination of programming decisions through an anti-racist and inclusion lens. 
    • Shifting away from doing things the same way “because that’s how we’ve always done it.”
    • Letting go of preconceived ideas around what theater is and who it should serve.
    • Moving away from having to get things “right,” and learning how to work through issues and conflict as opportunities to grow.
  • May 2021: Launched Face Time with Perry Winkle, an online series created to give the community a platform to share content about their culture, artistic journey, upcoming projects, or opportunities for youth.
  • May 2021: Revised hiring practices (job descriptions, prerequisites, recruitment channels, and interview process) in preparation for hiring new teaching artists and teen camp counselors for summer programming.
  • April 2021: Created space for youth-led projects, and provided youth with the power to make artistic decisions.
  • April 2021: Began a formal policy review process of NWCT’s employee handbook through a diversity, equity, inclusion, and antiracist lens. Issues have been identified and we expect to have an updated handbook by the fall. At that point, we will begin reviewing program-specific policies, with plans to review all policies annually.
  • April 2021: Began working through Anti-Racist and Anti-Oppressive Futures for Theatre for Young Audiences: An Interactive Guide with staff. This work is ongoing.
  • March 2021: Board approves NWCT’s Equity & Anti-Racist Statement, solidifying our commitment across the entire organization. The statement was created with input from staff.
  • March 2021: Began evaluating our policies through an anti-racist lens
  • February 2021: Made the #BIPOCinTYA Pledge to work through the Interactive Guide: Anti-Racist and Anti-Oppressive Futures for Theatre for Young Audiences
  • February 2021: Evaluated our programming based on our core values, which includes working toward becoming an anti-racist organization
  • September – December 2020: Staff participated in the Theater for Young Audiences (TYA) Listen, Learn, Lead Anti-Racist Trainings and are addressing ways to apply learnings to our work
  • August 2020: Mandatory anti-bias training for staff
  • July 2020: Released our DEI and anti-racist short-term plan
  • Summer 2020: Organized Black Lives Matter Sign Waving Events for the NWCT Community
  • Summer 2020: Opened up our free parking lot to anyone participating in the protest for drop-off, pick-up or parking.
  • Summer 2020: Gathered supplies — bottled water, snacks, basic medical supplies, and masks — to donate to Shaking The Tree Theatre (who have opened their doors to protesters to use the restroom, charge their phone, and refuel) and Don’t Shoot Portland.
  • June 2020: Statement from Artistic Director Sarah Jane Hardy about producing Seussical, following discussions with the cast, creative team, and staff.
  • June 2020: The cast and creative team involved in Seussical Online engaged in a dialogue about Dr. Seuss’ racist political cartoons and research that discovered racist undertones in his children books. They were given the chance to provide direct input in how and if we move forward with the show.
  • June 2020: Held an open staff meeting to share individual responses, ask questions, and brainstorm immediate and long-term actions we can take as an organization. Items discussed include:
    • Acknowledgment of the power that we hold as a theater in the Portland community.
    • Consideration of how we can better use our hiring practices and financial resources to uplift Black artists, technicians, administrators, and stories.
    • Started exploring how to make NWCT programming, especially Theater School, more accessible to the Black community. NWCT has never turned a child away for lack of funds, but acknowledges that there are structural barriers beyond finances that may prevent families from accessing our programs.
    • Considered ways in which we can better include communities of color as audience members, and further welcome members of our Black community into the NWCT family.
    • Invitation for staff to privately make suggestions and statements to leadership.
    • Commitment to holding regular group discussions.
  • June 2020: Dedicated our social media platforms to amplifying voices and businesses in the Black community, specifically resources that support children and families. 
  • June 2020: Black Lives Matter Statement from Northwest Children’s Theater

 

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