Dear BIPOC TheaterMakers
December 22, 2020
Dear BIPOC Theatermakers,
Thank you for your letter, BIPOC Demands for White American Theater. We are members of IATSE Theatrical Wardrobe Union Local 887, representing wardrobe technicians and costume shop personnel in the Seattle area. We provide the important technical and interpersonal relationship between performers and their costumes, before, during and after their time on stage. We wish to acknowledge the extensive collective effort expressed in your letter. We appreciate the attention you have drawn to the white-centric systems and standards that perpetuate racism in the theater industry. We have heard your words and your demands.
Our response is meant to affirm our shared goals to uplift, center, and celebrate the contributions of artists of color, and to take responsibility for creating a more equitable and anti-racist work environment.
We believe it is especially important to address these issues during this time of heightened racial injustice, the challenges of the pandemic, and the downturn in the economy. It has been difficult to accept that our work is not considered “essential.” However, we anticipate that the arts will be essential to achieving the entwined goals of social and economic healing by restoring our sense of purpose and community.
We recognize that dismantling systemic racism is a complex issue that requires multi-faceted solutions, and we understand that education alone cannot address the roots of inequities in our industry. Although we have limited participation in venue managements’ decision-making processes, we pledge to add our voices to your demands for mandatory cultural competency/anti-racism/EDIA trainings for all workers. We feel that these trainings are as necessary to a safe and healthy work environment as COVID-19 guidelines, CPR certification and OSHA compliance.
We have taken the following steps to diversify our predominantly white workforce by lowering social and economic barriers to the work we do:
We work with the Starfish Project at Intiman Theatre, a free-of-charge technical theater training program that serves and empowers underrepresented high school aged youth.
We actively support Intiman’s partnership with Seattle Central College to develop a two-year degree program in technical theater with a social justice emphasis, which is free to students qualifying through the Seattle Promise Program and the Running Start Program.
We have worked with the Rising Star Project at The 5th Avenue Theatre since 2011, a tuition-free program that pairs youth with professional mentors to create full-scale mainstage musicals.
We feel the contour of our current collective absence from beloved theater spaces. By using this industry standstill to educate ourselves, advocate policy changes and put new structures in place, we are preparing for the day when we can gather once again to create theater that represents all of our experiences.
We pledge to cultivate our ability to do things differently by speaking truths responsibly and listening to understand.
We pledge to support the inclusion of an EDIA Committee within the structure of a Labor-Management Committee and/or Safety Committee in all of our workplaces, where EDIA topics will be discussed at every meeting. Venues with contracts which do not currently have language requiring a Labor-Management Committee and/or Safety Committee will be expected to include language necessitating an EDIA Committee during their next negotiation period.
We pledge to initiate, share and sustain cultural competency/anti-racism/EDIA trainings for our members and overhires, as well as for our fellow IATSE Locals.
This letter was presented to, read by, and approved by a vote at our December 21, 2020 general membership meeting.
We look forward to working together.
The BIPOC Demands for White American Theater Letter Response Committee
IATSE Theatrical Wardrobe Union Local 887
2800 First Avenue, Suite 236
Seattle, WA 98121
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