UPDATE | Green Thumb Theatre Racial Equity Update
A Note from Green Thumb Theatre Artistic Director Rachel Aberle and General Manager Breanne Harmon
To Green Thumb Theatre’s valued alumni, community, audiences, and stakeholders:
Today we would like to share with you a list of action items that Green Thumb is committing to in the interests of forwarding racial equity within the organization. These actions were determined based on takeaways from the racial equity training sessions with the staff and Board of Directors and community survey conducted by Amal Rana of Cambium Arts & Education in the fall of 2020.
The training sessions, community survey responses, and the consultations with Amal were humbling and informative. As two emerging leaders stepping into a new working partnership, the choice to prioritize racial equity is impacting decisions both large and small, from grand, long range planning, to short-term daily operations. We have learned much in the last several months, and we know that this learning is ongoing, lifelong work.
We want to speak directly to those who took part in Green Thumb’s community survey. Thank you. We cannot say enough how much we appreciate you taking the time and effort to communicate with us honestly and candidly. The survey was anonymous, so we don’t know who you are, but we are deeply grateful for the labour you took in responding to the survey.
Since joining Green Thumb’s staff, we have both endeavoured to foster a work environment that is welcoming, nurturing and positive for those we work with. This has been important to us because these are values we each hold closely on a personal level, and also because this is the environment that Green Thumb provided us with when we joined the team. Our community survey revealed that while the company has been successful in providing this kind of environment to some, it has not been successful in doing this for everyone. It must be said that our survey revealed that respondents who indicated they have not felt fully supported and welcomed at Green Thumb were predominantly BIPOC individuals. This is an example of systemic racism in practice, and we are working actively, along with our staff and Board, to change the systems that led to this environment. If you are someone who has not felt supported or at home at Green Thumb – you are owed an apology. Without reservation, we say to you now: we are sorry.
The act of apologizing will not undo inequity. Long term work is required. It is the work of examining and questioning systems that we have both directly benefitted from. It is work to be done with tenacity and humility, and to be commenced immediately.
Amal provided comprehensive recommendations, prioritizing responses from BIPOC respondents. This included recommendations regarding senior leadership and further avenues for consultation and gathering feedback from BIPOC. From this larger set of recommendations, we have identified the next steps we will be taking.
How we plan to enact this work is outlined in our action items below. We welcome feedback and suggestions, and we pledge to listen.
With great respect,
Rachel and Breanne
Statement from the Board of Green Thumb Theatre
The experience of racialized members of our society has too long gone underrepresented. Conversations on this topic have been ongoing for decades, if not longer, but in the last year they have risen to a higher level of collective consciousness than ever before.
Green Thumb, spearheaded by our dynamic young management team of Rachel Aberle and Breanne Harmon, is committed to being part of the conversation and, more importantly, engaging in meaningful actions to create change. Green Thumb has always been willing to face difficult topics head on, and key to its mandate is to provide a platform to explore these topics in a creative, accessible, and safe space. We are open to learning how we can address issues of racism, oppression, and discrimination on an even deeper level, and that starts on the inside.
We, the Green Thumb Theatre Board, pledge our full support to Rachel and Breanne as they create and foster opportunities to listen to the experiences and recommendations of racialized members in all aspects of the theatre community and beyond, and continue Green Thumb’s mission to implement changes that acknowledge, honour and improve those experiences. We have confidence that their attentiveness and dedication to a respectful and representative environment for all will accelerate Green Thumb’s critical work, both inward- and outward-facing.
Green Thumb Theatre Anti-Racism Action Items
Composed by Artistic Director Rachel Aberle and General Manager Breanne Harmon based on recommendations from consultant Amal Rana of Cambium Arts & Education
Reviewed and approved by Green Thumb Theatre’s Board of Directors
Preamble: Green Thumb practices, policy, and artistic work will be reviewed on a regular basis and in a timely manner so that our work reflects evolving attitudes, expectations and best practices in our industry and broader society. Green Thumb leadership and Board will actively work to stay aware of shifting conversations, and be open to guidance and suggestions about areas that deserve attention or improvement. The sustainability and viability of Green Thumb as an organization is a priority, and decisions will be made conversant with this direction and policy as well as other policies of the society.
Action items are housed on Green Thumb's website here: https://www.greenthumb.bc.ca/resources/action-items
-Finalize and publicize a clear, transparent anti-oppression and anti-discrimination policy, company code of conduct, and incident reporting procedures. Once released, all information contained in these policies will live in a dedicated space on Green Thumb’s website.
- Whenever possible, all staff positions, audition notices, and contractor open calls will be posted online for a minimum of 30 days to allow for a broader reach and to open Green Thumb up to artists and contractors we have not had access to in the past.
- Regularly post audition notices for upcoming productions, rather than solely pulling from general auditions and prior knowledge. Artists known to us may be invited to audition in tandem with posted auditions, but shall not be relied upon as a sole means of casting shows.
- Prioritize the interviewing and hiring of racialized applicants in general, and strategically earmark opportunities specifically for BIPOC applicants when appropriate. Transparently communicate these practices in calls for proposals/submissions.
- In addition to the land acknowledgement that exists on our website, Green Thumb will create a meaningful land acknowledgment for all productions moving forward.
- Establish a Racial Equity Advisory Committee comprised of Board Members, staff, active Green Thumb community members (particularly BIPOC), sector leaders on anti-oppression and/or other interested individuals to develop and implement an annual review of how Green Thumb is living up to its anti-oppression commitments. The review should identify best and principled practices, and/or key areas for improvement within Green Thumb policy and practice, outline clear and concrete recommendations within a specified time frame, and identify the steps needed to meet these recommendations.
- Seek funding for a rolling leadership training position reserved specifically for racialized applicants. Applicable roles include Associate Artistic Director, Associate General Manager, Associate Production Manager, etc.
- Secure funding/manage budgets to consistently hire outside directors and/or assistant directors with the goal of increasing BIPOC representation on artistic teams.
- Secure/earmark funding for an Indigenous consultant to work on a methodology for Green Thumb to be a respectful visitor on other territories when on tour.
- Consult with past BIPOC and other contractors who experience marginalization who have toured about what kind of support they would appreciate while touring outside their home region with limited access to on the ground support.
- Implement annual mandatory training at a staff and board level and key contractor level.
- Seek funding and/or partnerships with other local theatre companies to host racial equity trainings and workshops for Green Thumb alumni and/or other members of the Vancouver theatre community.
- Seek collaborations with BIPOC artists and BIPOC led theatre companies where the experiences and perspectives of BIPOC artists are prioritized.
- Implement a yearly accountability report alongside the Annual Report to formalize a space to share information on progress/setbacks.
- Engage in active, strategic Board recruitment to increase BIPOC representation at a Board level, without engaging in tokenization.
July 12, 2021