Music + Art + Community in the Western Catskills
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November 23, 2020
West Kortright Centre Board of Directors:
On November 18, 2020, The West Kortright Center passed a resolution accepting this antiracism statement with accompanying action items. This statement is a product of the entire board’s efforts and is meant to bring this important issue forward in our thinking now and in the future. We were deeply troubled by the events in the Spring of 2020, and wanted to voice our institutional commitment to overcoming this overt and insidious problem in our society. The action items are a living document, a work in progress – we welcome all feedback.
The West Kortright Centre stands with the movement for diversity, equity, and inclusion, and all efforts to eliminate institutional and systemic racism. With the goal of becoming a more egalitarian society, we commit to being an antiracist organization.
The protests following the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, among others, have generated numerous statements of support, solidarity, and outrage. We have reached a cultural tipping point necessitating a society-wide shift and reexamination of values. Passivity regarding inequality is no longer an option. While statements of support and consciousness-raising are welcome and important, what this national awakening demands is action—an active if not activist effort to dismantle systems of bias and racism. We are reminded of the often quoted words of Martin Luther King: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Pithy and inspiring, but Dr. King would be the first to admit that there is nothing preordained or inevitable about it. The arc will not bend toward justice without agency. The positions and, more importantly, the actions we take both as individuals and through organized, collective efforts will determine whether racism and injustice cease to exist.
To that end, it is incumbent on us to contribute to this movement for change by undertaking a thorough self-examination of our identity and purpose. We are a community arts center situated in Delaware County, a county that, at 95% white, is among the least diverse in New York State. Regrettably, we have all seen, heard, or witnessed racist acts or behavior. We are committing ourselves to combating this scourge by examining everything we do from our organizational structure to programming and community outreach. We understand that growth in an organization is a long-term process, but it is imperative that we formulate a plan for sustained action.
How can our small community contribute to the global project to overcome systemic racism and bigotry? The mightiest voice for justice we can muster echoes from the West Kortright Centre stage through the songs and stories of the diverse performers from around the world we’ve hosted over the years. A live musical concert or an art exhibit can be not only magical and emotional, but an experience that inspires discourse that educates us, compels us to reflect, and challenges us to question and see the world in new ways. Through a reinvigorated commitment to the broadening of cultural perspectives, both within our community and beyond, we strive to elevate ourselves and deepen our understanding, and perhaps in our modest way, bend the arc toward justice.
- Strive to reflect this awareness and responsibility through increased efforts to showcase musical and performing artists who are representative of the multi-cultural world in which we live.
- Review and expand our workshop offerings to bring in new voices to explore all matters of injustice.
- Show artists and invite speakers whose work is informed by issues of intolerance, bigotry and racism.
- Commit to transparency in hiring and decision making.
- Evaluate efforts to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion.
- Using social media and website, speak out against acts of racism. Use voice to sign petitions and announce positions.
- Provide relevant resource lists for followers: books, films, artists and advocacy organizations.
- Establish partnerships with other arts organizations for co-sponsored events.
Here’s our first installment of books we are reading and recommending in our efforts to combat racism. We ask members and friends of the WKC to join our efforts and to reach out if you have any suggestions of further reading. We hope this can prompt some positive discourse.
“The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together” by Heather McGhee
“Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents” by Isabel Wilkerson
“White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism” by Robin DiAngelo
“Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates
“My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Mending of Our Bodies and Hearts” by Resmaa Menakum
“Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor” by Layla F. Saad
Set in a bucolic rural valley in the northwestern Catskill Mountains of New York State, The West Kortright Centre is a nonprofit organization dedicated to excellence in arts programming, featuring a diverse blend of world-class concerts, workshops, art exhibits, and community events.
Now a historic landmark, our elegantly renovated 1850s church provides a unique, intimate and acoustically excellent space to absorb the finest cultural programming, as well as offering a showcase for local young people, and variety of workshops for all ages.