Anti-bigotry ethics & practices
As an organization committed to the essential place that art-making holds in our world, Khecari is committed to ethical rigorousness in our behavior and policies, which includes working against all forms of bigotry, and to supporting the personal activism and anti-bigotry efforts of those individuals who comprise Khecari. We are also asking, how can we take regular action now but also consider these questions not finished, so that we don’t shelve them as “solved”? What follows is offered in this vein: a plan of action to follow, which we also hope to improve upon as we move forward.
We recognize that there are histories and ongoing conditions that are foundational to the way businesses currently operate in Chicago:
– The Unites States’ genocide, ethnic cleansing, and land theft of the many Indigenous American Indian tribes
– The structure of economic wealth in the United States that was built upon slavery and upon ongoing institutionalized racism
– The invisible appropriated labor of women both in and out of the dance field
– Exploitation of fossil fuels and an economic structure premised on disposability and pollution
Therefore starting in 2021 we will allot 10% of our yearly budget to make ethical redress a line item of our regular business overhead:
– 2% towards support of American Indians
– 2% towards anti-racism
– 2% towards supporting women in dance
– 2% towards redress of environmental harm
– and 2% towards educating and training Khecari in these areas
There are many areas of social and political activism that we care deeply about and fight for as individuals. Our intent as a company is not to shift Khecari’s mission away from creating live performance. The four areas we’ve identified for business redress feel like those issues directly relevant to Khecari’s functioning. Businesses can operate in Chicago because the land was first stolen from the Indigenous tribes that had lived here, and the people of those tribes ethnically cleansed from the region; Khecari’s office space, rehearsal spaces, and the venues where we perform all occupy previously Indigenous land. The overall economic wealth of our country is premised on slavery and the ongoing economic inequity that results from racism; the institutions of philanthropy and the private wealth that form Khecari’s contributed income have benefited from that foundation. Men have been able to go out and work a full time job because a woman at home has cooked, cleaned, and raised children; the dance field in particular witnesses 80% women at an entry level and less than 50% women by mid-career, and women in the dance field continue to receive less pay and opportunities than men. The fabrication of material goods and places of business, of computers and wireless networks, the running of electricity and consumption of gas in travel, all necessary to business, continue to radically degrade the environment; these are all elements still intrinsic to Khecari’s functioning.
We are committed to supporting our artists and staff in their personal initiatives. While commitment to office hours, rehearsals, and performances are critical to our functioning, we understand when there are personal, family, or health emergencies that mean an otherwise responsible collaborator may have to cancel, even last minute, and that in this same vein, we should understand when an action like attending a demonstration may be an emergency of equal importance.
We are asking how we have unconsciously contributed to white supremacy and how can we do better. In what locales of the city have we held auditions and performances; are we excluding BIPOC people with these choices? Have choices around marketing and branding, images or language felt exclusive of BIPOC people? We are committed to regularly seeking feedback, reviewing our organizational practices, and effecting changes where they are needed.
As a beginning effort to address demographics that are underrepresented in our community we are proposing a practice of Attendance. We will attend dance and arts convenings, performances and events of colleagues, both those with whom we have existing relationships, but especially using attendance as a way of seeking new relationships. We recognize that a community is only as strong as its shared resources, and desire to cultivate mutual sharing of any information, experience, materials, or opportunity that we can. We will develop our practice of Invitation, making sure to gain feedback from marginalized communities on how our performance environments can feel like a safer space for them where they feel welcome. We will also offer a portion of the 100% subsidized tickets we’ve always provided to folks from marginalized communities of all sorts to ensure that income is not a factor on attendance.
We’ve had an internship program for years that offers intensive one-on-one mentoring and practical experience in the many aspects of administration and production required to make Khecari run. We’ve long felt that having it operate as work-trade rather than be a paid position could discriminate against some interested people and cater to financial privilege. In the past we’ve been unable to convince funders to back a program that has few recipients, though we believe strongly in the power of a direct mentorship model. We’re taking the step now to commit to only offering this program when the interns can be paid at the same equal rate everyone else at Khecari receives.
We also recognize that our location on the far north side can create geographic and therefore financial barriers. We’re creating a need-based fund so that interested dancers or other artistic collaborators, administrative staff or interns, could be compensated for their commute, in situations where the time and cost of travel disallowed participation.
This is a work in progress guideline for our current business practices. Part of the work of getting better is through conversation, and we welcome feedback that will help us improve our practices and support our commitment to our mission and presence as artmakers in our community.