EQUITY & ACCESS
EQUITY & ACCESS
This page is designed to transparently share information with the public about Shawl-Anderson Dance Center’s work around equity and access related to race, sexual orientation, gender identity, ability, national origin, age, religion, economic status and more. We welcome your feedback and want to be in dialogue with you. Please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org to connect and communicate or find contact information for specific staff members or the board here.
HISTORY & CONTEXT
Shawl-Anderson Dance Center (SADC) is one of the oldest community arts organizations in the Bay Area. It was co-founded in 1958 by Frank Shawl and Victor Anderson. From the beginning the ethos of SADC was about being warm, welcoming and inclusive. However, the organization historically did not foster open conversations about race, gender identity, sexual orientation and more. We recognize that this way of being was and is antithetical to the organization’s values and desire to make space for everyone to feel welcome, fully seen and able to show up as their whole selves in the process of dancing, teaching, learning and creating.
With the passing of the founders in 2017 and 2019, SADC has fully transitioned from a co-founder led to a community-led organization. In the past several years, we have started to openly discuss identity and how it is integral to dance education, art making, choreography, performance and service as a community arts organization. Some examples of how this exploration has brought about change include: the founding our annual Queering Dance Festival; inclusion of a gender neutral restroom; revamping of the Artist in Residence program and panel process to increase equitable access; race equity work launched in 2020 (see more below); fee-free fiscal sponsorship for BIPOC artists on our roster established in 2020; and commitments from our leadership as shared below to ensure that structures, systems, policies, procedures and programming continue to evolve to support increased equity, access and inclusion over time.
The information here addresses work started by SADC in 2020 regarding race equity specifically. The commitments from leadership address our aims regarding equity overall. These plans will be supplemented with an internal plan that is part of a larger strategic plan established in 2021. We commit to updating the public by sharing information on a regular basis on this page and welcoming your input, questions, feedback, ideas and dialogue.
ACCOUNTABILITY UPDATES: MARCH 2021
BOARD: We are pleased to announce new members of the SADC Board of Directors: Rogelio Lopez, Shaunna Vella and Ashley Gayle. Ashley will be joining the board officially in summer 2021 and is currently attending meetings and contributing actively to the work as a guest member. All three are teaching artists at SADC and will support leadership in redefining the mission, vision and values of SADC as well as the other responsibilities related to board service. SADC is interviewing another candidate in the weeks ahead and looking to fill the remaining board spots in the next two months to bring total membership to 11 directors. Thanks and welcome to our new board members!
EQUITY WORK: SADC is preparing for next steps to further race equity work as new board members get acclimated. The board is engaging two guest speakers to continue their work and training in April. We are now in conversation with several DEIA consultants. Rather than thinking that one consultant and one training is an organization-wide solution to advance racial equity, we are matching our various layers of operations—board, leadership, infrastructure, faculty, programming, community—with varying consultants, trainings, conversations and resources so that the work of building racial equity at SADC is happening synchronously.
PROGRAMMING: In March, we held a small but potent gathering facilitated by faculty member Bhumi Patel to begin a discussion about decolonizing dance. We geared this towards staff and board and invited several other teaching artist colleagues from the community. We read five articles from the Dance Studies Association’s Decolonizing Dance Discourses publication and identified a need for more discussion and engagement on this complex topic in order to further understand and explore decolonizing and put it into teaching practice.
FINANCIAL STRUCTURES: Based on piloting a sliding scale for the December/January Winter Dance Workshop, we continue to offer all workshops on a sliding scale; as we budget for the new fiscal year starting July 1, we will be working on models for budgeting when classes are sliding scale - stay tuned!
LEADERSHIP: The board held small group meetings throughout the month with the incoming new board member candidates to get to know each other, talk about the current state of the organization, and understand the potential work ahead in 2021 for re-opening and restructuring SADC. Official invitations were made to new board members, and the formal announcement will come out in early March in the community.
HUMAN RESOURCES: Two staff members attended a powerful NPQ workshop (Nonprofit Quarterly) on human resources through an equity lens. One immediate change is phasing out the phrase “human resources” – which historically related to the slave trade in the U.S. SADC staff are now talking about the work in terms of Staff Support and Customer Care. The aim is to evaluate our systems and move from extractive constructs to a reciprocal employer-employee relationship (see recent NPQ article by Jeanne Bell). Artistic Director Jill Randall met one-on-one with four teachers in February to further explore Staff Support ideas this month, particularly unpacking the problems inherent in the “no work no pay” system for part-time teaching artists in the Bay Area, while faculty do in fact work as employees (not contractors). Together we are exploring perks, holiday pay, paid time off, bereavement time, and other systems of care for teaching artists. The SADC staff and board continue to update and articulate the Employee Manual at this time and faculty and staff will be invited into a process to review and give input on the manual before it is finalized. These trainings and dialogues will directly impact the development of a new staffing infrastructure for SADC and inform the overall organizational development.
LEADERSHIP: The current board spent January reaching out to potential new board members. There are running “meet and greet” conversations in early February, and then the new cohort of potential board members (approximately 5) will attend the next board meeting in late February.
FINANCIAL STRUCTURES: As the studio considers more sliding scale programming and NOTAFLOF, SADC ran a 2nd workshop in January as sliding scale (Almanac Improv with Nina Haft).
TEACHING PRACTICE: Fourteen SADC youth and adult teachers participated in workshops in January with dance scholar Nyama McCarthy-Brown about building anti-racist dance classrooms and exploring identity and bias.
RACE EQUITY TRAININGS
Sarah Crowell, co-founder of Destiny Arts Center, led two race equity trainings in October 2020 alongside Karen Bouris, the Destiny Board Vice Chair, who is also a race equity consultant. These were attended by staff, faculty and board members. Each meeting was 2.5 hours in length. Staff and faculty were compensated to prepare for the trainings with reading materials, video and podcasts provided by the facilitators. The training sessions engaged the SADC staff, faculty and board in creating shared understandings of racism and its impacts; engaging in dialogue about dance and systemic racism; understanding where systemic racism has been built into SADC’s practices, programs and infrastructure; and generating dialogue around ways that SADC can both dismantle racism and take steps that will open up paths towards becoming an actively anti-racist organization.
In the board training, also in October, our facilitators pushed leadership to own what’s possible, rethink financial models, spotlight the organization’s current limitations and name next steps that will lead to more equitable programs, staffing, decision-making and governance. The facilitators pushed the board to understand ways that it can facilitate increased representation amongst those the organization hires, serves and supports, but also understand the need to change the structures that frame the work and support the people. It was agreed that structural change must go hand in hand with the interpersonal in order to effect real change around race equity in the community, culture, and communications at SADC.
EQUITY PRACTICE ADVISOR
In summer 2020, Piper Thomasson stepped up to take on our first internal equity staff role. Piper had also been holding the position of full-time Administrative Manager prior to the pandemic closure. We established the Equity Practice Advisor (EPA) role as a temporary three-month position to facilitate the start of intentional work at SADC around racial equity. Piper was integral to the interview process for the selection of Racial Equity Training facilitators. She brought together faculty and staff to reflect upon and discuss what it means to bring an equity lens to the organization’s systems and policies. Piper encouraged and supported a reflective period so that actions taken by the organization going forward are developed and well thought out, rather than performative in nature.
COMMITMENTS & AIMS
None of our words hold any meaning without a continued plan of action. The following commitments came as the result of staff and faculty feedback, the work of the Equity Practice Advisor in 2020, work by a team of representatives from across our organization, and through guidance from race equity facilitators Sarah Crowell and Karen Bouris.
This a draft that will be reviewed and refined as new board members join in early 2021. The commitments will be finalized and shared with the broader community in the first quarter of 2021 alongside a race equity statement and renewed mission, vision, and values statements developed with community engagement.
Statement of Commitment
As a result of our deep concern over injustice and racial violence and our collective inquiry, SADC is committed to embedding race equity into all aspects of our organization and the long term work of justice and the arts. Effective immediately, we are taking the following actions and developing plans to achieve the following results:
Expanding our board, evolving our governance, and sharing power: including staff and teaching artists, caregivers and parents, and representation from East Bay communities. We will question the longtime models of nonprofit governance and ask ourselves if these models bring equity, transparency and shared leadership to the fore. If not, we commit to evolving and experimenting with new models, learning from other organizations and continued education in how a board can fulfill its legal duties and create a strong partnership with staff, faculty and the community members we serve.
Committing to an antiracist financial model: shifting our revenue structure and practices, including fee structure, reparations and a new development strategy. SADC currently operates with a budget comprising 85% earned revenue and 15% contributed revenue. This commitment includes increasing contributed revenue and articulating the impact of earned revenue reliance on our programming opportunities and our capacity to serve a truly diverse constituency in terms of race, age, income, ability and more. We will seek community input and feedback throughout the process. SADC is using its Winter Dance 2021 workshop (December 28-January 3) to pilot the idea of sliding scale for the first time.
Programming expansion and evaluation: assess our educational curricula for systemic bias and cultural appropriation; provide staff and faculty with professional development to build more inclusive teaching practices; engage with dance organizations locally and nationally in a dialogue to increase overall accountability around race equity in the field.
Dance scholar Nyama McCarthy-Brown is a prominent voice in the national conversation about anti-racist dance classes, culturally responsive teaching, and critical dance pedagogy. Nyama has led discussions with our staff two times in the past two years and we convened a group of faculty members to read her book together and engage in discussion. Several youth staff members are signed up to participate in Nyama’s January 2021 workshop through the 92nd Street Y’s Dance Education Laboratory (DEL). SADC has also been invited to be a part of a cohort of dance educators in the winter/spring where Nyama will lead discussions every few weeks about developing anti-racist dance classes.
Building and Location of Services: develop a plan to expand who we are serving and bring SADC out into the community, to schools, and beyond the walls of 2704 Alcatraz Avenue and the surrounding neighborhood. This includes a 10-year plan for a renovation of the existing facility and/or rental/acquisition of a facility that is fully ADA accessible. Currently, SADC has committed to holding all off-site programs in studios and theaters that are fully ADA accessible. This has included classes at Temescal Arts Center and Shotgun Studios; annual performances and events at Laney College, Mills College, East Bay Center for the Performing Arts, the Waterfront Theatre, Neyborly Poet’s Corner and Longfellow Middle School.
Race & Equity Staff Position: commit to building a staff role in the organization dedicated to race equity and equity issues. We aim to begin by hiring an outside consultant in 2021 who can help us establish an internal staff position by 2022. The three-month Equity Practice Advisor role revealed a need for Human Resources and Organizational Development (as outlined below) to support an internal staff position. As we work on strengthening these areas, we will engage a consultant to inform the immediate work of dialogue, learning, reflection, community engagement and education to dismantle white supremacy practices within SADC.
Human Resources: commit to building a staff role in the organization dedicated to human resources. In the short term, we are building and rebuilding employee policies with an equity lens that will support current faculty and staff in engaging in feedback to leadership and spotlighting any systemic issues around equity.
Organizational Development: as resources are gathered in 2021, SADC will plan to engage in a broader organizational development project with an outside consultant in order to examine and make critical changes to hierarchy, infrastructure, leadership, direction, decision-making, pay equity, and our alignment to mission/vision/values at every layer of operations and programming.
MISSION, VISION, VALUES: SADC is in the process of revising its mission, vision, and values statements to examine equity in the guiding principles and reasons for our work. We will also develop a racial equity statement to inform every aspect of our operations and programming. As we begin year 63, we are seeking to hear what the community wants and needs and how SADC can activate its legacy and history to ensure that the mission and work reflects both the beauty of SADC’s beginnings, its work through the decades and the contemporary needs of today’s dancers, artists and audiences.
LEADERSHIP: Systemic change will truly happen at SADC as we shift the leadership structure to ensure that BIPOC arts administrators are a part of the team. In 2021, we will embark upon an organizational development and strategic planning process. A key part of this process will be to identify ways in which we can evolve the leadership model, support our BIPOC faculty and staff in their professional development, and ensure that available positions are posted and shared publicly so that the broadest array of candidates can apply for leadership roles.