The International Association of Blacks in Dance (IABD) has been the national service organization for people of African ancestry or origin for over 30 years. After meeting with representatives from 30 Black-led dance companies, the IABD has just released THE BLACK REPORT, an organizational and financial health assessment of the Black dance companies in the US. The Report focuses on the needs of these companies, and how they can go about improving their financial situation in spite of the often-subverting racism and systemic inequities. IABD describes it as a “CALL TO ACTION to move beyond the comfortable conversations, the empathy and understanding, and the woe is me and wringing of the hands”.
The release of THE BLACK REPORT comes at a time when a large number of white Americans are finally becoming consciously and actively aware of the systematic racism in this country. This followed the recent horrible murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis by four policemen. We have seen evidence of police brutality before, but this was at a time of the Trump Administration’s open display of racism, inability to call a hate crime what it was, and voter repression all under the banner of “Making American Great Again”. It was a breaking point for the Black community and an awaking for so many others. Some say it was because people were quarantined at home and therefore the video was seen by more people.
This report analyzes the importance, the relevancy and the influence that these 30 Black companies have on Dance here and abroad, including the Los Angeles based Lula Washington Dance Theatre. It equates the Black dance companies with those of the rest of the mainstream dance ecosystem by comparing compensation, dance genres, founder presence, geography, staffing, touring, and more. It is an in-depth report that provides factual information about the unlimited contributions made by Blacks in dance. There are facts in this report that rarely make it into noted dance history books or perhaps, even spoken about outside the Black community.
“Black Dance companies are not simply cultural and educational anchors in their communities. They are also Black businesses that provide internships, job training, employment, facilities for rental, schools and/or summer intensives, even social services. PHILADANCO hosted a community library where there was none. Some produce or co-produce marketing and tourism events, such as city or neighborhood festivals. Some of these businesses have survived for 30 / 40 / 50 years without the significant support they so richly deserve — and, is long overdue,” said Baraka Sele, Independent Consultant quoted in the press release.
The report confirms that now is the time for change. It is time for all of us who are involved in the Arts to “dive into The Uncomfortable Zone” to bring about the long overdue reform of the support system for Black artists.
THE BLACK REPORT came about as a result of stories heard and by the people who encountered the bias and racism on a daily basis. It was the artists, companies, and art organizations that launched this project, not some outside investigative entity. These are the people who have firsthand knowledge of the disparities that exist between arts organizations of color and the mainstream funding organizations. This report exposes it all by providing facts.
“We can no longer remain on the sidelines and be silenced by a system that wasn’t made for us to prosper. Structural racism in the dance field perpetuates unequal and harmful lifelong outcomes for Black, Brown and People of the Global Majority in this art form. Their artistry, companies and institutions have been historically exploited, neglected, and not valued in the creation of this nation’s culture, economy, and democracy. And right now, the disproportionate effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, along with the ongoing uprising to end police brutality, illuminates this fact even brighter. This report will provide clarity on what the dance community thought they knew about Black Dance. #BLACKLIVESMATTER” said Denise Saunders Thompson, President and CEO of IABD.
According to the press release, In response to the impact of COVID-19 in the Black dance community, to date, The International Association of Blacks in Dance (IABD), has raised $177,172 in support of their Emergency Fund. Emergency grants have been awarded to 59 individuals and 31 companies. Grants are $1,000 for individuals and $2,500 for companies. IABD is actively soliciting funding for their fund to continue to support artists, companies and dance-related personnel in the field. The fund was made possible with generous support from the Ford Foundation, Howard Gilman Foundation, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, and individual supporters. – Michelle Tabnick Public Relations – 7/16/20
THE BLACK REPORT is not just for the Black dance community. It is something that everyone involved in the arts should read and take heed of. It is a report that is long overdue and one that can be used by researchers in academia, funding organizations, philanthropists, dance historians, and elsewhere. For change to happen, this information needs to be read, absorbed and implemented by everyone involved.
With that in mind, the IABD launched the Can You Hear Me Now? campaign. It is an open letter to the White American dance community, “an invitation to artists and organizations to share the letter amongst their networks and sign on, the campaign is dedicated to acknowledging and dismantling long-standing racial disparities.” So far the IABD has gathered the support of more than 200 signatures of artist, administrators, educators, organizations and individuals who want to help bring about change that is not only visible, but ongoing.
THE BLACK REPORT is available HERE, and is a free research tool provided to increase awareness of the report’s findings.
For more information about the Can You Hear Me Now? campaign, click HERE.
For more information on The International Association of Blacks in Dance continued service to the field or to donate to their efforts, click HERE.
Written and compiled by Jeff Slayton for LA Dance Chronicle.
Featured image: Lula Washington Dance Theatre – Photo by Scott Robbins