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.

Historic Redress

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

Prioritizing Action

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.

Decentering Whiteness

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.

Attending to Decenter

We’re all too busy. We can’t attend a quarter of the shows we want to see. So when we do make it out, it can easily mean only going to friends’ shows. We recognize this insularity can perpetuate privilege and center whiteness.
But we want to always be aware of who’s out there making work, and what kind of work they’re making. We want to show up especially for BIPOC artists, for artists new in the field trying to find their footing, and for any artists who find themselves marginalized for whatever reasons. And we want to expand our network of colleagues and friends and forge new relationships with people and communities we haven’t yet connected with.
So we’re creating a conscious practice of Attendance. In addition to whatever shows we might normally see for whatever reasons, each of us at Khecari will choose 2 events per year – a performance, a community event, a workshop – led by an artist or arts organization outside our known circle, prioritizing marginalized communities and BIPOC artists and arts organizations. We want to do this in a way that doesn’t feel like paternalism or cultural tourism. But we do find ourselves in a subset of the dance world that is particularly white. We want to find ways to decenter and would rather start by going out and seeing the shows of demographics underrepresented in our niche of the dance world before looking at why folks may not be coming to our shows.

Internship

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.

Micro-residency for BIPOC artists

As Chicago Park District Arts Partners in Residence, Khecari trades public programming for studio use. Between January’s intense end-of-year admin tasks and our yearly break in February we typically have a chunk of time where we’re not using the studio at Indian Boundary Cultural Center. We’re in conversations with the Park District now to figure out how to to utilize this fallow time by offering a yearly 4-week studio residency to a BIPOC artist. We would administrate a simple application process and offer a no-tech free studio practice with a residency stipend equal to Khecari’s equal-pay-for-all hourly rate, currently $15/hr. Park District buildings are shut down to Arts Partners for the foreseeable future, but we’re hoping to be able to offer this as of January/February 2022.

Commute Stipend

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.