BoxFest Detroit was founded to create equal opportunities for women in theatre. It is our commitment to support the artistic journeys of our directors to guarantee a space where justice can be practiced and imagined. While we are part of a gender equity movement, our work does not exist in a vacuum and is necessarily intertwined with other social and economic justice movements. We are also ineffective without the organizing currently happening to uplift the artistic work of Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC). While we are a part of these movements, we acknowledge that we have missed opportunities to connect across shared goals and identities.
As a theatre company practicing within the United States, we must acknowledge that we have benefitted from systems that are rooted in capital created and expanded by the free labor of Black people, in the form of chattel slavery and legal and cultural segregation. BoxFest Detroit has no theatre, but has travelled around the metro Detroit area. All of the theatres and converted spaces where we have produced our festivals are on the unceded territory of the Anishinaabe, Three Fires, people. We recognize that these nations, the Ojibwe, Odawa, and Bodewadmi, have contemporary and ancestral ties to the land, and we want to recognize their contributions as well as the lasting impact of colonialism.
Furthermore, as we look in the mirror at a production team that has been primarily white women throughout the years, we know we have work to do to be better co-conspirators in a movement for racial justice. We also acknowledge that our production teams have always consisted of cis-women and we have fallen short of explicitly welcoming trans-women and non binary artists. We must look inward, reflect, and take action in order to move forward as agents of change. We know that a safe working environment in an institution begins with the institution’s leaders – and so, we commit to actively working to foster a safe work environment, and to apply what we learn through ongoing anti-racism education to all aspects of BoxFest Detroit’s culture, structures, and practices.
In addition to these acknowledgements:
- We pledge to amplify and uplift the voices of women of color in our festival and in our Michigan theatre community. We will stand in solidarity with these women and all who share the goal of anti-racism. When we miss the mark, we will also reflect deeply and strive to do better
- We commit to reworking our mission and vision to be more explicitly welcoming of trans women and non binary artists, who have always been a part of gender equity movements but are still excluded from the dominant narrative
- We will provide paid professional development opportunities for our cohorts, and make these opportunities accessible to all. Moving forward, we will ensure that there are BIPOC mentors and mentees in every cohort class
- We will collaborate with our stage managers and production team to no longer use 10/12 rehearsal days, which often lead to even longer days for stage managers, designers, and producers and are an undue burden on those with families and additional jobs
- We recognize the great value of Affinity Spaces for BIPOC people, as a space where BIPOC members of an organization can come together, feel safe speaking candidly, and find allies. We commit to creating a BIPOC affinity space across cohorts for BIPOC BoxFest Directors to connect
- We commit to only producing in spaces that are physically accessible for our audiences and artists
- We commit to sharing a land acknowledgement through a combination of our website, production programs, and spoken announcements
- While our directors independently rehearse and cast without the influence of the BoxFest Detroit production staff, we are ultimately responsible for the experiences of those participating in BoxFest Detroit. We commit to providing our contact information to all actors, designers, and directors for accountability and reporting in cases of harm. We will also create an anonymous form for people to report harm to us, to ensure accessibility and safety in that process. Stage Managers will also be trained in receiving complaints and sharing those concerns with the Producers. Specific policy and procedure will be included in artist onboarding materials
- We will provide directors with unconscious bias training during director orientation. This training will give them additional tools to continue moving Michigan towards an anti-racist theatre, and will serve as a way that we build community and co-conspirators
- We commit to increasing the number of BIPOC Producers and Stage Managers, to 50% of staff in the next three years. We also commit to conducting audience and artist demographic surveys to better understand the current racial and gender demographics of our audiences. We will use this survey to increase audience equity and access, with the goal of increasing BIPOC audience to 50% in the next five years
- We commit to sharing these acknowledgements and commitments during our director onboarding meetings, technical rehearsals; as well as on our website and in our production programs
This is a living document, which we will continue to revisit as we learn, grow, and receive feedback from our community.